Masks Come Off in Kentucky, Capacity Limits set to End in June

New guidance handed down on Thursday from the CDC has Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear relaxing Kentucky’s mask mandate and setting a date to reopen the state.  

Gov. Beshear said the proven effectiveness of vaccinations and expanded vaccine eligibility to include 12- to 15-year-olds is allowing the commonwealth to safely and sustainably ease restrictions. With about 1.9 million Kentuckians vaccinated, the Governor said everyone who is eligible should be able to get a dose of a safe and effective vaccine ahead of June 11, when all capacity restrictions will end.

“After a long, dark pandemic – more of our people have gotten their shot of hope, and we have steadily moved to lift the last remaining restrictions put in place to slow the spread of this dangerous virus and save lives,” said Gov. Beshear in a statement on Friday. “Team Kentucky: your patience, hard work and sacrifices have paid off. For those not vaccinated: you have still have time.”

The reopening date comes as new Center for Disease Control guidelines allows people to stop wearing masks and physically distancing if they’re fully vaccinated, except for a few settings – like hospitals

The new guidance comes as Gov. Beshear has taken repeated lashings from Republicans, and some Democrats in the state for not relaxing more of Kentucky’s COVID mandates. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who is considering a run for governor, and members of Republican leadership in the General Assembly have ramped up their calls in recent weeks to reopen Kentucky. Neighboring states have halted mask mandates and reopened all businesses and restaurants. 

“With today’s announcement, the Governor has abandoned his vaccination goal but is still holding Kentucky hostage for another month. As result of his slow action, Kentucky will be one of the last states in our region to fully reopen,” Quarles said Friday in a statement.

Earlier this month, Beshear announced that on May 28, all events and businesses with 1,000 or fewer people present can increase to 75% capacity. Indoor and outdoor events with more than 1,000 people can be held at 60% capacity on that date, he said.

The decision from the CDC was initially shared by President Joe Biden, calling it “a great day for America,” in a speech from the White House Rose Garden. 

Beshear was not the only Kentucky politician celebrating the new guidelines from the CDC. In Washington D.C. U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell shed his mask on Thursday, telling reporters, “free at last,” as he exited the Senate chamber. 

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