According to Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon, perhaps the biggest victory to be won in the coronavirus pandemic will be over the people who refuse to follow the rules and recommendations.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily News on Friday, Buchanon discussed the evolution of his thoughts on the virus, his frustrations and how those who refuse to social distance and follow other guidelines make it harder to fight against a virus that has infected more than 350 people in Warren County and caused more than 65,000 deaths nationally.

When it comes to the pandemic’s influence on society, he hears it from various sides.

“I get calls each day saying I have sold out to the propaganda, that it’s a sham and I should be ashamed of myself. Then I get people who are scared to death,” he said. “We don’t need to be in either place.”

He said that dealing with the pandemic has been almost his sole focus for several months now. In his 27 years as Warren County’s judge-executive, “I’ve never been so busy. It’s a fluid situation with so many moving parts,” he said.

The coronavirus eclipses any natural disaster or other crisis he has encountered, he said, and his frustrations stem in a large part because “no one is in control of the situation. The individual is in control.”

He said government and health officials can continually advise people to social distance, practice good hygiene and take other preventive steps, “but if you have 5 percent who think it is a joke or a sham” it frustrates the efforts of the vast majority of Kentuckians who are following the guidelines, he said. “We do have to accept the fact that we are in a global pandemic.”

Buchanon said he has gotten reports of unrelated people carpooling to other counties for work and then returning without quarantining, violating requirements set by Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order.

Buchanon said that while he believes in a person’s constitutional rights, those rights don’t allow anyone “to infringe on the health and safety of everyone else ... it’s frustrating. We do need to get back to work, but we need 100 percent cooperation of citizens,” he said. Otherwise, the virus “will continue to spread.”

A new state testing site opened last week at South Warren High School, where more than 1,000 people have received tests as of Friday.

“We are going to see more positive cases” as a result of the increased testing, but it “will give us a clearer picture” of how widespread the virus is locally, he said.

This fight is one Buchanon did not initially expect to take so seriously. In early March, he said at a health board meeting “I’m far more concerned about the flu than I am about the coronavirus ... The coronavirus is down the list on what I think people should be worried about.”

He said that at the time, there was a belief by some that the virus was soon “going to peak.” The first confirmed Warren County coronavirus case was reported in mid-March. Before that, “it felt like we were dodging the bullet in Warren County. ... We knew less about” the virus in general, he said.

But now, Buchanon is fully on board with calls for masks in public, social distancing and other measures outlined by Beshear and health officials.

He said he understands the desire to reopen the economy, but warned that slacking on safety measures could lead to a new spike in cases and an even more traumatic second shutdown.

He said he foresees the recommendation of wearing masks in public persisting “for probably the next several months. There are people you see every day who are asymptomatic (but who) can spread it. We need to take this seriously.”

The unknown factor regarding any reopening plan is how many people will not follow guidelines – “a few people who aren’t taking it seriously can ruin it for everyone else,” he said.

Beshear has outlined a phased reopening of businesses, with some questioning whether the state is reopening too quickly, since Kentucky cases appear to have plateaued but not yet declined.

“I don’t know that it’s premature,” Buchanon said. “I think we are being cautious.” We have to rebuild our economy, “but also be our brother’s keeper,” he said.

A larger concern for Buchanon is other states reopening at a faster rate than Kentucky and travelers subsequently bringing another surge of cases to southcentral Kentucky.

That’s a fear shared by Barren River District Health Department Director Matt Hunt, who told the Daily News last week he had a similar concern.

The governor’s mantra of “Healthy at Home might become Healthy in Kentucky,” Hunt said.

Looking ahead, Buchanon said minimizing the virus’ effect will take courage and a willingness to make changes.

“We don’t have to live in fear, but we do have to adjust our lives,” he said, and “live a lifestyle that reflects we are in the midst of a global pandemic.”

– Follow News Director Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

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(6) comments

BigJimSlade

I have to wonder why it doesn't seem to concern Mike Buchanon that while government officials of several other states have praised their citizens’ intelligence in mitigating the spread of this virus to the vulnerable, without government threats of force held over their heads, but in his moment of record he laments the lack of central control over citizens. It would seem Mr. Buchanon has quite a poor opinion of the people of Kentucky.

