Under Gov. Andy Beshear, Kentucky was one of the first states to start aggressive action and promote “social distancing” to keep people healthy and safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. His actions—and manner—have been praised in the national media. Kentucky, a state usually known for leading the nation in such things as obesity and lung disease, is, under the guidance of the governor and his administration, leading the nation in the handling of this crisis.
The governor, along with Kenneth and Virginia, addresses the public every day at 5 p.m. People around the state—and sometimes the nation—are tuned in to hear the latest news about the virus, the number of cases in the state and each county, praise for those following the social distancing orders and acts of kindness, and a scolding for those not following pandemic protocol.
So what do Mercer Countians think? A quick polling of some residents found an overall approval rating.
“I think that Gov. Beshear is doing an outstanding job with keeping the commonwealth informed, educated and calm,” said Jerry Sampson of Harrodsburg and a retail business owner who is among those who closed his downtown retail business because of social distancing. “He is the voice of reason and calmness in a crazy world. I look forward to hearing him every night. But I pray that he’s able to safely stop one day.”
Does Sampson watch the daily broadcast, known affectionately around the state as “Andy at 5?” “Of course,” he said, “I try never to miss him.”
Another Main Street business owner, Goldie Goldsmith-Vigneri of Harrodsburg, said she too watches the 5 o’clock updates. “I think the governor is great and yes, I watch him at 5 daily.”
Having asked churches not to gather for services, the governor asked them to ring their church bells to show solidarity. Goldsmith-Vigneri could not hear the bells inside her Main Street apartment Sunday so she went to Facebook to ask residents to step outside each day at 10 a.m. and ring a bell.
Donna and Steve Anderson of Harrodsburg are tuned in to the governor every day. “Andy at 5 is the only broadcast we watch concerning the virus,” said Donna Anderson. “We think Gov. Beshear is doing a wonderful job of keeping Kentucky informed.”
“I appreciate his daily updates and his demeanor in communicating what is often very concerning news,” said Greg Warren of Harrodsburg and pastor of the Carpenter’s Christian Church. “He tries to be encouraging and reassuring in the midst of this and I think that’s much needed.”
Ida Yocum of Burgin watches the governor and explains, “I am very pleased on how he’s handling everything. Just wish some people would listen and realize how serious this situation is.”
On the other end of the county, Emma Dell Goodlett of North Mercer County, said, “I am a registered Republican. I am very conservative. I did not vote for Andy Beshear. However, I believe in this situation, he is doing a wonderful job. I watch his updates every day. I appreciate the calming effect he’s displaying and feel like he is showing great leadership during these trying times. God bless our governor and our president.”
“I watch him every night and I am so pleased with his leadership during this pandemic,” said Joy Burgin Stevens of Harrodsburg. “I feel so comfortable with him and love the compassion he has for Kentuckians. Gov. Beshear has great (cabinet members) helping make decisions for our welfare. He is not only talking to adults, but is assuring children that we will get through this. May God keep him healthy and give comfort and strength to him as well as Kentuckians.”
Stevens’ daughter, Ann-Margret Perkins of Mercer County, is also a fan of the governor.
“As a teacher, I think his Mr. Rogers’ kind, gentle spirit is comforting. My students probably aren’t watching the news like adults do, but if they do, they see a calm governor,” she explains. “I love how he’s giving snippets of videos to help the young and old.
“I was a child when Vietnam was going on,” she added. “Media was limited to the news on TV and a weekly newspaper. My parents had time to shield us as needed. Now, news is so readily available that it makes it hard to shield our young. I hate to say this, but I don’t think our parents were prepared. Heck, I’m a parent of a 21 and 26 year old and I’m not. Normally it takes two incomes. Some parents are still working. They may have to work at home. They may be ‘teacher’ to one, two or more children. I have one parent that is in the frontline as a nurse. She texted me today about school. She’s giving it her all and worn out. I understand that. She wasn’t prepared to be a teacher too. She’s prepared to send her child on a bus from 7:40 to 3:40 to be cared for, fed and taught first grade curriculum.
