Following protests throughout the week at its state capitol, Kentucky reported its highest case spike. According to new reported figures, Kentucky added 273 new cases in a single day on Sunday, bringing the state’s total to 2,960.
On 15th April, around 100 protesters gathered on the lawn of the Capitol building in Frankfort, KY during Gov Andy Beshear’s coronavirus briefing to demand the state lockdown be lifted. The same group of demonstrators returned to protest again a couple days later, both times shouting things like, “Open up Kentucky!” and “You’re not a king!” Some protesters stood directly outside the room where Beshear was holding his press conference while others circled the area in cars in a drive through protest.
During the press conference, Beshear insisted that he would not be moved on matters on easing lockdown restrictions. “We do have some folks up here in Kentucky today, saying we should reopen Kentucky immediately, right now,” said Beshear, citing that the state had not reached 14 days of decreasing cases numbers that is the current White House guidelines. “Folks, that would kill people. It would absolutely kill people.”
Now, it seems that those protests, which appear to lack social distancing efforts, may have lead to a projected increase in COVID-19 cases. Kentucky’s protests are among those that broke out in several states this past week including demonstrations in Ohio, Minnesota, and Michigan. All of the protests involved demonstrators disregarding social distancing recommendations and stay-at-home orders to demand their states reopen despite the state’s readiness to do so.
On 17th April, Trump addressed protesters in a series of tweets encouraging them to “liberate” their states. He called out Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia by name telling them that their Second Amendment rights were “under siege.” He later defended his tweets and appeared to endorse the protests, saying that some of the measures imposed on those states had been “too tough.” During a press conference that same day, Trump said, “These people are expressing their views...they seem very responsible to me.”
Trump fuelling the fire of impatient protesters directly contradicts White House published guidelines for combating the coronavirus and his continued support of demonstrations disregard safety measures that we currently need. It remains to be seen whether Kentucky protests will continue in light of the new spread, though the widespread contesting of lockdown measures remain steadfast across the country.