State Rep. Jim Gooch received applause from fellow Republicans after a House floor speech Wednesday defending the legislature’s decision to continue meeting amid the pandemic, urging Kentuckians to continue living their lives as normal.

While some have called on the Kentucky General Assembly to join the 21 state legislatures that have postponed legislative sessions — abiding by the White House recommendation to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people — the Republican supermajority is pushing forward with the session, scheduled to last until April 15.

Following a floor speech by a Democratic member who said the body continuing to meet was “whistling past the graveyard” and setting a bad example for the public, Gooch spoke up to say that would be an overreaction and “like a captain abandoning ship.”

While conceding there is a “medical emergency,” Gooch said, “we do run the risk of mass hysteria when we try to make make people believe that we can’t continue the business that we need to.”

Kentucky now has 35 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and one death, with Gov. Andy Beshear declaring an emergency and ordering many businesses, such as bars and restaurants, to shut down.

Gooch, R-Providence, went further with an implied 9/11 reference, saying that Americans should confront the coronavirus in the same way it has confronted terrorist attacks — by not letting it disrupt their normal routines.

“This nation has faced lots of crises, you know, whether it be the terrorist attacks or whatever,” Gooch said. “But the one thing that really united us when we faced those things was that we had resolve that we were not going to let terrorists or anybody else... destroy our normalcy. And the one thing that was so, I guess, the common denominator in our ability to overcome this thing, was that we could live our lives as normal as possible.”

He went on to say that he worries most about the economic devastation caused by business closings and bankruptcies, which could end up affecting “a lot more people than the people that got sick.”

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