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The Voice of West Virginia

Reports: Covid-19 claims third state resident

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A third West Virginian has died in connection with Covid-19.

Various reports indicate a Sundale Nursing Home resident died Friday at a Morgantown hospital. He was 76.

A social media post from a family member said the man fought to the end and actually had beaten the virus but other complications claimed his life.

The man was one of 21 Sundale residents that contracted the virus two weeks ago. Two remain hospitalized while 17 are being treated in a dedicated wing at Sundale. Eight Sundale staff members who tested positive are recovering in quarantine at home.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources was unable to confirm the death Friday night.

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Four West Virginia hospitals lay off hundreds because of coronavirus-related shrinking revenues

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Two hospital systems in West Virginia have reduced hours and furloughed hundreds of employees to offset the impact of government mandated stipulations surrounding the coronavirus.

Both Mountain Health Network, the parent company of Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center, and Thomas Health System made separate announcements Friday evening.

The announcements were separate but the reasons for the layoffs are the same. The hospitals have stopped doing elective procedures in order to prepare for a surge of coronavirus patients but their hospitals are now empty and their revenue streams deeply impacted.

File

Mike Mullins

Mountain Health said its furloughs are affecting many of its 6,000 workers.

“The situation we are dealing with is creating hardship for all and it is beginning to hit us hard here in Huntington and surrounding areas. With the drastic drop in volumes reaching nearly 50% throughout our system, we have no choice but to adjust our staffing to patient demand,” Mountain Health Network CEO Mike Mullins said in a Friday night statement. “We had to make the difficult but necessary decision to enact temporary furloughs for several staff members across the system affecting the majority of the 6,000 employees beginning March 26.”

Mullins also announced the closure of Cabell Huntington Hospital Family Urgent Care Center in Huntington and Hurricane Express Care in Putnam County until further notice.

Mullins said he’s unsure how long the furloughs would last.

“At this time, the likely duration of the furloughs is unknown; key factors are the extent of the outbreak in the MHN service area and the duration of the government-imposed emergency mandates,” he said. “We will continually evaluate the situation with the goal of returning to full services for patients as soon as the pandemic declines and state government will permit.

Mountain Health has reduced the hours of 450 workers effecting a total of 1,000 of its employees on the two campuses.

Thomas Health System layoffs

Thomas Health, which runs Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston, St. Francis Hospital in Charleston and Thomas Health Physician Partners, furloughed between 400 and 500 people Friday.

File

Dan Lauffer

“While the majority of our workforce will continue to work full-time, we have had to take the
difficult step in temporarily furloughing workers who do not have positions directly related to
our most critical needs,” Thomas Health President and CEO, Dan Lauffer said in a news release.

In recent weeks, Thomas Health, which operates Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston and St. Francis Hospital in Charleston and Thomas Health Physician Partners, has eliminated elective and non-emergency surgeries, outpatient procedures and tests while preparing for a possible surge of coronavirus cases.

“This was a very painful decision to make, and I recognize the tremendous sacrifices that staff are making in this time of uncertainty. Given these extraordinary circumstances, this was an action that we had to take to ensure long-term viability of our health system, for our workforce at large and for the communities we serve,” Lauffer said.

Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) President and CEO Dave Ramsey said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” CAMC is losing approximately $1 million a day because of reduced patient count and procedures. CAMC has asked workers to take non-paid time off and to share work. It also has a 140-day reserve fund.

Thomas Health isn’t as strong financially as CAMC. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January and is currently reorganizing. Most of the financial problems have been linked to long-term debt.

Lauffer indicated Friday the plan is to call the furloughed workers back to work after the pandemic is over.

“We look forward to welcoming each one of these valued colleagues back to the Thomas Health family as this pandemic resolves and when our services are back to full capacity,” he said.

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W.Va. court system extends emergency constraints; Kanawha judicial building extends shutdown

West Virginia’s court system has extended emergency constraints until May 1 because of the coronavirus pandemic, delaying all jury trials but allowing emergency hearings under limited circumstances.

That aligns with federal guidance to continue social distancing through April.

An original version of the order, issued March 22, was meant to last until April 10.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

Tim Armstead

“As our fellow West Virginians continue to take steps necessary to ensure the health and safety of their families, courts throughout our State are also adapting to meet this challenge through telephone and video hearings,” stated Chief Justice Tim Armstead.

“The measures we have already taken and those we are taking today are designed to protect our fellow West Virginians by avoiding in-person proceedings whenever possible and using technology to keep the crucial, time-sensitive work of our courts moving forward.”

The revised order issued today limits hearings that will take place during the judicial emergency period to certain specific “emergency proceedings.”

Those are, to the extent possible, to be held via telephone or video conferencing.

Other time-sensitive proceedings that are considered “non-emergency” but are still necessary to avoid serious harm that would likely result if the matter was not resolved during the emergency period may also be held.

But that’s only if the hearings can be held via telephone or video conferencing and the parties mutually agree to proceed with no party offering a reasonable objection.

Earlier Friday, the busiest county courthouse in the state was also the subject of an extended closure.

