Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear during the June 22 coronavirus update announced Phase 3 of reopening will begin on June 29, at which point he said “just about everything in the commonwealth will be open.” He also said on Wednesday, his staff will outline the guidelines for reopening Kentucky’s schools in August.
Beshear said Phase 3 includes reopening guidelines for bars, weddings/venues, groups of 50 or less, public swimming or bathing facilities and expanding some youth outdoor sports. He noted it also includes allowing restaurants to increase to 50% capacity, as long as they are able to maintain the current guidelines.
Beshear also introduced the ‘rule of 50%,’ which he explained as meaning if a person would, during normal times, eat out at a restaurant for lunch and dinner, they choose one meal out instead. Or when thinking about how many people one might invite to a social gathering, cut that number in half. He said until we have a viable vaccine, precaution is what will help Kentucky maintain the plateau and avoid case spikes that are happening in other states across the country.
Beshear announced 90 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday and no new deaths, in what he said was in line with the state’s cases trending at a plateau. He said Kentucky’s hospital occupancy is at about 50%, and he said Kentucky’s intensive care units (ICUs) are reporting about 30% current occupancy.
“To have no new reportable deaths today is special,” he noted.
Beshear also corrected the number reported Sunday–he said 117 cases were reported, but the correct number is 120.
Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said maintaining a social distance of six feet from people who don’t share households, abiding by the ‘50% rule,’ washing/sanitizing hands frequently and wearing face masks/coverings are “essential” for keeping Kentucky open. He also said whether or not Kentucky is able to remain in Phase Three will be determined by Kentuckians’ compliance with those measures.
Beshear also commented on the necessity of face masks/coverings saying, “I’m not seeing nearly the amount of masks we need to. …I am concerned going forward if we don’t follow the rules to the best of our ability, we will see an increase.”
Beshear said while he’s encouraged by Kentucky’s ability to plateau, he won’t be ready to “declare victory until there’s a vaccine.”
More information about Kentucky’s COVID-19 efforts is available here. Beshear will not hold an update June 23, Primary Election Day, but is scheduled to hold updates on June 24 and 25.
Beshear said the state has now processed more than 90% of March, April and May unemployment insurance claims. He said “that still leaves a ton of people who need help,” but in an effort to improve the process, the cabinet is negotiating and finalizing a contract with a third party organization that will oversee claims processing, communications and training. He said he’s also appointed Larry Roberts, secretary of the Kentucky Department of Labor, to serve as commissioner of unemployment insurance.
Beshear said he wished he could promise the issues would be worked out by next week, but that’s not realistic. He also said he hopes officials are watching and learning that “starving the safety net” isn’t something that should be done in the future. He noted a 20-year-old computer and software system with just a dozen employees operating for the entire state, in an underfunded system that’s designed to deny claims as among the issues they’re having to overcome to meet the needs of those currently unemployed due to coronavirus.
Primary Election June 23
Beshear said the number of requests for absentee ballots outnumbers the votes cast during the 2019 primary elections in Kentucky by about 200,000. He said if every Kentuckian who requested an absentee ballot returns it, Kentucky could be looking at the highest voter turnout in a decade.
Primary voting information, including polling locations, is available here. All absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than June 23, Beshear said. He also encouraged those who request absentee ballots but haven’t received one, to go vote in person. He said the polls are geared to get everyone in and out as quickly as possible.