Virus Outbreak Kentucky

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks in March alongside American Sign Language interpreter Virginia Moore during a news conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort to provide an update on the novel coronavirus.

In her Eaglestone Villas condo, retiree Cyndy Scibal adjusts the antenna so she can pick up what has become her new favorite television program.

In Edmonson County, public school educator Dee Dee Webb uses the same tech-savvy skills she employs to reach fellow teachers and their students to livestream the same program, one she considers must-see viewing.

It’s “Andy time,” and it has nothing to do with Mayberry, although the star of this show seems to have tapped into the same homespun charisma that continues to make a certain fictional sheriff a welcome guest in our living rooms. If it’s 4 p.m. Central, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is at a podium adorned with the Kentucky state seal and he is delivering what has become for many Kentuckians a consistent, reassuring refrain: “We will get through this, we will get through this together.”

Beshear’s mantra has a certain Mister Rogers feel to it, but he has traded the cardigan sweater for a casual open-collared shirt and the “beautiful day in the neighborhood” bromide for a straightforward message about the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s equal parts tutorial and lecture as the Democratic governor shares the latest developments and statistics in the state’s battle to slow the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory disease.

Even when he’s sharing news, as he did Sunday, that five more Kentuckians have died as a result of COVID-19, Beshear is earning the respect of viewers like Scibal, a self-described “dyed-in-the-wool Republican.”

“He’s tops in my book,” Scibal said, adding that the governor is “acting like a true statesman” in his daily briefings.

She gets no argument from Patricia Scott, a retired educator living in Bowling Green who tunes into Beshear’s briefing daily.

“I appreciate that he’s very calm and very consistent,” Scott said. “He makes it clear that he’s the governor for all Kentuckians, not just for Democrats or Republicans. That’s a contrast to what’s happening at the federal level.

“He emphasizes in every briefing what we can control, and that’s very reassuring. He has made an effort to reach out to all generations of Kentuckians.”

Retirees like Scott and Scibal are joined in their support of what the governor is doing by youngsters Paige and Jada Peterson. The sisters took advantage of Saturday’s pleasant weather, using chalk to decorate their family’s driveway in the Hidden River subdivision with such messages as “Better days ahead,” “KY Strong” and even “Beshear 4 Prez.”

“We were just outside, and we wanted to spread some positive messages,” said Paige Peterson, who has been laid off from her job at Lost River Cave because of the social distancing mandates. “Everybody is going through this, but I think in Kentucky we’ve done a good job trying to stay positive.”

Younger sister Jada, a freshman at South Warren High School, appreciates Beshear for “doing a good job trying to make sure everyone is safe.”

In Frankfort, where partisan politics is the norm, Beshear’s handling of the pandemic has drawn praise from both sides of the aisle since the governor first declared a state of emergency March 6 and issued recommendations on social distancing the next day.

“Gov. Beshear has handled this crisis with calm, boldness and determination from the very beginning,” said state Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green. “His daily press briefings have taken on a life of their own and given tens of thousands of Kentuckians something to rally around every day.”

State Rep. Steve Sheldon, R-Bowling Green, believes Beshear’s quick action has helped put Kentucky in better shape than most other states in the battle against the coronavirus.

“I believe the entire state is united behind Gov. Beshear,” Sheldon said. “His daily videos are very good, and I think we’re all on board with what he’s doing. If you look at other states, I think we’re running a couple of weeks ahead in flattening the (growth) curve.”

The statistics seem to back that up.

While neighboring states Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio have all reported more than 3,000 cases of COVID-19, Kentucky has yet to reach 1,000.

“I think the proactive approach the governor took from the beginning has been great,” said Webb, who works as a technology integration specialist in the Grayson County school system. “He didn’t wait until we were in a crisis.”

While the number of infections in Kentucky has been growing slowly, the number of viewers for Beshear’s briefings continues to climb. Saturday’s Facebook Live video recorded 342,000 views and 1,800 shares, and it was also shown on YouTube and some over-the-air television stations. It may be seen live daily at bgdailynews.com.

The governor’s coronavirus messages have gone viral for a reason, Webb said.

“He has taken politics out of his briefings,” she said. “And he tries to put a positive spin on things.”

But Beshear can also be forceful in asking Kentucky residents to follow the social distancing edicts that have changed the way people interact and handcuffed many businesses.

In Saturday’s address, he didn’t mince words when asking the state’s residents to continue following social distancing guidelines.

Pointing out that projections of deaths in Kentucky from COVID-19 range from 13,000 with poor compliance to the guidelines to only 2,000 with strict compliance, Beshear said: “This is the time when we do what it takes to protect the people around us.

“When you stay at home, you’re doing your patriotic duty. And it’s working.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

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