The closure of the Kanawha Judicial Annex was extended until April 27 by recommendation of Sherri Young, chief health officer for the Kanawha Health Department.

Access was originally restricted on March 21.

“In the interest of public safety, the judicial building will stay closed to prevent community spread of the virus,” said Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango.

There have been eight confirmed coronavirus cases associated with the courthouse, with more still pending.

The courthouse hears magistrate court, family court and circuit court cases and is the originating courthouse for legal cases involving state government.

“We all understand how difficult it has been with the annex closed, but right now we are in the middle of a public health crisis,” Commissioner Kent Carper said.

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DHHR offers guidance to hotels, motels in connection with coronavirus

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources issued a guidance document Friday night for hotels and motels across the state in connection with the coronavirus.

The three-page document also focuses on ways to prevent the virus from spreading in lodging facilities including how to interact with patrons and how to clean areas like bathrooms but it also details how the hotels and motels should deal with out-of-state travelers.

MORE Read document here

It says they are “to notify local law enforcement of any individual they believe to be violating the self-quarantine procedures set forth by Governor Justice’s Executive Order.”

Gov. Jim Justice ordered the 14-day quarantine earlier this week.

“Lodging providers are asked to contact local law enforcement if they suspect guests or patrons are violating or flouting the requirement to self-isolate for the first 14 days of their visit or the duration of their stay (if they are just passing through, for example),” the document said.

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Justice says unemployment claims work goes 24/7 beginning Monday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said Friday he’s putting additional resources toward eliminating the backlog of unemployment claims filed in connection with massive layoffs from the coronavirus.

Justice called problems residents are having filing their claims on the WorkForce West Virginia website “unacceptable.”

Office of the Governor

Gov. Jim Justice

“If you’re sitting at home and you’ve made a claim on unemployment and you are scared to death about what is going on–that’s not acceptable to me. It’s just not,” Justice said during his media briefing at the state capitol.

More than 90,000 workers have filed for claims in just more than two weeks, an average of 7,000 a day, according to the governor’s office. Many have had problems logging on to the WorkForce West Virginia website because of the volume of claims. The backlog is believed to be three to four days.

WorkForce has been working 12-hours-a-day, six days a week but Justice announced Friday he’s changing that.

“As of Monday, the Workforce call line will be operating 24/7 and I have directed the West Virginia National Guard to spare no expense, and use all their resources in as many physical locations as possible, to get the backlog of calls under control,” Justice said.

The National Guard has been helping the Department of Commerce on solutions. Guard members are being trained to assist with the cases and workers from the state Division of Rehabilitation Services will also be trained. Justice said he’ll add more workers.

“We are going to employ Guard members that have lost their private employment due to the pandemic and the West Virginia Office of Technology is assisting with technology implementation,” he said.

MORE Guard, other workers helping to process unemployment claims

The state usually gets anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 new claims a month but numbers for March passed 90,000.

“I don’t care if we’ve got to put 150 more people on it to be able to get it done,” Justice said. “I mean what I say in the fact that I’ll go back and pound the sand that much harder to see if there’s some way some how we can break this backlog.”

Justice said he’s thankful for the work done so far by WorkForce West Virginia employees, but he said it can’t stop.

“I commend everybody for all their work. I thank them from the bottom of my heart but I’ll tell you we can’t quit running until this is over,” Justice said.

 

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Video, updates: Mega Millions issues changes amid poor sales; Walmart limiting number of customers

We’ll provide updates here about how West Virginia is preparing for the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. 

State officials have directed members of the public to a landing page dedicated to information about coronavirus in West Virginia.

Additional information can be found at CDC’s Situation Summary or at DHHR’s COVID-19 information hotline, 1-800-887-4304.

6:55 p.m. Friday 4/3/2020 Mega Millions changes jackpots

Mega Millions has adjusted the game’s starting jackpot for Friday, as well as determine subsequent starting jackpots on a drawing-by-drawing basis because of slow sales.

If someone wins Friday’s $121 million jackpot, the jackpot will reset to $20 million ahead of the April 7 drawing.

“The value of the Mega Millions jackpot is based on projected sales, and typical sales patterns have been altered because the current health crisis has required people to stay home,” said Gordon Medenica, Mega Millions’ lead director.

“We are concerned, first and foremost, with everyone’s health and well-being. Meanwhile, these adjustments will allow the states and jurisdictions that sell Mega Millions tickets to continue generating much-needed revenue to support state budgets.”

Previous jackpots started at $40 million with a minimum increase of $5 million for each roll.

6:45 p.m. Friday 4/3/2020 Walmart announces limits on in-store customers

Walmart Inc. will be limiting the number of people who can be in a store at one time in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The corporate announced Friday only five customers will be allowed for each 1,000 square feet, around 20% of the store’s capacity. New customers will be allowed inside as others exit.

The new policy will go into effect Saturday.

Associates will mark the number of customers at a single-entry door, which will be the grocery entrance at most locations.

Beginning next week, stores will institute one-way movement through aisles to limit close contact with other people.

