Gov. Andy Beshear announced new steps being taken in an attempt to curb what he referred to as an escalation of COVID-19 cases and a rising positivity rate of the virus.

“We are in an escalation of cases where our positivity rate continues to increase,” Beshear said, during a livestreamed press conference.

Beshear said the state and federal government are in agreement on the steps that need to be taken, pointing to his meeting July 26 with Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The White House, he said, is in agreement with two actions already taken by the commonwealth — requiring face masks to be worn in public places and limiting social, non-commercial gatherings to 10 people or fewer.

Beshear said that the state is already seeing more compliance with the mask requirement, but that the issue of large private gatherings, where people let their guards down, continues to present a problem.

“If you have more than 10 people over, you are exposing yourself and your family to COVID-19,” he said.

During the press conference, Beshear announced three new steps he is implementing in coming days as an attempt to turn the tide of the disease:

• As of July 28, bars will be required to close for two weeks. Beshear said he hopes that the bars can be reopened after that, but they will only be able to do so under stricter guidelines.

• Limiting restaurants to 25 percent capacity for indoor seating, with an unlimited outdoor seating capacity, as long as the restaurant can still provide for social distancing in the outdoor seating areas.

• Beshear said he is recommending that school districts not reopen schools to in-person classes until the third week of August.

“We believe it gives us a chance to get this thing under better control,” Beshear said.

Beshear also challenged Kentuckians to be united in the fight against COVID-19.

“We have to start out with the belief and understanding that this is real,” he said. “The virus is not going away on its own.”

Beshear pointed to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas and California as reasons for the increased actions.

“Right now, we can look at them and know we have to act,” he said.

Beshear said the success of the measures will be a result of how individuals and business owners follow them.

“I believe we are going to do the right thing,” he said.

During the press conference, Beshear also updated the numbers related to COVID-19. He said the state had 522 cases confirmed July 27, bringing the state’s total number of confirmed cases to 27,601, and the state’s positivity rate to 5.58 percent. The state also saw nine new deaths, he said.

Beshear said there are currently 609 individuals hospitalized for COVID-19, with 131 in intensive care units. A total of 7,466 have recovered, he said.

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