Interview: Kentucky governor sees useful lessons in pandemic

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Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear speaks before the signing of a bill creating a partial ban on no-knock warrants at the Center for African American Heritage in Louisville, Ky., Friday, April 9, 2021. The bill signing comes after months of demonstrations set off by the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in her home during a botched police raid. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday there are lessons to be drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic — from a greater sense of shared responsibility to the outsized role social media plays in a crisis.

The first-term Democrat, who intends to run for reelection in 2023 in a state Republicans have dominated in recent years, downplayed questions about the political consequences of restrictions he imposed across many aspects of life in Kentucky to slow the virus’s spread.

Beshear remains popular in the state but is likely to face a tough political battle in Republican-trending Kentucky. Looking ahead to his reelection bid, he said that if his record in fighting the virus generates “negative repercussions" politically then “I’m ready for them.” But he added, “If it comes with positive outcomes, OK. But that’s not why I’m doing it.”

And he's already looking beyond the pandemic that has claimed more than 6,200 lives in Kentucky, a state of more than 4 million.

The state's post-pandemic economy is “set to take off,” Beshear said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. He pointed to recent discussions with business prospects regarding potential billion-dollar-plus projects in Kentucky, noting that there's more interest in “larger projects and expansions than at any point in my lifetime."

Despite the divisions over mask wearing and restrictions on a cross-section of activities, the fight against the coronavirus “has taught us how connected we all are in what we thought was a disconnected world,” Beshear said.

For an activist governor who calls health care a basic human right, Beshear said that shared responsibility could have big consequences for future U.S. policies.

“In a world that sometimes said ‘you need to go out and do the best for just yourself and your family,’ now we know that our decisions have impacts on the people around us,” he said. "In the pandemic ... every choice we made could have a positive or negative impact on the health — or even the life and death — of an individual.