11:59 a.m. Friday 4/3/2020 Justice news briefing at noon

.@claymarsh, Vice President and Executive dean of WVU Health Sciences, joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. WATCH: https://t.co/jmMe7bOYY9 pic.twitter.com/NOxVidUk29

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 3, 2020

11:40 p.m. Thursday 4/2/2020 Hotel group cuts workforce because of pandemic’s effects

A Charleston hotel group has temporarily laid off around 70% of its full- and part-time workforce due to the effects of the coronavirus.

The Monarch Family of Hotels operates the Holiday Inn & Suites and Fairfield by Marriott in South Charleston, as well as the Hampton by Hilton at the Southridge shopping center.

The hotels are assisting the employees, including providing pre-prepared meals. Employees can pick up meals at the Holiday Inn & Suites between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

11:35 p.m. Thursday 4/2/2020 Department of Education, WVPB launch programming block

The West Virginia Department of Education now has an hour-long programming block on West Virginia Public Broadcasting television stations aimed at encouraging student engagement.

“Education Station” airs Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 9 a.m. The department and educators will develop the segment, which will feature individuals in the field.

State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch said the closure of schools forced education leaders to be “creative, flexible and focused on meeting the needs of our children.”

8:42 a.m. Thursday 4/2/2020 Justice plans 1 p.m. news briefing 

Here is one place to watch: https://t.co/lsGjTP6Xb0

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) April 2, 2020

11:00 p.m. Wednesday 4/1/2020 Monongahela National Forest enforces social distancing

The Monongahela National Forest has closed recreational sites and mandated a limitation of 10 people or fewer in activities.

The change affects all developed campgrounds, developed day-use areas, middle mountain cabin and bathroom facilities, as well as roadside camping sites along the Cranberry and Williams rivers.

Other recreation opportunities remain open to the public, including hiking, backpacking and fishing. Visitors are asked to follow federal guidelines before and during their visit.

The U.S. Forest Services also advises campers to not camp in the same location for more than 14 consecutive days. Campers must move at least five road-miles away from the site, which they cannot return to until after 21 days.

10:00 p.m. Wednesday 4/1/2020 Sheetz launching free children meals program

Sheetz will launch a free meal program on Thursday for children and families in need.

The Kidz Meal Bagz program will be available all day. Families interested should aks an employee at the register for a meal, which will be available while supplies last.

Families will be offered one meal per child.

The meal program will be offered at all Sheetz locations in West Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania for the next two weeks. The company will evaluate the program after this period and determine its future.

9:30 p.m. Wednesday 4/1/2020 Marshall changes grading system, allowing students to only receive credit

Marshall University is allowing students to receive credit for courses rather than relying on the traditional grading system for the spring semester.

Letter grades of A, B or C will translate into receiving credit, while a final grade of D or F will result in no credits earned. Only credit-received grades will count toward graduation, but all grades will not affect semester or cumulative GPAs.

Students will have to participate in all course activities, including assessments, throughout the remainder of the semester.

Students have until April 24 to opt in the grading change, and the changes can be done on a course-by-course basis.

9:16 a.m. Wednesday 4/1/2020 Justice plans 11 a.m. briefing

Wednesday’s ⁦@WVGovernor⁩ briefing is 11 am pic.twitter.com/2cjorYp714

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 31, 2020

12:10 a.m. Wednesday 4/1/2020 Bureau for Children and Families receive SNAP waivers

The federal government has granted the state Bureau for Children and Families two waivers for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The waivers provide an extension to the program’s renewal program for individuals eligible for review in March, April or May. The extension is for six months.

The waivers also allow a supplemental payment to households approved for benefits before April and increases benefits to the maximum allowable amount for each month.

10:30 p.m. Tuesday 3/31/2020 Members of Congress ask Trump to quickly review disaster request

West Virginia’s federal lawmakers sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Tuesday asking him to expedite a request for a statewide major disaster declaration.

Gov. Jim Justice requested such a declaration on March 13.

The legislators said the declaration will allow better support for testing, the West Virginia National Guard and ensuring children have food.

“It is our goal to support and help you in your efforts to contain this virus and to ensure the health and safety of our fellow citizens,” they wrote. “We have a lot to do together and this declaration enables us to achieve the greatest impact for the largest number of people in the fastest way possible.”

8:00 p.m. Tuesday 3/31/2020 Justice signs executive order on medical procedures, prescriptions

Gov. Jim Justice has signed an executive order suspending several regulations about the coronavirus response.

The West Virginia Board of Nursing and the West Virginia Board of Medicine urged for the executive order, which waives requirements on certain medical procedures as well as suspends the requirement of anesthesia. The order also allows physicians with a pre-existing relationship with a patient to refill an existing Schedule II opioid medication without an in-person examination.

Schedule II opioids include methadone, oxycodone and fentanyl.

Physicians are still required to evaluate patients and determine if refilling the prescription is appropriate.

7:40 p.m. Tuesday 3/31/2020 WVABCA issues guidance to liquor stores

The West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration is advising retail liquor stores to enforce social distancing and limit the number of people congregating in store.

The warning from the organization in light of reports of West Virginians and out-of-state people purchasing liquor.

