July 17, 2020 12:00pm

Who is right on COVID-19 approach, Beshear or his critics? Power Poll members have little doubt.

Respondents overwhelmingly side with Beshear over his Republican critics. They also are wary of taking vacations, eating inside restaurants and sending kids back into school classrooms in the fall because of the coronavirus threat.

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Lexington, KY Correspondent

Lexington Power Poll members overwhelmingly support Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive orders seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19 rather than GOP efforts to challenge him — and that was even before the latest move by Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

This month’s poll also revealed that many Lexington leaders are wary about sending children back into school buildings this fall. Most also are not taking vacations this summer or dining inside restaurants because of growing infections of the novel coronavirus.

The Power Poll isn’t a scientific survey, but an anonymous email poll that seeks to gauge the opinions of some of metro Lexington’s most influential citizens — leaders in Central Kentucky’s business, government, non-profit and religious sectors. This month’s poll drew responses from 104, or 39 percent, of the poll’s 269 members, who were surveyed between July 13 and July 16.

While many of Beshear’s executive orders regulating business, restricting public gatherings and requiring face masks in public to curb spread of the virus have been controversial, Power Poll members strongly backed his approach. Ninety-nine members, or 95 percent of those responding, said they generally supported Beshear’s actions, compared to only five people (5 percent) who generally supported his critics instead.

"COVID-19 is a community health issue, not a political issue," said Sharon Price, executive director of Lexington's Community Action Council.

After most poll members had responded to this month's survey, Cameron upped the stakes by asking a Boone County Circuit Court judge who had ruled against some of Beshear’s actions previously to block all of his authority to issue COVID-19 executive orders. Beshear has asked the state Supreme Court to overturn the previous rulings by Boone Circuit Court Judge Richard A. Brueggemann, a former chairman of the county's Republican Party.

“Today, we are in court to protect the rights of Kentuckians and ensure that the process used by the governor to issue executive orders complies with the law,” Cameron tweeted after filing his 33-page motion asking the judge to void Beshear’s virus-related orders. “This is not about the governor’s policies, it’s about making sure he follows the law.”

Beshear, who was the state attorney general before Cameron, responded angrily Thursday during his daily coronavirus briefing.

“With no rules, there is no chance of getting kids back to school, we will lose over $10 billion in our economy and many Kentuckians will die,” the governor said. “I hope everyone understands how scary and reckless this is.”

The Trump administration is now pressuring school districts around the country to fully reopen in the fall. But with most health experts criticizing that approach, few school districts are rushing to comply. When asked if they would be comfortable having their children, grandchildren or other young relatives attend school in person five days a week, 73 Power Poll members (70 percent) said no, while only 16 (15 percent) said yes. Fifteen members (14 percent) didn't know.

In comments, several Power Poll members expressed frustration that government responses to the pandemic have been politicized. 

"It is unfortunate that the United States, both its people and politicians, have responded so poorly to the pandemic," said Richard Polk, a principal at EOP Architects. "Something as simple as wearing a face covering should not be viewed as a political statement, but it is because those that openly stoke the fires of division and hate can't see beyond their own self interests."

The poll showed that concerns about coronavirus infections also were affecting Power Poll members' personal choices.  Only 22 members (21 percent) said they were comfortable eating inside restaurants now, while 33 members (32 percent) said they were comfortable only eating at restaurants outside. Scientists now believe that the risk of infection is far greater inside than outside. 

But the largest number of respondents — 41, or 39 percent — said they were only comfortable getting take-out restaurant food. And eight members (8 percent) said they weren't comfortable eating restaurant food at all.

The last question asked about Power Poll members' personal vacation plans. Some Kentucky coronavirus infections have been traced to people who went to popular vacation spots in Florida and South Carolina, where infection rates are much higher than in this state.

Most respondents — 68, or 65 percent — said they planned to stay at home this summer. Twenty-four (23 percent) said they still planned an out-of-state vacation, while four people (4 percent) said they planned to vacation in Kentucky. Eight members (8 percent) didn't know.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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