ALEX ACQUISTO |Lexington Herald Leader
As many Kentuckians completed their first week back at work, Gov. Andy Beshear on Friday announced 252 new cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to at least 7,444.
Beshear attributed the jump in cases to an outbreak at Lexington’s Federal Medical Center, where 229 inmates have been diagnosed from the virus. He said the state’s overall infection curve remains at a plateau, allowing him to announce that a variety of tourist-related activities will reopen June 1, including most Kentucky State Parks and their lodges.
Four more people have died, including two more prisoners at the Federal Medical Center, the Lexington-Fayette Public Health Department announced earlier on Friday.
Of Friday’s new cases, 66 are in Fayette County, 44 are in Jefferson County, 24 in Warren County and 23 in Ohio County.
At least 127,689 tests have been administered across the state — a jump of about 6,000 from Thursday, and a figure Beshear touted, saying, “Anyone who wants a test can get a test.” There are hundreds of testing slots available next week at Kroger drive-thru sites in Louisville, as well as in Madison, Graves and Ohio counties, Beshear said. He called getting tested an “absolute requirement” going forward as the economy reopens.
Just over 380 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with the virus, 218 are in intensive care units and 2,739 have recovered.
A week from Friday, at the start of Memorial Day weekend, Kentuckians are allowed to gather in groups of 10 or less — a directive Beshear on Thursday moved up by a few days, from May 25 to May 22, anticipating people would plan to get together over the holiday weekend.
“It’s only natural to be making plans,” Beshear said, “but let’s also think through when you do have people over…how you do it safely.”
The governor said two of his primary goals in the coming months are to open gradually and carefully enough to avoid a second spike in cases, and to position state education systems to reopen successfully in the fall.
“I want to get our kids back to school, I hope everyone knows that,” he said.
Achieving these goals, though, will require discipline on the part of individual Kentuckians to not only continue taking social distancing and mask-wearing precautions at work, at home and in public, but to be more conservative in how people spend time with others. That might mean spreading out visits with friends and family and spending shorter amounts of time together.
“Even though we can have more contacts, we’ve got to keep them down lower than we previously did,” Beshear said. “In many ways it’s moderation that’s going to allow us to stay open.”
On Monday, most government offices and agencies will reopen to the public in limited ways. By Wednesday, retail stores can open at 33 percent capacity and funeral services can resume with restrictions. On May 25, a slew of personal service businesses can reopen, including barber shops, hair salons, cosmetology businesses, massage therapists, nail salons, tanning salons and tattoo parlors. Beshear issued guidelines for massage therapists and nail salons Friday and said rules for the other businesses would come soon.
June 1, roughly two weeks away, will bring even more seasonal normalcy with the resumption of many summer tourism industries, including fishing tournaments, auto and dirt track racing, and the reopening of certain natural attractions, including parts of Red River Gorge and many state park lodges.
Aquatic centers will also reopen on June 1 for exercise purposes only. The state’s stance on keeping public pools closed “hasn’t changed,” Beshear said, saying a lap pool is “very different than a pool that has 100 kids in it.”
“Yes, we’d all love for a public pool to open so our kids can go there and play with other kids, but that’s the exact thing that spreads the virus,” Beshear said, calling it a “hard but difficult decision, but it’s the right decision for now.”