Health

Gov. Andy Beshear is pleading with churches to not hold in-person services on Easter Sunday as Kentucky’s coronavirus infection and death counts continue to steadily rise.

Several churches across the state have still been holding services in recent weeks despite Beshear’s call for people to not gather in groups, to help stop the spread of the deadly disease. Some have already indicated they will gather this Sunday for Easter, usually one of the largest gatherings for churches each year.

Beshear called on pastors to cancel services, saying it would save lives.

“If you are the leader of the congregation, if you are charged with protecting your flock. Don’t do something that will mean that there are fewer people at Christmas than there are now, because of the service you put on now,” Beshear said.

So far, Beshear’s administration has not shut down any churches holding services, but he hinted that some form of enforcement might take place. He said that churches moving forward with services “can probably expect to see us.”

“Our hope is that we can still convince everybody to do the right thing,” Beshear said.

Beshear also announced new executive orders to try and reduce crowds at essential retail stores that are still open during the pandemic.

Only one adult per household will be allowed to go to the grocery store, hardware store or pharmacy, with exceptions for people who need assistance to shop, or who don’t have childcare.

La Tasha Buckner, Beshear’s chief of staff, said that the order would help reduce crowds at essential businesses and limit exposure to families. She said that people shouldn’t treat a shopping trip like “date night.”

Beshear also announced a ban on door-to-door solicitation, and a renewal of an order allowing people to get a 30-day refill on prescriptions and allowing pharmacists to use telehealth to meet with clients.

“This is just a way to keep everybody healthy and to make sure we’re getting everybody what they need without exposing them unnecessarily to the coronavirus,” Beshear said.

Kentucky again surpassed its previous daily increase of coronavirus cases, with 204 new cases confirmed on Wednesday and 1,346 total cases. Beshear announced 8 new deaths, bringing the state’s total to 73.

Following reports of long lines and crowds during Wisconsin’s primary elections on Tuesday, Beshear also said that Kentucky needs to move forward with plans to expand mail-in voting for the state’s June 23rd primary elections.

Beshear said that even if coronavirus is fading in Kentucky by then, mail-in balloting would help keep at-risk voters and poll workers at home.

“By June 23rd, while I hope we are on that downward curve when we are able to start releasing some of these restrictions, the people who are going to need protecting the most are the most-vulnerable,” Beshear said.

Last week lawmakers included language in the state’s revenue bill that would give the governor power to change the “manner” in which elections are conducted, if recommended by the secretary of state.

Beshear also announced that unemployment beneficiaries will start receiving an additional $600 in their weekly checks, with payments starting early as Thursday evening.

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