Health

Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday the state will consider closing bars, limiting restaurant capacities and starting schools later if Kentucky can’t get its daily caseload of COVID-19 under control.

Beshear began Thursday’s briefing noting that Kentucky has seen some of the highest daily case numbers since the beginning of the pandemic in March. He announced 611 new cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths.

Kentucky has seen record highs in all but one day this week beginning Sunday when state officials announced 979 cases. The state has not yet begun to see the benefits of the governor’s mask mandate, which went into effect 13 days ago.

“The question is can we stop the escalation from here?” Beshear said. “Can we, just like when we first responded, force a plateau using slightly different methods.”

Beshear’s plan involves Kentuckians wearing masks, gathering in groups of fewer than 10 people, cancelling vacations to high-risk states and asking everyone to limit their contacts to reduce the spread of the virus.

If the state does not see cases leveling off next week, Beshear said he will close bars and reduce restaurant capacities to 25 percent, in accordance with White House recommendations.

Beshear also said he would recommend school districts to start with online learning or push the start of school back a couple of weeks until the spread of the virus is more controlled.

“The real challenge that our school boards and superintendents have is we’ve got an escalation, but we’ve taken some steps. Will we see a stabilization? Will we see a potential decline?”

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander said the state is still struggling to reopen childcare. About 20% of facilities have not yet reopened while others have opened with reduced group size, he said.

Friedlander also announced the state will begin to pay for regular testing for staff and residents in long-term care facilities across Kentucky. He said they will ask facilities to provide testing every two weeks with more testing when positive cases are found.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.