By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
Gov. Andy Beshear announced details of the first broad phase of his plan to re-open Kentucky’s economy in May, while saying child care, restaurants, and businesses that require increased human contact are not yet on the list of what will be allowed to open.
“I hope everybody also sees that these are cautious steps that are going to be done with strict compliance, and I would not be suggesting these if I did not think that we could not do them safely,” he said. “And if it proves that we can’t do any of them safely, it is always subject to pause.”
Beshear stressed that it’s important that the state not open up in such a way that it causes a second spike of cases, a common occurrence in pandemics.
Beshear went over a list of 10 rules that he said will apply to every group that is planning to reopen, including such things as continuing to allow telework when possible; opening gradually, in phases; doing daily onsite temperature checks; providing access to personal protective gear if needed; maintaining and enforcing social distancing; and making special accommodations for those who need it, such as those who do not have child care or who are over 60 with underlying health conditions.
He said it’s also important to have immediate testing of those who show up to work with a temperature, and systems for tracing contacts of those who test positive for the coronavirus.
The big day is May 11, when non-essential manufacturing, construction companies, and vehicle and vessel dealerships can open, Beshear said. Auto and boat dealers will be doing business differently, he said; for example, test drives will have to be done solo.
Professional services will be allowed to open, at half-staff, and pet grooming and boarding will be allowed to resume, but with no person-to-person contact.
Beshear also announced that horse racing will be allowed to open on May 11, starting at Churchill Downs — but with no fans. “This is one of the most detailed plans that we have seen,” he said.
On May 20, retail may re-open and churches may hold in-person services, both at reduced capacity. Beshear said they are working on details, and it will likely be a percentage of normal occupancy. He said they are also working with churches to make plans for things like Sunday school, and “All of this is contingent on being able to keep social distancing, on the type of cleaning that needs to occur.”
On May 25, “provided the virus is where we think it will be at that stage,” he said, social gatherings of 10 or fewer people will be allowed, with social distancing and masking where necessary.
“We want you to know that we think this is possible, but it is all contingent on all of us doing this right, on making sure that we don’t see a spike in the virus,” he said “But there is at least a light, I hope you see at the end of the tunnel where we can get together a little more.”
Barbers, salons, cosmetology businesses and similar services will also be allowed to open May 25.
Beshear said restaurant openings would have to come later, and the state is working with them to figure out how to they can open safely.
He said day-care centers will also not be allowed to open this month because they increase contacts to a level that can easily spread the virus: “We go from a controlled amount of contacts to almost exponential growth.”
He said gyms, movies, camp grounds, youth sports are also scheduled to open in the second phase. As for youth sports, he said he is hopeful some of these sports can resume in June or July, but “Public pools will not be in phase one or phase two.” He said summer camps will not open in phase one, and it will be hard to open them in phase two.
Beshear said the “healthy at home” approach and social distancing are still keys to defeating the virus, “so healthy-at-work doesn’t stop being healthy-at-home.”
Reopening plans also presume that testing will continue to increase, to keep better track of the virus. Asked why Kentucky lags in testing behind other states, particularly Tennessee, Beshear said one differences is that large health-care companies that are in Tennessee are doing almost all the testing, with only 5 percent done by the state. “With us, it’s over 30 percent.”
He said the state hopes to see more private-sector testing, to increase the state’s capacity much faster. He said the rates of infection seen in Kentucky’s testing are promising and compare well to other states.