Gov. Andy Beshear says he will announce further steps on Monday to try to slow the spread of coronavirus in Kentucky. Beshear made the statement shortly after a meeting in which a White House coronavirus adviser recommended that the state close bars and reduce restaurant capacity.
In recent days, Beshear has repeatedly warned that he would take action to close bars and reduce crowds at restaurants if the number of COVID-19 in the state continued to rise.
“I will not let us become an Alabama, a Florida or an Arizona. We’ve got to take proactive steps and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Beshear said on Sunday during a press conference.
Meanwhile the state’s positivity rate—the number of coronavirus tests that come back positive compared to the total number of tests—has steadily increased and is at its highest point in recent months, 5.41%.
The White House has recommended that states enact further restrictions if their positivity rates exceed 5%.
On Sunday, White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that she recommended that Kentucky close bars and reduce restaurant capacity in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
“We believe a state that has test positivity somewhere between 5% and 7% like Kentucky has a real opportunity to get ahead of this so that specifically will not and should not happen,” Birx said.
Beshear has already instituted a requirement that most Kentuckians wear masks when they are in public places and reduced the number of people allowed to attend social gatherings from 50 to 10.
He has also issued recommendations that Kentuckians who travel to states with coronavirus outbreaks quarantine for 14 days when they return and that religious organizations suspend in-person services.
Birx said that the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic was marked by outbreaks in densely populated metro areas, workplaces and nursing homes, but that the virus is now spreading at the household level.
“I think that’s why we have a real call to action for every Kentuckian to wear their mask and to protect those in their families by not going to large gatherings,” Birx said.
Beshear said that on Monday, he would also comment on where the state stands in its reopening plans for schools.
It’s currently up to Kentucky’s 171 local school districts to decide how to reopen. The state’s largest school districts in Louisville and Lexington will begin the year with remote learning. Many districts are giving students the option to return to classes in person, with precautions.