Gov. Andy Beshear said all Kentuckians should plan to start wearing masks while in public by May 11. “For four weeks we are going to gradually ease restrictions, bring some groups or some industries back online. It gives us time to get the right compliance, restrictions, guidelines in place industry by industry and allows it to go in a way where we gradually work up,” the Democratic governor said.
Kentucky is currently in a plateau — the number of new cases has been relatively steady, increasing by about 1,000 every 7 days. “My hope is that very soon we will be heading into our decline,” Beshear said.
Beshear highlighted two precautions that will be required — businesses must have the ability to check the temperatures of all of their employees when they enter the building and everyone will have to start wearing masks while in public.
Beshear held up one of the masks made by the inmates in Kentucky’s correctional system as he asked everyone to wear a cloth mask in public as things begin to reopen and people start interacting with others more frequently. He said if you’re on a run or walk by yourself you won’t have to wear one, but that you must wear one when going to the store.
“It’s gonna seem strange and probably uncomfortable, but I want us to know that this is just another small sacrifice that we can take to make sure that we keep each other safe,” he said.
Beshear said no one will be arrested or cited for not wearing a mask, but that if law enforcement sees you without a mask, you’ll be asked to put one on.
A study by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce found that 59 percent of businesses said they would have to make “tough financial decisions including layoffs and salary changes” if Beshear didn’t start allowing businesses to reopen at the end of April. The same study found that 67 percent of businesses supported reopening in phases.
The White House put out guidelines earlier this month detailing which restrictions should be eased, which the Beshear administration used to set its benchmarks for reopening. It appears that the “phase one” of the White House plan will be rolled out through June 1 in Kentucky.
For individuals, those who are older than 65 or have underlying medical conditions will be encouraged to continue sheltering in place. Everyone else could not gather in groups of more than 10 people.
“The hope is that in May we’re going to be able to relax some of the restrictions on socializing in very small settings,” Beshear said.
For businesses, companies must continue to encourage people to work from home. If people come back to work, they’re supposed to come back in phases. All common areas would have to be closed and there should be special accommodations for vulnerable employees.
Beshear said businesses will have to require that employees and customers wear masks.
“If a business is not masking people, then that could be grounds to ultimately shut down that business,” Beshear said. “We’re going to need some enforcement on that end as well.”
Under the White House plan for phase one reopenings, which Kentucky appears to be following, nursing homes would stay closed to visitors and bars would stay closed. People would be allowed to have out-patient elective surgeries, venues could reopen with social distancing policies (think restaurants) and gyms would be allowed to reopen with proper social distancing.
Beshear said it’s unlikely that child care centers or bars would be able to reopen until at least June, because they are the type of places that could increase the spread of the disease.