With new recommendations announced Monday for Kentucky's “red” counties -- where COVID-19 spread is reportedly most severe -- people across Northern Kentucky are bracing for another round of losses during the pandemic.
Bracken County is currently the only “red” county in Northern Kentucky reporting 25 or more cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, according to the state’s latest COVID-19 incidence rate map. Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties are all in the “orange” zone, a step below red that indicates “accelerated” spread. The map is updated each Thursday.
Augusta, Kentucky Mayor Mike Taylor owns Corner Cafe in Bracken County, where the COVID-19 alert level is highest in the region. He said with the new recommendations, he has some tough decisions to make for his restaurant and the city.
"It's like they say: damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You hope you make the right call and people understand it,” Taylor said.
To limit the spread of the virus, Gov. Andy Beshear has urged people in red counties to order take-out from restaurants instead of dining in, even outside.
Sandy Meyer and Greg Ginn, who own Blinkers Tavern in “orange” Covington, are also debating whether to follow the governor's recommendations for restaurants.
“We would probably just shut down because in this area, there's so little take-out ... we could not make payroll on take-out, so we would shut down until we could open indoor dining,” Ginn said.
Additionally, Beshear has asked employers to implement work-from-home strategies again and schools to switch to online-only classes. The state also recommends reducing in-person shopping and avoiding all gatherings.
Dr. Lynne Saddler, district director of the Northern Kentucky Health Department, said new COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly.
“There's really no sector of the community to blame,” she said. “It’s really widespread throughout Northern Kentucky, so we can’t say it's the nursing homes, long-term care facilities -- we can’t see that it's schools or workplaces or businesses.”
State and local health officials are discouraging Halloween parties, asking people to wear masks and stay distant for trick-or-treating and visiting family for Thanksgiving next month.
“I think you need to be creative and I think you need to have frank conversations with your family and your friends about how things are going to look different this year,” Saddler said.
The owners of Blinkers are talking with other Northern Kentucky restaurants to decide how to accommodate customers during the cold months.
"Another shutdown would just be devastating,” Meyer said.