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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Beshear Says Easing Coronavirus Restrictions By May 1 Unlikely

Ryan Van Velzer

Gov. Andy Beshear says it's unlikely that Kentucky will begin easing coronavirus crowd restrictions and business closures starting May 1, as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said would happen in his state.

At Thursday's briefing, Beshear said that the state is looking at several different metrics for how to determine when it's safe to start opening Kentucky's economy up, but that May 1 "is a hard day to hit."

"It's really gradual and phased in, every plan we see out there," Beshear said. "Late May or June, we hope there are certainly some things Kentuckians will be able to be doing again."

Beshear's response comes after he announced that Kentucky will be coordinating its coronavirus response with six other states—Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Beshear said that it will ultimately be up to each individual state to ease coronavirus restrictions, but that they will be sharing best practices and trying to coordinate responses.

But he also said that coronavirus is still on an upward trajectory in Kentucky, and that reopening businesses and allowing people to gather could lead to a rapid spread.

"There's only going to be new normal until we have a vaccine," Beshear said.

Public officials are facing mounting pressure to allow businesses to reopen, despite recommendations from public health experts.

On Wednesday, several protesters had gathered outside the Capitol where Beshear was holding his daily press briefing to call for him to ease restrictions.

Steven Stack, Kentucky's public health commissioner, said that he respected the protesters' opinions, but they were putting people at risk by gathering.

"The mass gathering that happened yesterday is exactly the kind of mass gathering that we have public health orders that say are prohibited right now," Stack said.

"The virus is so incredibly contagious, one person can infect multiple people who then take the virus somewhere else and infect other people."

Beshear also announced that Kentucky will expand drive-thru coronavirus testing at Kroger locations next week, opening up sites in Madisonville, Paducah, Pikeville and Somerset.

The sites will be open Tuesday through Thursday, with the goal of conducting about 1,000 tests at each location over the course of those three days.

Beshear announced 159 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, for a total of 2,429. One of the new cases includes a 10 day old baby from Lincoln County.

There were 7 new Kentucky coronavirus deaths on Thursday, for a total of 129.

This story first appeared on WFPL. For more stories like this, visit wfpl.org now.

Ryland Barton is WFPL's Managing Editor for Collaboratives.