HUNTINGTON — Indoor dining has been suspended and other new COVID-19 measures have been put into place in Kentucky.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced the new measures Wednesday, saying it was a tough decision but something had to be done to slow down what he calls the third wave of the virus. The state has experienced a 400% increase in positive cases over the past nine weeks.
“This is not, and will not be, a shutdown,” Beshear said of the measures. “Our economy is open, and there will be no closings based on essential or nonessential services. But today we are announcing significant, but surgical and targeted steps designed to slow the spread of the virus and protect our people.”
Indoor eating and drinking at bars and restaurants will be prohibited starting Friday, Nov. 20, and lasting until Dec. 13.
The state is establishing a $40 million fund to assist restaurants and bars negatively impacted by the order.
Gyms, fitness centers, pools and other indoor recreation facilities must reduce capacity by 33% and group classes, team practices and competitions are prohibited. Beshear said there has been documented spread happening during cheerleading practice. Masks must also be worn while exercising.
Venues, event spaces and theaters will each be limited to 25 people per room. This applies to indoor weddings and funerals, but excludes in-person worship services, for which the governor will provide recommendations Thursday, Nov. 19.
Office-based businesses are limited to 33% of employees, all employees who are able to work from home must do so and all businesses that can close to the public must do so.
Private gatherings should be limited to up to eight people from a maximum of two households.
In addition, new requirements for schools will begin Monday, Nov. 23. All public and private schools (K-12) are to cease in-person instruction. Middle and high schools will remain in remote or virtual instruction until at least Jan. 4. Elementary schools may reopen for in-person instruction Dec. 7 if their county is not in the red zone and the school follows all Healthy at School guidance.
Beshear announced the death of a 15-year-old girl among the 15 new deaths reported Wednesday, for a total of 1,712. There were 2,753 new positive cases reported across the state, for a total of 144,753.
The Ashland-Boyd County Health Department reported the 26th COVID-19-related death in the county — a 54-year-old man. Thirty-six new positive cases were reported in the county, with patients’ ages ranging from 9 months to 78 years old.
In West Virginia, Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar, said Wednesday that positive COVID-19 test rates for adults are beginning to increase, indicating a spike in cases among the older population might be looming.
More West Virginians between the ages of 30 and 64 are testing positive for COVID-19, Marsh said during Gov. Jim Justice’s coronavirus briefing Wednesday.
“We know that increases in these populations generally precede increases in older people because, in many ways, these are the ages of children of people that are older and most vulnerable,” Marsh said.
This rings especially true just seven days from Thanksgiving, where public health officials in West Virginia and nationwide are calling for smaller family gatherings to prevent further COVID-19 spread during the holidays.
Marsh said that, while West Virginia is able to handle the increased hospitalizations and intensive care stays at the moment, action must be taken to prevent a patient surge on hospitals that overwhelms the system.
Even with the good news that the potential Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are showing strong initial results, Marsh said, if West Virginians aren’t taking measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing now, the increasing number of deaths will continue to rise long before a vaccine would be widely available.
As of Wednesday morning, 612 West Virginians have been killed by COVID-19, including 42 in the previous seven days, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard. There are 429 people hospitalized by the virus, 126 people in the ICU and 50 people on ventilators.
Also Wednesday, Justice again dismissed what he said are completely unfounded concerns that the state is headed for a second shutdown.
“Let me make one thing absolutely, perfectly clear — perfectly clear — Jim Justice does not want to shut down anything in this state,” Justice said.
The governor said the only places in West Virginia that have been shut down since the initial coronavirus surge have been bars in Monongalia County and that it is false to say otherwise.
“What have I shut down? What have I shut down since the initial shutdown in which we all had to do all across this nation? What have I done? What have I shut down? The bars in Mon County, and it was a good move,” Justice said. “Other than that, what has been shut down? Nothing. Zero.”
Justice said the only thing that is going to lead West Virginia into a shutdown is “300 or 500 people a day” dying of the virus. He said if that were to happen, then it would be the people calling for a shutdown, not the government.
“The outcry of the people will be crying so loudly to stop things that you won’t need input from me or the Legislature,” Justice said.
Statewide, there were 953 new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday, for a total of 36,277.
Among the 14 new deaths announced Wednesday were an 86-year-old woman from Cabell County, the 46th virus-related death for Cabell, and a 62-year-old man from Wayne County, the 14th virus-related death for Wayne.
Other deaths reported were a 44-year-old man from Mingo County, 78-year-old woman from Mercer County, 90-year-old woman from Brooke County, 68-year-old man from Wyoming County, 74-year-old woman from Kanawha County, 72-year-old woman from Roane County, 76-year-old man from Nicholas County, 81-year-old woman from Wood County, 86-year-old man from Harrison County, 92-year-old man from Jefferson County, 76-year-old man from Logan County and 94-year-old man from Jefferson County.
Total cases per county are: Barbour (281), Berkeley (2,379), Boone (538), Braxton (97), Brooke (421), Cabell (2,303), Calhoun (46), Clay (100), Doddridge (91), Fayette (987), Gilmer (180), Grant (249), Greenbrier (336), Hampshire (233), Hancock (432), Hardy (170), Harrison (919), Jackson (592), Jefferson (1,028), Kanawha (4,855), Lewis (204), Lincoln (363), Logan (949), Marion (635), Marshall (864), Mason (274), McDowell (515), Mercer (1,108), Mineral (733), Mingo (859), Monongalia (2,863), Monroe (305), Morgan (215), Nicholas (275), Ohio (1,143), Pendleton (88), Pleasants (64), Pocahontas (82), Preston (376), Putnam (1,470), Raleigh (1,165), Randolph (584), Ritchie (100), Roane (139), Summers (227), Taylor (232), Tucker (83), Tyler (110), Upshur (386), Wayne (849), Webster (49), Wetzel (340), Wirt (73), Wood (1,779) and Wyoming (539).
There were 831 active cases in Cabell County on Wednesday, while there were 168 active cases in Wayne County.
In Ohio, the Lawrence County Health Department reported 55 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with patients’ ages ranging from 10 to 83. There have been 1,849 total cases reported in the county, with 35 deaths.
Statewide, more than 6,000 new cases were reported, for a total of 318,828, with 5,827 deaths related to the virus.
More than 164,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported across the U.S. on Wednesday, for a total of 11,300,635, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency reported 247,834 deaths related to the virus.