Recently, several Corbin restaurants and bars were warned by a local Alcohol Beverage Control official after multiple reports were made to state ABC officials about violations of the mandate prohibiting serving customers at the bar.
Some of these establishments took to social media to complain about state COVID-19 restrictions, which limit seating capacity among other things.
Likewise, several have taken to social media in recent months complaining about COVID-19 restrictions that targeted churches.
So why are bars and churches being singled out for restrictions when major retailers like Walmart and Kroger aren’t?
The News Journal recently asked Whitley County Public Health Director Marcy Rein about this issue.
Rein said that ultimately the goal is to smother the spread of COVID-19 to keep our community safe. Gov. Andy Beshear’s Executive Orders, restrictions, and guidance come from what we learn about how COVID-19 is spread.
“We have learned a ton since this pandemic began. We know it is primarily spread from person-to-person through droplets. Those droplets are produced when a person coughs, sneezes, sings, yells, and when they talk,” she said.
“We know that people can spread COVID-19 even if they do not feel sick. We know indoor air is more likely to have those droplets hang around longer than in outdoor air. When there is good ventilation, such as outside, the droplets dissipate faster. People closer than six feet without masks have a higher risk of infection because they are in range for those droplets to land in their mouth or nose.”
The more people are in those high-risk environments or activities, the higher their risk of infection, Rein noted.
“Restrictions and recommendations related to activities, whether it is at a bar or a church, are based on those factors. Bars and churches both involve people gathering together indoors, usually less than six feet apart, and rarely with masks on due to the kinds of activities happening there,” she said.
“Abiding by restrictions that limit the number of people, promotes physical distance, and emphasizes disinfecting helps prevent the spread so that we can move towards the economic recovery we need while not sacrificing the health and lives of our community members.”
So, what about big-box retailers not being issued such notices?
“It is not that there is no risk there, but people tend to spend less time inside them. They tend to stay farther away from others while there, and they tend not to hug a lot of people or sing while they are there. We have not seen clusters coming from big-box retailers,” Rein said.
Rein said that she and other public health officials appreciate all the business owners and citizens that are doing their part to keep our community safe and smother this pandemic.
She also addressed the issue about why orders, restrictions, and guidance is issued for the whole state instead of targeting “problem counties.”
“One thing we have learned in this pandemic is that there is an incredible amount of movement by people between counties. It would be incredibly confusing to manage different rules if you lived in Knox, worked in Whitley, and went to eat or attend church in a Laurel,” Rein said.
“Whitley County has had weeks of accelerated spread and weeks of lower-level community spread, so the label ‘problem county’ can change very quickly.”
While Whitley County might be having a good week, it might be surrounded by counties that are not, she added.