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Beshear Eyes Easing All Capacity Restrictions By July

Gov. Andy Beshear at podium
Gov. Andy Beshear, file photo

Gov. Andy Beshear said he will relax some of the state’s pandemic-related capacity restrictions in three weeks.

Starting May 28, which marks the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, the state will increase capacity at all indoor and outdoor venues and businesses with under 1,000 people to 75%. The current limit is 60%. The increase will cover retail, hair salons, restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, weddings and memorial services.

Beshear said events with more than 1,000 people in attendance will be able to operate at 60% capacity starting May 28, up from 50%.

“It gives us the time to make sure we get through these last weeks of school, yet also gives notice to those that’ll be hosting folks,” Beshear said.

Small public and private gatherings in which all attendees are fully vaccinated are no longer subject to a mask requirement . Beshear did not define how many people make up a “small group.”

He said more restrictions could be lifted after vaccines are approved for ages 12 to 15. Federal approval to vaccinate adolescents could happen as soon as next week, and Beshear said he could ease more restrictions by July.

“Once that happens, we’ll be looking at a specific time period that will allow those individuals to get vaccinated, and we can look at, hopefully, a full easing of all capacity restrictions,” he said.

On Tuesday, Republican agriculture commissioner Ryan Quarles called for Beshear to set a date for a full reopening of the state. After Beshear's announcement on Thursday, Quarles said he was dissatisfied with the plan.

"Nothing less than a 100% full reopening of Kentucky is acceptable," Quarles said in a tweet. "It's not about politics, it's about a bipartisan, national consensus that is emerging & Kentucky is once again being left behind. The Governor needs to give us a full reopening date, and we need it now."

Most of the state’s mass vaccination sites will close in the coming weeks, in favor of smaller sites like pharmacies and other clinics, Beshear said. The state’s website currently offers a listing of vaccination sites across Kentucky. Starting Monday, Kentuckians will instead be directed to use the federal vaccine scheduling system at www.vaccines.gov.

Beshear announced 655 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. The positivity rate stayed above 3.5% for the second day in a row. The governor also reported six deaths, including one from the state’s audit.

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.

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