And then, he proceeds to blame 5% of the people of Kentucky for ruining his power buzz, yet these same people have been lied to repeatedly by models that were fantastically wrong, and whose next several revisions downward (by huge margins) were again wrong, repeatedly, and that are still to this day wrong? And then we hear Sweden and its praises for its citizens' intelligence. Yet he's blamed 5% of Kentuckians, and longed for power.

Additionally, the growth curve this virus has produced, has followed the curve of nearly every human respiratory viral blight, but he blames 5% of Kentucky for not magically making the curve follow some wholly imagined other path. Even Iran of all places, has produced an antibody study showing the near irrelevance of lockdowns to the control of the spread of this virus, in addition to what is becoming almost daily a repleteness of similar evidence from even densely populated countries such as Taiwan, Japan, and from states in our country such as Georgia, Florida, and Pennsylvania, among others. And Sweden's strategy (differing markedly from the one Mr. Buchanon espouses) is a "model" according to WHO. But yet he still drops the blame on Kentucky, and threatens "an even more traumatic shutdown" if people don't shape up and get on with their magical spells to make this virus behave like he wants it to.

All in all, obviously, I found Mr. Buchanon's words in this article to be filled with errors, carelessly bereft of reason and facts, and unfounded and frankly trashy accusations against hundreds of thousands of peaceful individuals in Kentucky.

This was his moment in print on this issue, and he chooses to demean, and threaten. Yikes. Who needs a virus to sicken you when you have someone like this pretending to care about you.

Koheleth

"And Sweden's strategy (differing markedly from the one Mr. Buchanon espouses)"

Swedens COVID-19 death rate is 12.3%, roughly triple that of Sweden's Nordic neighbors, Finland and Norway. The Swedish case-fatality rate also surpasses some of the hardest-hit countries: Spain (11.5%), and the US (5.9%). Also, Sweden has a populace that values altruism, something a great many in the US loathe. You may be one that does not share in those traits, but your comment certainly casts warranted doubts.

"All in all, obviously, I found Mr. Buchanon's words in this article to be filled with errors, carelessly bereft of reason and facts,..."

Obviously. And yet you commit the same errors you accuse him of.

BigJimSlade

So, altruism causes a high death rate. You believe yourself qualified to speak for "a great many" Americans. You don't know how to read statistics. And finally, you believe an online commentary enables you to make judgments about someone's character. What a hum dinger of a reply heh.

Koheleth

I was pointing out how your misinterpretation of Sweden's 'model', (I don't think you understand what the WHO meant), did not bolster your argument. Observation and deduction would prove that there are in fact a great many Americans who do not have the altruistic traits endemic to those of Sweden's culture. Capitol occupiers, rally attendees, beach closure ignorers, those who don't wear masks in public spaces, social distancing avoiders, virus hoaxers, the list goes on. Which would make following the Swedish model utterly and unequivocally devastating on the US populace.

As for the statistics. Those speak for themselves. Science revises models as new data comes in meaning statistics can and will be fluid in an ongoing pandemic. In our instance the measures imposed, (and of which were subsequently ignored by that great many Americans) have still led to a higher death rate in terms of numbers than anywhere else on the planet, but sure open her back up while the death/infection rate yet climbs, USA, USA, #1, FREEDOM, LIBERTY, right? Puhleez. Utter lunacy. I hear the meat packaging industry is hiring. You want to prove what a farce all of this is, go cut some meat.

And finally, the comments one posts, provided they are of a serious enough nature, are a fairly good benchmark from which to judge someones worldview, which in turn gives a somewhat reasonable snapshot of their character. Considering one influences and follows from the other. So yes... hum dinger indeed.

The_Shadow_Knows

Mike, how about explaining to us tax payers why the parks we pay for are shut, while the golf courses are open for your rich businessman buddies to play golf. Does anyone in this town really believe Mike's businessman buddies are playing golf alone as opposed to playing in groups?

Enough Already

Right on the Money! Hypocrisy at its finest...

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