The Kentucky social distancing crackdown is getting serious… for Easter

Tomorrow is Easter, a day when church attendance is typically near the highest volume we see throughout the year. But in Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear wants to flatten that particular curve to a number as close to zero as possible. With that in mind, law enforcement will be stepping in. There’s no talk of arresting priests and pastors (at least not yet), but the cops will be collecting data in the form of license plate numbers of attendees. And if you decide to brave the virus and attend services, you’ll be getting a visit from state health department officials.

The state of Kentucky is taking new action to discourage individuals from participating in mass gatherings, such as church services, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Friday.

The state will be recording the license plates of those who show up to any mass gatherings and provide that information to the local health departments, who will in turn order those individuals to be quarantined for 14 days, according to Beshear.

Beshear said the state is down to less than seven churches state-wide that are still “thinking about” having an in-person service this weekend.

One person who’s not a fan of this plan is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, currently recovering from the coronavirus at his home.

At Outside the Beltway, James Joyner asks one of the more obvious questions. Why doesn’t the Governor just order the churches close? Well… he already did that. But some of them are “considering” opening up for Easter anyway. Faced with the option of either arresting churchgoers and/or religious leaders or ordering them into quarantine at home for two weeks, Beshear likely saw the latter option as the more politically palatable one.

But the “mandatory quarantine” idea fails to address one significant question. You’re talking about a group of people who were already willing to defy your orders to stay at home and not go to a large gathering, even if they did it for the most holy and devout of reasons. What makes you think that they will turn around and suddenly begin following orders on Monday? And if they don’t, then you either have to actually send the state troopers after them or you wind up looking like a powerless, feckless leader who can safely be ignored.

While I recognize the importance of keeping people isolated as much as possible until the virus burns itself out, it doesn’t really make sense to blame the churches and religious leaders in this case. All they are doing is opening the doors to the faithful. It’s the congregants who are violating the rules. And if they all come down with COVID-19, they’ll have done so by knowingly putting themselves in a position to be at risk. Perhaps in the interest of both the First Amendment and political practicality, Beshear should have just kept his mouth shut in this instance and monitored the areas near where any churches held services for any possible spikes in infection rates.

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