Health Kentucky Politics

Gov. Andy Beshear says that state police troopers will record license plate numbers in crowded church parking lots this weekend and report individuals for ignoring social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Beshear said that local health departments would then go to the homes associated with the license plates and order individuals to quarantine for 14 days.

Beshear said that the new order would apply to all mass gatherings, but it’s especially significant for churches celebrating Easter this weekend.

“If somebody makes that decision, ok. But understand that this is the only way that we can ensure that your decision doesn’t kill somebody else,” Beshear said.

Beshear said that most churches are following social distancing guidelines, but that he knows of at least seven churches planning to meet this weekend.

Kentucky again surpassed its previous daily record for new coronavirus cases on Friday. Beshear announced 242 new cases, for a total of 1,693. There were also 11 new deaths, for a total of 90.

Several churches across Kentucky and the country have held in-person services in defiance of state and federal guidelines for people to not gather in large groups to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

In Hopkins County in western Kentucky, a religious revival last month has been connected to 54 cases and 6 deaths.

Beshear said that people who decide to attend Easter services could negate the sacrifices that Kentuckians have made in recent weeks.

“It is not a test of faith in whether you are going to an in-person service. It’s a test of faith that you are willing to sacrifice for your fellow man, your fellow woman, your fellow Kentuckian and your fellow American,” Beshear said.

Beshear said he would leave it up to local governments to determine whether they want to allow “drive-in” church services.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, has banned such gatherings, drawing opposition from Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Attorney General Daniel Cameron, McConnell’s protégé.

Cameron said that religious organizations shouldn’t be singled out.

“As long as Kentuckians are permitted to drive through liquor stores, restaurants, and other businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the law requires that they must also be allowed to participate in drive-in church services, consistent with existing policies to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Cameron wrote in a statement.

Beshear said that drive-in services should only allow one family per car, cars should be 6 feet apart, and people should stay in the car and not pass things between cars.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.