The administration also advises limiting liquor sales to three to four bottles a person, as well as installing plexiglass separation shields between cashiers and consumers.

8:26 a.m. Tuesday 3/31/2020 Justice briefing set for 2 p.m.

Today’s @WVgovernor briefing is at 2 pm pic.twitter.com/AGkG6GD5IT

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 31, 2020

11:10 p.m. Monday 3/30/2020 PSC drops bulky goods requirement

The Public Service Commission of West Virginia is temporarily waiving the requirement that solid waster carriers collect bulky goods.

Collecting bulky items requires additional trips and special equipment, which could divert resources from solid trash collection.

The commission said all collected waste can be limited to items placed in closed bags.

10:30 p.m. Monday 3/30/2020 Youth Environmental Day canceled

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has canceled the annual Youth Environmental Day at North Bend State Park.

The event, scheduled for May 16, would have marked its 57th consecutive year this spring.

Hundreds of youth group members are recognized annually for their projects aimed at improving the state’s environment and communities.

Projects will be judged and winners will receive recognition in a format to be discussed later. More than $15,000 in cash awards is presented annually to winners.

9:30 p.m. Monday 3/30/2020 Marshall changes GPA requirements for scholarships

Marshall University is changing its GPA requirement for merit-based scholarship renewals.

The institution announced Monday it has reduced the minimum criteria for current students, lowering the overall GPA level for enrolled first-year students from 2.75 to 2.5. Other undergraduate students will have to meet a 2.75 GPA compared to the current 3.0 GPA requirement.

Students will still be required to earn 30 credit hours a year.

1:00 p.m.  Monday 3/30/2020  Huntington mayor says police will be used to enforce stay-at-home order

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams announced Monday police officers will be used to break-up any large gatherings of people in his city that are in violation of Gov. Jim Justice’s stay-at-home order.

“This is a crucial time when every single individual in our community plays a vital role in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic,” Williams said in a news release. “That means staying at home and following the proper social distancing recommendations if you and/or your family members leave your home for any of the permitted purposes in Gov. Justice’s order. We simply are not going to tolerate blatant disregard for the order. Doing so creates a pubic health hazard and not only places our community at risk, but it places at risk all of our health care professionals and first responders.”

Williams said the order covers public and private gatherings.

.@huntingtonmayor reminds the public that the Huntington Police Department WILL enforce @WVGovernor‘s executive stay-at-home order for any nonessential business that is still operating and any large social gatherings outside scope of the order. More: https://t.co/1Y5kSrBcMc

— Huntington, WV (@huntingtoncity) March 30, 2020


12:45 p.m. Monday 3/30/2020  Kanawha County Commission expresses concern over approaching May 12 election

The Kanawha County Commission announced Monday that it has sent a letter to Secretary of State Mac Warner in connection with the safety of poll workers in the Primary Election.

“Yesterday, the President of the United States confirmed what I have said since we made our first announcement on March 13th. I predicted this would last a minimum of 8 weeks and the federal government has extended social distancing guidelines until April 30. In West Virginia, we could be hitting our peak on May 1st, during early voting. While I fully support the voting process and excising our right to vote, I have to voice my deep concern for our poll workers and county employees,” Carper said.

Warner has said it does support moving the election.

Carper expresses concerns over safety of poll workers with primary date fast approaching pic.twitter.com/GQvR9SPcWM

— Kanawha County (@kanawhaus) March 30, 2020

10:07 a.m. Monday 3/30/20 Justice plans 2 p.m. update

Today’s ⁦@WVGovernor⁩ briefing set for 2 pm pic.twitter.com/K7etTDMPWR

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 30, 2020

09:00 a.m. Saturday 03/28/2020  Clarksburg VA to close outpatient clinics for now

The Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg has announced its outpatient clinics will temporarily close beginning Monday in connection with concerns over the coronavirus.

The community outpatient clincs are located in Braxton, Monongalia, Tucker and Wood counties.

10:20 a.m. Friday 3/27/2020 DHHR offers behavioral health support

  • For those seeking behavioral health support, citizens can call or text 844-HELP4WV (844-435-7498).
  • HELP4WV offers a 24/7 call, chat and text line that provides immediate help for any West Virginian struggling with an addiction or mental health issue.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available by calling 800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.
  • The National Disaster Distress Helpline is accessible by calling 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
  • The Disaster Distress Helpline is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster.
  • West Virginia 211 is available by calling 2-1-1 or text your zip code to 898-211. Every day hundreds of people across West Virginia turn to 211 for information and support—whether financial, domestic, health or disaster.
  • West Virginia’s comprehensive behavioral health centers are open and offer an array of services for children and adults.

10:19 a.m. Friday 3/27/2020 Justice announces 3 p.m. briefing 

Today’s briefing is at 3 pm pic.twitter.com/phUGqEBn6g

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 27, 2020

10 p.m. Thursday 3/26/2020 Powerball changes game as many players stuck at home

Powerball is continuing its game with changes as many players remain at their homes under stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders.

Following the next Grand Prize winner, the starting jackpot will reset to $20 million with minimum roll increases of $2 million between drawings.

