Gov. Andy Beshear has extended Kentucky’s mask mandate another 30 days amid a weeks-long surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the state.
Beshear announced 1,635 new cases Wednesday, bringing Kentucky’s total to more than 113,000. Though the total did not break any records for daily cases – something that has happened repeatedly over the past several weeks – he said it is “way too many.”
Because of the ongoing uptick in cases, the state’s mask mandate will now extend into December. Beshear said a new poll reported by the New York Times showed 71% of Kentucky voters “strongly or somewhat strongly” support mask requirements for public interactions.
“This isn’t a political thing,” Beshear said. “It’s people doing the right thing, and then some people we need to bring along and talk about the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself. Regardless of any changes that we see in the makeup of our government, this is the will of the people, and it’s the right thing to do.”
New guidance from the White House aligns with the restrictions already in place in Kentucky, and shows the state is “on the right track,” Beshear said. The guidance endorses capacity limits at restaurants and bars, and advises that those restrictions not be lifted until cases decline.
Beshear said the White House is also now calling for people to stop gathering with those outside their households.
“That’s canceling public and private events,” he said. “It’s not even having the 10 people over to your house until cases and test positivity decrease significantly.”
Hospitalizations increased Wednesday. Nearly 1,070 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 286 are in the ICU, and 125 are on ventilators.
But Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said one of his concerns is not that hospitals will run out of space, but that staffing will be limited due to health care workers becoming infected at home or in public.
“If we keep spreading infection more easily, more of the people we rely on to keep us safe and to treat us when we’re sick will themselves be sick and unavailable,” Stack said. “Then we won’t have access to their healing arts and skills when we need it most.”
Beshear also reported 11 new deaths Wednesday. The death toll in Kentucky is now 1,514.
The governor said despite earlier concerns, Kentucky will complete the 2021 fiscal year with a balanced budget, and with no additional cuts to state agencies or the Road Fund. He says that’s based on a recent report from the Office of the State Budget Director. At the end of the fiscal year, Behear says there will be around $460 million in the Budget Reserve Trust Fund (known as the state’s “rainy day fund”) — the highest that fund has ever been.