FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — In a preemptive action to prevent an Easter weekend acceleration of the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Andy Beshear warned that anyone attending in-person gatherings will be ordered into quarantine as he announced another single-day high number of virus cases in Kentucky.
The governor took the tougher step Friday against gatherings in his latest attempt to contain the virus’s spread. The order applies to all mass gatherings and not just worship services.
A handful of Kentucky pastors signaled in recent days that they intended to defy Beshear and continue in-person services. The governor has warned that churches should switch to virtual services or other ways for people to practice their faith and protect public health.
Under the new tougher action, people seen participating in mass gatherings in Kentucky this weekend will have their license plate numbers recorded by authorities, who will provide the information to local health departments, Beshear said. Health officials will contact each participant and require them to go into quarantine for 14 days, he said.
Beshear described it as a matter of personal responsibility to avoid gatherings amid the pandemic.
“This is the only way that we can ensure that your decision doesn’t kill somebody else,” he said. “That your decision doesn’t spread the coronavirus in your county and in your community.”
Beshear praised faith leaders for adhering to his admonitions against in-person worship services. But about a half-dozen churches statewide were still considering in-person services, he said.
“If you’re going to expose yourself to this virus, and you make that decision to do it, it’s not fair to everybody else out that you might spread it to,” he said at his daily briefing.
Beshear, a deacon at his church, frequently talks about his own faith while announcing another round of virus-related deaths or promoting social-distancing guidelines.
“I have never been as sure of anything in my faith as I am in this: We must protect each other,” he said earlier this week.
Beshear reported 242 more coronavirus cases statewide Friday, raising the total to nearly 1,700 since the outbreak began. Eleven more virus-related deaths brought Kentucky’s death toll to 90.
Beshear, whose voice choked with emotion in announcing the latest deaths, warned “there are going to be tougher days than today” as he urged people to strictly follow social distancing.
The state had 75 new coronavirus cases among residents and staff at nursing homes or other long-term care facilities in the state, he said. The virus has impacted nearly 30 such Kentucky facilities.
Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems.
At least 464 Kentucky residents have recovered from the virus, the governor said.
Beshear also updated the state’s efforts to keep pace with the record-setting numbers of Kentucky residents seeking unemployment benefits as the virus causes widespread economic damage.
The state made 71,625 separate payments totaling nearly $43 million on Thursday, the governor said. The payments included the $600 unemployment supplements from the federal government, he said.
More than 275,000 Kentucky residents filed for unemployment benefits in the previous three weeks as businesses are shuttered or scale back because of the virus. The state has responded by dramatically increasing the number of employees handling unemployment insurance claims.
“We will continue to work to increase our capacity,” the governor said Friday.