Drawings are still scheduled for Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:59 p.m.

8:55 p.m. Thursday 3/26/2020 DMV extends period on driver, vehicle transactions

Motorists will have an extra 90 days to get their driver and vehicle registrations updated.

The state Division of Highways has extended the expiration date of all documents to expire this month or April for three months from the date of expiration because of the coronavirus.

Many DMV transactions can be done online as well, including driver’s license renewal, requesting a duplicate driver’s license, updating vehicle registration and checking the status of a driver’s license.

8:35 p.m. Thursday 3/26/2020 UMWA asks for increased protections, help for coal miners

The United Mine Workers of America is asking for the U.S. Mine Safety Administration to increase protections for coal miners during the coronavirus pandemic.

International President Cecil Roberts said because coal miners often engage with their colleagues in confined spaces, which could present health challenges.

Roberts also stressed the impact of COVID-19 on coal miners with black lung disease and other pulmonary conditions.

“These miners are considered ‘high risk’ and are often located in rural areas that do not provide the same access to health care centers as workers in urban areas,” he said. “This makes miners one of the most vulnerable populations for the virus.”

7:45 p.m. Thursday 3/26/2020 West Virginia 211 continuing service amid pandemic

West Virginia 211 is reminded West Virginians about its services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While many local groups have formed to assist people with various health-related matters, West Virginia 211 cautions people against groups seeking financial contributions with little self-reporting.

The group said Thursday calls are answered 24/7, and staff can connect callers to various resources, including food pantries, health care options and addiction.

People can call 211 or text their ZIP code to 898-211 for more information.

10 a.m. Thursday 3/26/2020 Justice plans noon briefing

Time change to 1 pm on ⁦@WVGovernor⁩ briefing pic.twitter.com/Rrn2R03iK7

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 26, 2020

10:40 p.m. Wednesday 3/25/2020 Concord University student diagnosed with coronavirus

A Concord University student has a confirmed case of the coronavirus, the university announced Wednesday.

The student, who was not identified, returned to campus on March 16 during the institution’s extended spring break period. Few people were on campus at the time.

The student left on March 18. He informed resident officials on Tuesday about the confirmed case.

Local and state health authorities are aware of the situation. Officials have cleaned areas possible exposed to the virus as well as quarantined individuals known to have had contact with the student.

Staff at the Concord University Health Center are monitoring the health of students that remain on campus.

Any student with flu-like symptoms is being referred to Princeton Community Hospital for testing.

10:00 p.m. Wednesday 3/25/2020 Division of Highways implements new schedule, divides workers into two groups

The West Virginia Division of Highways has a plan in place to allow services for essential roadwork and emergencies during the coronavirus pandemic.

Transportation workers have been divided into two groups; one group will telework from home while the second group will take part in roadwork and emergency response efforts. The groups will shift schedules after two weeks.

Bridge inspections are continuing, but specialized crews will not be traveling across the state at this time.

Transportation Secretary Byrd White and Deputy Secretary Jimmy Wriston are working on location as necessary, as are other employees deemed essential. Many other employees are teleworking from home, and large training events and conferences are on hold.

9:30 p.m. Wednesday 3/25/2020 PSC, utilities discuss coronavirus course of action

Utility company representatives and the Public Service Commission of West Virginia discussed operations and best practices during the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday in a conference call.

Commission members asked utilities about their plans for providing services as well as protecting workers.

Companies represented in the call included American Electric Power, AT&T, First Energy, Frontier, Hope Gas, Mountaineer Gas, Suddenlink and West Virginia American Water.

Company representatives agreed not to disconnect customers, and numerous procedures have been put into place to protect employees and contractors who are working.

1:06 p.m. Wednesday 3/25/20 State legislative leaders ask for extension of West Virginia tax deadline

A formal letter was sent to Gov. Jim Justice today from Senate President Mitch Carmichael, Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw and House Minority Leader Tim Miley as well as Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair and House Finance Chairman Eric Householder.

The federal income tax deadline has been extended already, and during press conferences over the past couple of weeks Governor Justice has indicated the state is also considering an extension but he has not yet confirmed a final decision.

.⁦@wvlegislature⁩ leaders make formal request to delay state tax filing day pic.twitter.com/71MvCBCb6n

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 25, 2020

1:03 p.m.Wednesday 3/25/20 Governor Justice to provide briefing at 3 p.m.

12:58 p.m.Wednesday 3/25/20 AARP sponsors tele-Town Hall with West Virginia health leaders 

At 1 p.m. ET, we go LIVE with our @AARPWV #COVID19 Tele-Town Hall on the #coronavirus situation in the Mountain State with @WVGovernor @WV_DHHR @KCHealth1. Join our event online and interact at https://t.co/qIKgVJiGiD pic.twitter.com/uND4tqIa18

— AARP West Virginia (@AARPWV) March 25, 2020

8:25 a.m. Wednesday 3/25/20 West Virginians participate in Day of Prayer 

Gov. Jim Justice and West Virginia spiritual leaders are conducting a service for today’s Day of Prayer.

The service is meant to be “virtual,” with West Virginians maintaining social distancing while watching and listening.

“I really urge everyone to watch it and surely pray with us,” Justice stated. “God above will hear us. He will be the one to get us through this.”

12:30 p.m. 03/24/2020 West Virginia Lottery closes validations office

The West Virginia Lottery announced Tuesday that its validations office at Lottery headquarters in Charleston will close for walk-in customers beginning Wednesday, March 25. Players with winning tickets can mail them to the lottery.

* Sign the back of your ticket, and mail it to West Virginia Lottery/Claims, P.O. Box 2913, Charleston, WV 25330. Be sure to include a mailing address and daytime telephone number.

* If the prize is more than $600, you will need to include a photocopy of your driver’s license or government-issued photo ID and a copy of your social security card.

All West Virginia Lottery drawings will continue during the stay-in-home order.

12:15 p.m. 03/24/2020 Huntington Mall closing during stay-at-home order

Huntington Mall has announced its closing temporarily in connection with the stay-at-home, non-essential business shutdown order.

The mall will closed beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Mall officials said several stores on the property will stay open. Also restaurants on the mall property plan to continue to offer carry-out and drive-thru services.

9:34 a.m. Tuesday 3/24/2020 Justice sets 3 p.m. briefing

Today’s ⁦@WVGovernor⁩ briefing set for 3 pm pic.twitter.com/HN6Eiziq1Y

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 24, 2020

1:35 p.m.Monday 3/23/2020 Justice issues stay-home order

NEWS https://t.co/Bm9LIPRDYU

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 23, 2020

I have issued a “stay at home” order for all of WV. We need to continue to work together to slow the spread of #COVID19. This order asks West Virginians to stay at home and limit movements outside beyond essential needs. Visit https://t.co/oYGVnnqjLf for more details. #StayHomeWV pic.twitter.com/HTBTVVh9us

— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) March 23, 2020



WV stay-at-home order (Text)

10:31 a.m. Monday 3/23/2020 Justice briefing moved to 1 p.m.

🚨 Now 1 pm 🚨 pic.twitter.com/URzcd0XHxT

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 23, 2020

One place to see the briefing is here.

10:19 a.m. Monday 3/23/2020 Delegates urge governor to avoid in-person voting in upcoming primary 

Delegates Barbara Evans Fleischauer and Evan Hansen wrote Governor Jim Justice and state leaders today urging that instead of allowing in-person voting for early voting and primary election day, currently scheduled for May 12, 2020, that absentee ballots be distributed to all registered voters.



Fleischauer Hansen Letter to Governor (Text)

10:21 p.m. Sunday 3/22/2020 Washington Post reports on coronavirus response in West Virginia

reporting from Grant County https://t.co/NK3fkSdJhp

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 23, 2020

8:11 p.m. Sunday 3/22/2020 Next Justice update set for 11 a.m. Monday 

“I have scheduled my next media briefing for tomorrow at 11 a.m. Any further actions will be announced at that time.” pic.twitter.com/bvt536ob8x

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 22, 2020

Updated statistics from the state Department of Health and Human Resources showed West Virginia with 16 confirmed cases. The newest four were in Jefferson, Monongalia and Kanawha counties.

Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin and Kanawha County Commissioners Kent Carper, Hoppy Shores and Ben Salango sent a letter to Governor Justice asking for a stay-home order. Salango is running in the Democratic primary for governor.



Letter to Governor Re Stay in Place (Text)

On Sunday, contiguous states Ohio and Kentucky each announced stay-home orders for citizens. Pennsylvania last week issued a closure order for all but “life-sustaining” businesses.

This is basically a “shelter-in-place” order at this point, he’s just not calling it that.

— Daniel Desrochers (@drdesrochers) March 22, 2020

BREAKING: Governor announces that Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton has signed a “stay at home” (aka shelter in place) order in Ohio.

— Jake Zuckerman (@jake_zuckerman) March 22, 2020

10:00 p.m. 3/21/20  CAMC seeks public’s help in making masks

Calling those who sew! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). CAMC is asking volunteers who have the ability to sew to make masks.

Starting Monday, March 23, CAMC will have designated bins for the community to drop off masks and donate supplies. The bins will be available Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the following locations.

CAMC Human Resources – 419 Brooks St, Charleston, WV 25301

CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital (Physician offices side) – 830 Pennsylvania Ave, Charleston, WV 25302

CAMC Breast Center – 3415 MacCorkle Ave SE, Charleston, WV 25304

CAMC Teays Valley Human Resources – First Floor, Putnam Plaza, Hurricane, WV 25526

Christ Church United Methodist – 1221 Quarrier St, Charleston, WV 25301

Elizabeth Memorial United Methodist Church – 108 Oakwood Rd, Charleston, WV 25314

Bible Center Church – 100 Bible Center Dr, Charleston, WV 25309

If you would like to use your own fabric, please note that the pattern requires 100% cotton material. If you need materials, CAMC Volunteer Services will make arrangements to provide it to you.

Visit this link for the instructions and materials needed to make the masks: https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/.

For any questions, please call the CAMC Volunteer services office at (304) 388-7426 or email Kelly Anderson, Volunteer Services Director at kelly.anderson@camc.org. Thank you for supporting your hospital and health care workers!

5:30 p.m. 3/21/20  Large utility says flushing wipes can cause problems

The state’s largest water utility, West Virginia American Water Company, put out an alert Saturday, urging its customers not to flush ‘flushable” wipes.

“Flushing or dumping the wrong things down the drain can cause problems in your local sewer system and cause blockages in your own home,” said John Pentasuglia, senior operations manager for West Virginia American Water said in a news release. “Many sewer blockages occur between your house and our sewer main, where the property owner is responsible for correcting and paying for the repair. During this already stressful time, we want to help our customers avoid blockages that could create costly plumbing emergencies.”

Wipes are being used a lot more than normal because of the coronavirus.

11:29 a.m. 3/21/20 Saturday Justice plans statewide address

Gov. Jim Justice plans a statewide address at 7 p.m. Saturday to discuss further coronavirus precautions in West Virginia.

Here is one place you can watch

I will address the citizens of West Virginia tonight at 7 p.m. on our #COVID19 preparations and response. You can watch our livestream on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or your local TV station.

— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) March 21, 2020

Through Friday evening, West Virginia had eight confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kanawha, Jackson, Mercer, Monongalia, Tucker and Jefferson counties.

That list is expected to grow as more testing more testing rolls out.

Justice has asked West Virginians to stay home to slow the spread of the virus.

West Virginia has closed universities, sent K-12 students home, made restaurants takeout- and delivery-only and shut bars, casinos, state park lodges and ATV trails.

Other states are starting to take those precautions a step farther.

Pennsylvania has closed all but “life-sustaining” businesses. California has ordered citizens to stay home. New York, Connecticut and Illinois have followed suit.

7:35 p.m. Friday 3/20/20 Eight cases confirmed in West Virginia

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has confirmed eight cases of the coronavirus so far in West Virginia.

The eighth case is in Kanawha County.

Department officials noted 330 tests have come back negative. The results from two tests at the state’s public health lab are pending.

4:10 p.m. Friday 3/20/20  Treasurer John Perdue urges residents to use online services from his office

Read Purdue release here

4:00 p.m. Friday 3/20/20  West Virginia State University announces decision about rest of semester

**Coronavirus Campus Update:**
Classes will not resume on March 25. Instead, beginning March 30, and for the remainder of the semester, all face-to-face classes will be delivered remotely utilizing alternative learning options. For more info, please visit https://t.co/mRqZpRJzEr. pic.twitter.com/HDCz29pjyo

— WV State University (@WVStateU) March 20, 2020

 

11:39 a.m. Friday 3/20/20 Two Tucker County residents with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were in quarantine before and remained in quarantine after diagnosis, according to health officials.

More here.

8:14 a.m. More than 4,000 have filed for unemployment; here’s how

WorkForce’s plan to process influx of claims

Since Gov. Justice declared a state of emergency on March 16, WorkForce  West Virginia has processed more than 4,000 new claims for unemployment benefits. To manage and process the influx of claims, WorkForce has implemented the following measures:

  • Extend phone hours to 7 p.m.
  • Permit staff to work overtime and on weekends
  • Train additional staff
  • Train and use Department of Commerce staff
  • Use temporary employees

Those seeking to file an initial claim for unemployment benefits should do so online at www.workforcewv.org.

“As we face these uncertain times, we want to reassure every person who has recently lost their job that financial assistance is available to them,” said Scott Adkins, acting commissioner for WorkForce West Virginia. “But there’s no time to waste. As soon as employment ends, you should file for benefits because each day you wait is a day you have to wait for that much-needed help.”

Where to file
The fastest way to file for benefits is online at www.workforcewv.org. A step-by-step guide to filing an initial claim may be found by going to Unemployment section of WorkForce’s website and then clicking the Claimants tab. Those who do not have internet access, have a disability requiring assistive technology or need further assistance should call 1-800-252-JOBS.

When to file
It is important to file a new claim immediately after employment ends.

How to file
To file an initial claim, applications need to register as a job seeker at www.workforcewv.org.

After filing an initial claim, a WorkForce West Virginia staff member will contact the applicant by email or by phone. To learn more about WorkForce West Virginia services and programs, visit www.workforce.org.

8:07 a.m. Friday 3/20/2020 Justice daily briefing scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

Here’s one place to find the stream: https://t.co/hed6eMfUYV

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 20, 2020

12:40 a.m. Friday 3/20/2020 SBA offering disaster loans to businesses

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans to businesses dealing with substantial economic injury because of the coronavirus.

“SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist West Virginia small businesses with federal disaster loans. We will be swift in our efforts to help these small businesses recover from the financial impacts of COVID-19,” Administrator Jovita Carranza said.

The program was made available following a request from Gov. Jim Justice on March 18.

12:35 a.m. Friday 3/20/2020 CAMC halting elective procedures, changing visitation rules

Charleston Area Medical Center is halting all elective operations to better address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The medical facility announced Thursday it will perform emergent, urgent and semi-urgent procedures that, if delayed, would pose a negative impact on a patient’s health.