“Gov. Beshear understands this is hard on parents and children too,” Perkins continued. “The children do need to know what’s going on to understand why they can’t come to school. Why we just can’t go to church, the store or into a restaurant. Why can’t my friends come over to play? Why did nobody come to my birthday party? Why? Andy’s snippets help to give parents words to use and the children can watch to help get a better understanding.”
Students across the state, including Mercer students, are participating in NTI (Nontraditional Teaching Initiative) at home. “Teaching from a distance is more difficult than teaching in a classroom,” said Perkins. “I’m on call. I have hours set by the board for me to work, but I’ve put in a ton of overtime. I don’t get paid for overtime and it does not count for my extra days. I started a Facebook page for my classroom. I do FB live reading of a chapter book. I go over the TLD packets for the day. I send a video of one of our teachers going through the TLD, and I send encouraging information to my parents.”
Last week with the permission of parents, Perkins even visited students. Maintaining social distancing, she looked through the window to greet the children from her class. “I left them a surprise and some school goodies. I bought goodies using my own money,” she said, acknowledging some acts of kindness she has seen. “A woman in the Dollar Tree overheard me and donated $7. I just stood and cried. I had a parent give me money and one to offer extra food to anyone in need. Lots of ‘Team Kentucky’ coming out of this. Mostly, I want my students to know I love them and care for them.”
How does Perkins sum up the leadership of Gov. Beshear? “As an adult, Governor Beshear is like my new best friend. He’s going to tell us the bad, but he’s reassuring,” she said. “In the world we are living, I’m so grateful everybody wants to be Kentucky’s good neighbor. I also don’t want to let Andy down. I miss many things that were normal to me. I’m trying to find a new normal. I keep telling myself, if my grandfather went to World War II, I can do this. I appreciate the governor and his staff. It’s nice to see so many coming to rally in favor of the governor’s efforts — making us one for all — and that’s a nice feeling in this uncertain world. #Team Kentucky.”
Lolita Short of Harrodsburg, a retired teacher and the children’s librarian, watches the governor every afternoon. “I think that Gov. Beshear has done an excellent job in leading the citizens of the commonwealth during the Covid-19 crisis,” she said. “His calm, reassuring demeanor has been refreshing. He has been transparent as best as he could. When he doesn’t have an answer or makes a mistake, he is honest without blaming or shaming anyone else. It is sad and maddening that so many are choosing not to follow his plans when it is obvious that he only has our best interests at heart. He often says how proud he is to be leading this state. Well, I am just as proud that he is our governor.”
Short is not alone in her feelings. “What seemed to be a virus in a faraway land just a few weeks ago, by early March had become a reality in our beloved old Kentucky home,” said Ann Morris of Harrodsburg. “From the very beginning as this crisis unfolded here, Gov. Andy Beshear has exhibited a professional, wise and caring response to this situation.”
Morris explained that in his daily press briefings, his calm, but firm manner is helpful to reassure Kentuckians. “The governor has had to make some of the toughest, most drastic decisions, affecting all Kentuckians — some more than others, of any for generations,” she said. “But he has done so by being positive, and for the safety and well-being of all of us. He reminds us that we are all in this together, that we will get through it together. The compassion, caring, love, and concern for each and every Kentuckian, his ‘people,’ should give us comfort, and help to bring us through this, and to come out better and stronger.”
Jeff Blankenship and his wife Debra of Harrodsburg both watch the governor’s briefings. Jeff when he can, but his wife, as he describes it, watches “pretty religiously” and shares with him. Though Jeff Blankenship may not personally see every broadcast, he gives the governor a stamp of approval. “I do feel he’s doing as good a job as can be done,” he explained. “And much better than we’ve seen from other leaders and administrations, here and around the world.”
“I think our governor is doing a great job of keeping us informed and encouraged,” said Terry Yeast of Harrodsburg and an administrator in the Mercer County School System. “His calm demeanor is soothing for our state. I look forward to seeing him on Andy at 5. His ability to lead our state through this pandemic is comforting. His commitment to keep Kentucky safe is much appreciated. I just pray that he is seeking his advice from our Father who is the only one who can see us through these tough times. Keep up the great work Gov. Beshear.”