FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s first case of the coronavirus was reported on March 6, and Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency the same day, allowing him to take several actions to slow the spread.
The earliest orders focused on healthcare and price-gouging protections but within a few days, the closures started: schools, childcare centers, bars, and restaurants. He also struck a deal with Secretary of State Michael Adams to move the May primary to June.
Before March was over, all non-essential businesses were required to close, most travel was discouraged, and mass gatherings were prohibited.
“We’ve got to be ready to do what it takes to defeat the coronavirus on the very first try,” Beshear said March 24.
Early polling showed Beshear’s actions were popular and results from an exclusive Spectrum News/IPSOS poll reveal nearly two-thirds of Kentuckians still approve of how he has handled the coronavirus.
Beshear limited in-person church services leading up to Easter, and some churchgoers felt they were unfairly targeted.
“I have never not went to church for Easter and I refuse to do it even with the situation going on,” churchgoer Bevelyn Beatty told Spectrum News 1 in Louisville on April 12. “My Lord is more important.”
A federal judge halted the ban on in-person services in May, shortly before the state was set to allow them anyways.
The closures also brought out protests at the Capitol, including armed militia members at the Governor’s mansion in late May. One of the protesters hung Beshear in effigy.
“I will not be afraid. I will not be bullied. And I will not back down,” Beshear said May 26. “Not to them, and not anybody else.”
Unemployment issues plagued the state throughout the pandemic with more than a million claims filed since March, prompting long lines for in-person help and little assistance over the phone.
“You can’t talk to a human. You can’t talk to anyone,” unemployment filer Brittany Podmanik told Spectrum News in June. “That’s the problem is none of us know why our stuff is being held up because nobody is telling us anything.”
There are still tens of thousands of unresolved claims still left to deal with.
Kentucky gradually reopened in May and June as cases plateaued, but an escalation in July prompted Beshear to order a mask mandate in public spaces, wherever social distancing wasn’t possible.
“Our future and what we could do in this state, how our economy rebounds, how safe our people are going to be, the health and the lives of Kentuckians all depends on our ability to wear one of these,” Beshear said while holding up a mask during his coronavirus update July 7.
Also in July, Attorney General Daniel Cameron joined a group challenging Beshear’s orders in court, claiming they’re unconstitutional.
The Kentucky Supreme Court heard arguments on Sept. 17.
“Even in the midst of a pandemic, the Constitution is not suspended,” Cameron said after the arguments. “That is what we’ve tried to articulate from day one.”
There is no timetable for the Kentucky Supreme Court to make a decision but Beshear says he’s confident the orders will stand, and there could be drastic consequences if they’re thrown out.
“If we lose this case and there’s not a mask mandate in place; If we lose this case and social distancing is not in place; If we lose this case and every stadium, arena, and college, high school gym are completely filled with people, yes, more people will die,” Beshear said following the Supreme Court arguments. “And every single public health official out there would tell you that.”
Despite the steep rise in cases recently, Beshear has resisted putting new restrictions in place.
This week though, he announced the state is preparing for a surge with hospitals to prevent them from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.