Kentucky is urging residents to avoid Easter services this weekend due to the coronavirus pandemic, warning that anyone who attends in person will be ordered to quarantine for 14 days.
Officials are aware of about six churches planning to hold in-person services, state Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement. The state police will record attendees’ license plates and notify them it is a misdemeanor violation of orders issued by state health officials, the governor said.
“Local health officials then will contact the people associated with those vehicles and require them to self-quarantine for 14 days. This is the only way we can ensure that your decision doesn’t kill someone else,” Beshear said.
It’s crucial for the state to take the measures especially after an outbreak that left dozens sick and multiple people dead in Hopkins County was traced to a church revival there last month, he said.
“Folks, we shouldn’t have to do this,” he said. “What we’re asking is for you to love your neighbor as yourself. We shouldn’t have to do this.”
There are at least 1,693 coronavirus confirmed cases and 90 deaths in Kentucky as of Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“The next couple of weeks being absolutely critical not only to us blunting or flattening the curve but really protecting those that are most vulnerable, especially our seniors that are in different types of assisted living facilities,” he said.
In a tweet Friday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is recovering from coronavirus, criticized the governor.
“Taking license plates at church? Quarantining someone for being Christian on Easter Sunday? Someone needs to take a step back here,” Paul said.
Despite the ban on mass gatherings and travel restrictions, the governor told the state’s young residents not to worry about the Easter Bunny, who will be considered an “essential worker” and can travel and work this weekend.
The US recorded at least 2,074 deaths on Friday, the largest increase in coronavirus fatalities the country has seen since the beginning of the outbreak. So far, the total number of reported deaths is 19,882.
More than 514,000 people in the United States have tested positive, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally of cases.
President Donald Trump has approved a disaster declaration for Kentucky in response to the coronavirus outbreak. All 50 states plus the US Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have all received a federal disaster declaration.
The pandemic is the first time in history every state in the country is under federal disaster declaration simultaneously.