Health Kentucky Politics

A Northern Kentucky judge has temporarily blocked Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus-related restrictions that limit attendance at car racetracks and childcare centers.

The development comes after Florence Speedway, Little Links to Learning child care center and several other Northern Kentucky businesses sued Beshear over his executive orders that allow business to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic as long as they follow crowd restrictions.

Under Beshear’s order, racetracks were only allowed to have authorized personnel attend races, but no fans, and day care centers were required to keep children in groups of 10 or fewer without combining them with other classrooms.

But on Thursday, Boone Circuit Court Judge Rick Brueggemann ruled that while the lawsuit is pending, racetracks will be allowed to open up to guests at 50% capacity as long as they maintain 6-feet social distancing requirements.

And child care centers will be allowed to have children in groups of up to 28.

In his order, Brueggemann wrote that the governor’s criteria for business restrictions are unclear.

“Attendance at movie theaters is allowed and…the Governor has permitted horse races. But attending auto races are not allowed,” Brueggemann wrote.

“These are all parts of Americana. To be sure, people have preferences concerning which of these, if any, they’d choose to participate. But that is a value judgment. And it is a value judgment best left to individuals.”

(You can find the full schedule of Beshear’s reopening requirements here.)

The judge held off on ruling against Beshear’s orders requiring people to maintain 6-foot social distancing in restaurants.

The ruling comes as Kentucky has averaged 221 new cases per day over the last week, according to the WFPL News Covid-19 tracker.

And the percentage of people testing positive for the virus remains low compared to other states (3.6% in Kentucky compared to Arizona’s 24%, Texas’ 14.4% and Florida’s 16%, according to covidexiststrategy.org).

Attorney General Daniel Cameron joined the lawsuit against Beshear’s orders on Tuesday. He celebrated the ruling in a statement.

“Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Beshear’s restrictive executive orders have shuttered the Commonwealth’s economy, leaving nearly half of our workforce unemployed and dictating the manner in which Kentuckians can live their lives,” Cameron wrote.

“While there is no doubt a need to protect public health during this pandemic, our Constitution expressly prohibits one person from controlling every aspect of life for Kentuckians.”

In a statement, Beshear called the ruling “dangerous” and criticized Cameron for joining the lawsuit.

“The ruling lessening day care protections comes on the same day that we learned 300 children in Texas day cares have contracted the virus,” Beshear said. “We will be filing the appropriate papers to move this case directly to the Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court. An attorney general should protect people, not put their lives in danger.”

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for July 21.

This story has been updated.

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