FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear announced on Monday that due to a seven week-decline in new cases of COVID-19, he is slightly relaxing the capacity restrictions in some business categories.
“Beginning on Friday, we are raising capacity limits for several sectors by 10%. This is an initial step where we will watch and see, to ensure we don’t see a corresponding increase in cases, or these dangerous variants changing what we’ve been seeing in our trends,” he said during his live press briefing from the Capitol.
Currently, capacities are 50%, so his action will raise those to 60%.
These include indoor auctions, barber shops, salons, cosmetology, bars and restaurants, bowling alleys, indoor educational and cultural activities. It also includes fitness centers, “but be careful, about group classes and wear your masks,” he said.
Also included in the capacity increase are funerals and memorial services, government offices and agencies, massage therapy, movie theatres, nail salons, office-based businesses, retail, tanning salons, tattoo parlors, vehicle and vessel dealerships, and venues and event spaces.
Beshear said, “At places of worship, capacity is just a recommendation, but the recommendation is going to increase by 10% (to 60%).
“The mask mandate is still in place, and the increase is only allowed if you can achieve it, while still maintaining that six feet of social distance. In other words, if your facility is of a size that at 50% you cannot maintain social distancing, the 10% doesn’t allow you to cut down on that social distance. This capacity increase is an initial step where we will watch and see to ensure we don’t see a corresponding increase in cases.”
In addition, Beshear announced childcare center capacity will increase to regular group size on March 15. The two-week delay is to allow as many childcare workers as possible to get vaccinated.
The governor said the FDA approval over the weekend of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, giving a third vaccine option, “is another victory, and a closer step to winning this war against COVID-19.”
“In Kentucky, we will receive 36,500 initial doses of Johnson & Johnson. Remember, this is a one-dose vaccine, so that’s an additional 36,500 people that we are going to be able to vaccinate over the next seven or so days.”
According to Beshear, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be going to local health departments and independent pharmacies across the state.
He said 100,000 Kentuckians have been vaccinated in the current vaccine week, which runs Tuesday through Monday, and that as of Monday, the total number of Kentuckians vaccinated stood at 699,398, more than 16% of the total population.
But there was more news from the governor on the vaccine front: “Because of increasing vaccine supplies, we believe we are going to double the number of people vaccinated to date over the next month.”
The daily numbers were encouraging as well, with 509 new positive cases reported to state public health officials on Monday. “That’s the least we’ve had since September 28,” he said.
Only 10 counties had new cases in the double digits: Jefferson 95; Boone 31; Kenton, Laurel and McCracken each had 21; Warren 17; Bullitt and Knox 16; and Boyd with 10.
A total of 405,126 positive cases have been reported in Kentucky since the first one on March 6, 2020, in Harrison County.
The state’s positivity rate, which is based on a seven-day rolling average, dropped to 4.84%, the lowest since Oct. 18.
There were 719 Kentuckians hospitalized on Monday. Of them, 180 were in the ICU and 82 on a ventilator. All three numbers were lower than Sunday.
Fifteen new deaths were reported on Monday, making the pandemic total 4,652.
The latest victims ranged in age from 39 to 91. There were six from Letcher County; three in Perry and Whitley counties; two in Laurel County and one in Knott County.
To see the full daily COVID-19 report for Kentucky, which includes such information as the red zone counties and red zone recommendations, testing locations, vaccine information, the weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky, executive orders, and other information on the state’s pandemic response, go to kycovid19.ky.gov.
Gov. Beshear’s next scheduled live press briefing on COVID-19 is Tuesday afternoon at 4. It can be viewed on both his YouTube channel and Facebook page.