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Governor forcefully defends his virus-related actions

May 28, 2020 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear forcefully defended his coronavirus-related restrictions Thursday, saying they spared Kentucky from a more devastating outbreak and now have the state primed to move ahead with business reopenings.

The Democratic governor said his “drastic and significant” actions of recent months to contain the virus worked, putting Kentucky in a strong position going forward.

“Kentuckians came together,” Beshear said at his daily coronavirus briefing. “We sacrificed. We did what it took. We put our dreams on hold and we stopped that pandemic curve.”

His defense of actions that shuttered businesses and prevented gatherings of people came days after armed protesters rallied at the State Capitol last weekend. They swarmed outside the Governor’s Mansion and hanged Beshear in effigy near the statehouse.

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The rally was billed as a defense of constitutional rights, but turned into a protest against coronavirus restrictions and Beshear’s administration, according to media reports. The governor condemned the protest and referred to the participants as a mob.

On Thursday, the governor recounted the surge of Kentucky’s virus cases in March and April. If unchecked, those cases would have increased by tens of thousands per week, he said. There were projections for significantly higher numbers of deaths, he said.

As a result of the restrictions, the cases plateaued over several weeks and now are in decline even with more widespread testing, he said.

Beshear acknowledged that the restrictions caused significant economic hardships.

But he has said that adherence to the orders put Kentucky in a better position for economic recovery. But he stressed that that progress is fragile, and the people need to follow social distancing and other health guidelines to contain the virus.

Without naming anyone, Beshear took a swipe at those who “want to pretend like it never happened” after months of battling the disease.

“Now that we have enough testing, now that we’re going to have the contact tracing, now that we’re reopening, I want to make sure that we don’t try to rewrite history about what we faced — an international, worldwide health pandemic,” he said.

“And I want to make sure that we remember what our sacrifices were for and that people don’t try to negate them for political gain or anything else,” he added. “What we have lived is very real, the steps that we took were very necessary.”

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Beshear reported nine additional virus-related deaths in Kentucky, raising the state’s death count to at least 409 since the pandemic began. The most recent victims ranged in age from 66 to 85.

“To anybody who is saying that we should just try to go back to our old normal and sacrifice those that this preys on, I couldn’t disagree more,” the governor said. “Our seniors are just as important, those that have these health conditions are just as important as everybody else.”

He reported 113 additional virus cases, increasing the statewide total to more than 9,180 cases.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, even death.

Meanwhile, more than 50,000 Kentucky residents applied for unemployment benefits last week, a slight increase that reflects continuing struggles in the labor market as a reopening economy tries to rebound from the pandemic.

The 53,738 Kentuckians submitting new jobless claims was up by more than 6,410 from the prior week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday. It halted what had been a recent downward trend in the number of Kentuckians applying for jobless aid. And it indicates that some employers continue to cut jobs even as others bring back laid-off workers.

Kentucky has processed an unprecedented number of unemployment insurance claims since the virus hit. The outbreak forced widespread business closures for many weeks in an effort to contain the virus. The state is gradually kick starting the economy but with restrictions meant to adhere to social distancing and other health guidelines.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak