A pandemic is a global outbreak of a virus. Widespread viruses and diseases begin as epidemics that are contained to large populations within a community, population, or region. An epidemic becomes a pandemic when that virus of disease spreads to additional countries or continents. Pandemics occur when emerging viruses infect people easily and spread from person to person in an efficient and sustained way.

COVID-19 became a pandemic when it spread from its origin across countries and continents. The health crisis grew exponentially since the first confirmed American case of COVID-19 in January 2020. Pandemics have severe economic impacts, public health implications, and general disruptions. These features add pandemics to the list of hazards and disasters faced by communities.

COVID-19 became the third leading cause of death in the U.S., just behind heart disease and cancer. It forced businesses to change their operations. Schools scrambled to educate students virtually, first temporarily and then long-term. People lost jobs, resulting in lower household incomes and inability to pay rent, mortgages, and utilities. In order to prepare for future disasters, communities must learn from experiencing and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Infographic from Kentucky Tourism Facebook page

Governor Andy Beshear declared a State of Emergency for Kentucky on March 6, 2020. This declaration started the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth (Executive Order 2020-215). All 120 county Judge/Executives met on March 9 to provide updates and discuss emergency management networks. Governor Beshear began public daily COVID-19 briefings on March 6. He gave daily updates on the state of the virus in Kentucky, including infection rate, deaths and efforts taken to curb the disease. The constancy of reports changed after nearly a year from daily updates to once a week. The final regularly scheduled COVID-19 update given by Governor Beshear was on June 11, 2021. The stoppage of updates coincided with the expiration of the mask mandate for Kentucky.

The Kentucky Public Services Commission ordered utilities to cease disconnections for nonpayment, waive late fees and offer payment plans for delinquent customers on March 16, 2020 through October 20, 2020. Governor Beshear also issued an executive order in May to support this action (EO 2020-323). He signed another in October 2020 to extend the ban on cutoffs through November 6, 2020 (EO 2020-881).

The CARES Act put in place an eviction moratorium beginning March 27, 2020 extending through July 24, 2020 with landlords not allowed to file notices to
vacate until August 23, 2020. The CDC set their own eviction moratorium that took effect September 4, 2020 It was initially to end December 31, 2020, but was extended to the end of January 2021, then to the end of March, and again to the end of June 2021.

As more Americans received the vaccine beginning in January 2021, mask requirements were phased out throughout the rest of the year and into 2022. In
early 2022, the Omicron variant increased the case numbers in much of the world, including Kentucky. This increase led to many businesses and workplaces
sending workers back to remote work temporarily. However, by April 22, 2022, all counties in Kentucky were considered in the Low COVID-19 Community
Level for Coronavirus Transmission. Since then, case numbers in the state have fluctuated, but have remained relatively low compared to previous spikes.