Kentucky should resist the temptation of being the fastest to reopen its coronavirus-battered economy, instead focusing on being “the smartest and the best” to prevent any follow-up spikes in infections, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday.
The governor offered those cautionary words as he reported 17 more virus-related deaths in Kentucky, raising the statewide death count to 171 since the pandemic began. Total virus cases approached 3,200 statewide as the governor announced nearly 180 new cases.
Beshear and other governors are at the center of a turbulent national debate about how quickly to reopen businesses and ease guidelines meant to control the virus. Last week, protesters calling for businesses to reopen could be heard as Beshear gave his daily briefing at the statehouse.
President Donald Trump recently detailed a set of guidelines for easing restrictions in places that have robust testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.
Beshear released his own set of guidelines for Kentucky last week, some aligning with Trump’s proposals. Beshear is calling for increased testing, greater availability of protective equipment and plans to protect vulnerable populations as thresholds to begin lifting restrictions.
On Tuesday, the Democratic governor urged Kentucky residents to be “strong and resilient” in following guidelines meant to curb the virus’s spread. Easing restrictions too soon would risk secondary spikes in cases, inflicting another round of damage on the economy, Beshear said.
“We’ve got to know that our commitment has to be, yes, to be ready and to plan,” he said. “But to make sure that we do this not the fastest but the smartest and the best to protect our people and to make sure that ultimately, when we look at the long-term reopening of the economy, that we end up doing it in a shorter duration by not making some foolish or some very risky decisions.”
Elsewhere, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp plans to have many of his state’s businesses up and running again as soon as Friday. Fellow Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced that most businesses will begin resuming operations as soon as next week.
Some other Republican leaders were taking smaller steps, like reopening their beaches. In the virus hot spot of Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards also was taking a more cautious approach.
Meanwhile, the University of Kentucky announced plans Tuesday to lay off and furlough some employees in response to a projected $70 million budget shortfall in the coming year caused by the coronavirus.