WVa has 5 positive coronavirus cases; gov tests negative

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

PRINCETON — Three days after the first confirmed case, Mercer County’s second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, this makes the 12th case in the mountain state. As numbers continue to grow, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is asking residents to take as many precautions as possible.

“You’re seeing a situation where there could very well be thousands  that die. Let’s be fair. Let’s just think. Think where we could end up 10 days from now. I commend all of you about the hard work that you’ve already done,” Justice said.

During the conference, Justice explained that while The Mountain State has not reached the catastrophic level that New York has, the possibility is there. To combat the possibility of reaching that level of devastation of N.Y. Justice urged employers to allow employees to work from home.

“Please continue every way, shape, form and fashion to let people work from home. Absolutely without any question that is our power,” Justice said.

While other states and countries are enforcing curfews and going on full lockdown, Justice assured residents that he is not closing the state. Though he isn’t locking down the state at this time, Justice did say that following safety guidelines is what is keeping the lockdown at bay.

“We have a 40 percent greater infection rate then what we had every 24 hours we wait. If in fact we can become New York, and we can, many, many, many will die, if I’m not here in front of you tonight. There’s still a lot more we can do,” Justice said.

Justice also spoke on the state’s overall higher risk of infection due to a higher elderly population. To ensure that the elderly don’t contract the virus, he urged younger family members and friends to do the shopping for their elders.

Justice also took time to formally thank all healthcare workers, grocery store workers, transportation workers and all critical service employees. Due to the continual spread of the virus, many area counties are declaring states of emergency.

After the first confirmed case in Mercer was found, the Mercer County Commission announced on March 20, that they were declaring a state of emergency. This declaration will be effective until further notice.

According to a comment by Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett, this is to fully activate the county’s state of preparedness plan and is not a medical emergency. 

On Friday, March 20, Tazewell County, and the town of Bluefield, Va., declared a state of emergency. At this time, the county courthouse is still open to the public while other organizations including the animal shelter and public library, are closed.

However, effective Monday, March 23, town buildings within the town of Bluefield will be closed to the public. Also altering their operations is Graham Transit, which will only allow seven passengers on board at a time.

McDowell County also declared a state of emergency on March 20, due to COVID-19. According to a release from the McDowell County Commission, the state of emergency will continue through the “prevention, response, and recovery period.”

In the release, the commission president, Cecil Patterson, said that the commission will “fully support the efforts” of health care facilities. The facilities that the commission supports include local law enforcement, McDowell County Board of Public Health, Welch Community Hospital and local agencies including law enforcement, EMS and fire.

Late March 20, news broke of a Bluefield College student who had tested positive for the virus. According to Josh Cline, the vice-president of Institutional Advancement, the female student had returned to her home, outside of Va. on March 12.

After discovering that she had tested positive, the college immediately notified the Tazewell County Health Department. To ensure the safety of employees and students the health board and college are retracing the student’s steps to discover is she could have spread the illness.

As of March 21, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported 12 positive, 385 negative and 1 pending case. The Virginia Department reported 2,790 people tested, 152 positive cases and two deaths. 

 Contact Emily D. Coppola at ecoppola@bdtonline.com

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