Gov. Andy Beshear announced that Kentucky state parks, campgrounds and aquatic centers will be allowed to reopen on June 1. The recreational spaces have been closed since March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"Tourism is an incredibly important business in Kentucky. We're taking a big revenue hit from it," Beshear said. "But that's not the reason we're reopening it now. It's that we believe we can do it safely."
Beshear said he believes opening parks and campgrounds will help "boost the state's economy," and allow Kentuckians the opportunity to travel in-state this summer.
Parks and campgrounds and their visitors will have to follow new guidelines around social distancing and cleaning. Beshear originally tried to keep campgrounds open during the pandemic, but he decided to close them after reports of campers gathering in groups and not social distancing.
Beshear said he believes people will practice social distancing now that "they've seen how serious this that it is."
"I believe it's become part of our daily routine to social distance," he said.
Guests can begin making reservations on Tuesday, May 19.
Some state parks will not reopen because they’ve been repurposed to provide housing for low-acuity COVID-19 patients. They include state resort parks at Lake Cumberland, Lake Barkley, Blue Licks Battlefield and Buckhorn Lake.
Playgrounds and swimming pools at state parks will remain closed.
While public swimming pools will also remain closed, Beshear said he's allowing aquatic centers to open on June 1 as well. Aquatic centers are pools used only for exercise and lap-swimming.
Also allowed to open June 1, along new health guidelines, are the following businesses:
- Auto/Dirt Track Racing
- Bowling Alleys
- Fishing Tournaments
- Fitness Centers
- Kentucky State Park Lodges
- Movie Theaters
- Salato Wildlife Education Center
- Benchmarks For Next School Year
Beshear said that in order for schools to reopen safely for the 2020-2021 school year, the rate of new coronavirus cases will have to be "plateaued or decreasing."
He said the state will also need to have sufficient testing capacity in every area of the state, and that schools need to have plans to reduce contact inside school buildings. He’s also watching whether summer has any impact on the virus, and trying to find out if or when a surge in cases may be likely in the fall.
"All of those would hopefully guide us on the right time to start school in a way to get the maximum amount of in person classes in, if we do have to do a period of remote learning again," he said.
New guidance from the Kentucky Department of Education tells districts to start planning for three possible start dates: an early one in late summer, an on-time start date, and a later one in the fall.
Two More Inmates Dead
Beshear said four more people have died from the coronavirus in Kentucky, including two inmates at the federal prison in Lexington. One inmate was 66 years old. The other was 60.
"We are worried that there are going to be more deaths from those inmates," Beshear said. Beshear added that he has "no control" over the federal prison's handling of the outbreak.
The governor also announced 252 new positive cases, which he said he believes is higher than usual because it includes many cases at the federal prison.
7,444 people have been infected statewide, and 2,739 have recovered.
127,689 people have been tested.