The plan goes into effect on Monday and will remain in place until April 20.

Charleston Area Medical Center is also restricting visitation; visitor ID badges will be given to visitors one at a time, and visitation hours have been reduced to noon to 6 p.m.

12:32 p.m. Thursday 3/19/2020 Justice’s daily press conference goes virtual

Citing CDC guidelines, state officials are making a daily press briefing virtual.

In recent days, seating has been spread out in an attempt to enforce social distancing.

Now the briefing will be online for today’s 4 p.m. press conference.

The public can still watch at a variety of social media locations. West Virginia MetroNews will also be carrying the update.

The public can still watch pic.twitter.com/16Kpeczrjq

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 19, 2020

6:39 a.m. Thursday 3/19/20 Justice’s ‘Fox and Friends’ appearance is postponed

Gov. Jim Justice tweeted that his scheduled appearance on “Fox and Friends,” to discuss West Virginia’s coronavirus response has been postponed.

Justice, like other governors, has shut down schools, restaurants and bars and other gathering places. He has also advocated for “social distancing” practices meant to help slow the spread of the virus.

.@FoxandFriends has postponed this interview, but I look forward to talking with them soon about West Virginia’s efforts against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). https://t.co/OTgBSd5agQ

— Governor Jim Justice (@JimJusticeWV) March 19, 2020

Justice is the first scheduled guest today at 10:06 a.m. on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” 

6:33 a.m. Thursday 3/19/2020 West Virginia’s Smooth Ambler says it will produce hand sanitizer

Smooth Ambler, a West Virginia-based distillery says it is stepping up to produce hand sanitizer, which has been in short supply.

We’re proud to announce that we will soon be producing hand sanitizer in our distillery and sending it to those in need. Thanks to the folks at @Pernod_Ricard for getting us legal approval and the opportunity to help others during this crisis.

via @forbes https://t.co/VyxS7XkkHd

— Smooth Ambler (@SmoothAmbler) March 18, 2020

12:30 a.m. Thursday 3/19/2020 The Greenbrier suspending operations for a month

The Greenbrier resort is suspending operations until mid-April because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The hotel announced Wednesday that operations will cease on Thursday at noon.

“The health and safety of our guests and Team Members is our top priority, and this move is critical to ensure the well-being of all involved,” the resort said in a statement.

Operations will resume April 17 at 11 a.m.

After careful consideration and upon the advice of state and national government and health officials surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), The Greenbrier is suspending operations beginning: https://t.co/3u6uQyWTp4 pic.twitter.com/ls4J2mASHV

— The Greenbrier (@The_Greenbrier) March 19, 2020

12:05 a.m. Thursday 3/19/2020 Shepherd University will take rest of the semester online; Wheeling University tells students to move off campus

Shepherd University announced Wednesday the rest of the spring semester will be completed online rather than face-to-face because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The change will go into effect on March 30. Academic leaders and others have been preparing to go online since the announcement about extending spring break through March 27.

“During this time of fewer individuals on campus, limited food service, and no face-to-face classroom instruction, Shepherd’s Facilities team will be deep cleaning and disinfecting common areas,” university president Mary J.C. Hendrick said in a press release.

“Based on other pandemics that have transpired, we appreciate that COVID-19 will pass and our institution will remain strong. We have a profound responsibility to remain calm, well informed, and serve our students, employees and community to the best of our ability.”

A limited number of students will be allowed to stay at residence halls:

— Students who claim Shepherd University as their only residence.
— Students who have a visa, refugee status or other non-citizenship status and the institution is their only residence in the country.
— American students who live a significant distance from campus and feel safer staying on campus.
— Students who cannot obtain internet access elsewhere.
— Students with other cases first deemed appropriate by Residence Life.

Wheeling University officials announced all students will be required to move off campus by Sunday evening because of the coronavirus.

University president Ginny Favede informed the campus community all students will have to be off campus by 5 p.m. All facilities will also be closed at that time as well.

Offices will be open to assist students during the transition.

West Virginia University announced a similar decision on Wednesday.

2:14 p.m. Wednesday 3/18/20 Secretary of State touts broad ballot access via absentee voting

West Virginia voters should be allowed voters broad access to absentee balloting for the upcoming primary election, state officials said today.

Secretary of State Mac Warner and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey appeared together at a news conference, describing a path forward for the state’s May 12 election during concerns about coronavirus.

Morrisey issued an opinion stating the governor’s emergency declaration gives the Secretary of State authority to make balloting more flexible.

The opinion cites a section of state code providing allowance for those “confined to a specific location and prevented from voting in person” due to “illness … or other medical reason,” provides the Secretary emergency authority to extend absentee voting eligibility for those subject to limited travel and/or mandatory or voluntary quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In other words, the current situation means almost everyone can cite health concerns as a reason to use an absentee ballot.

“Our legal opinion has the potential to provide expanded opportunities for citizens to vote safely during this unprecedented public health emergency, while protecting the integrity of the primary election,” Morrisey stated.

“It is important to note that this is an extraordinary, unique situation. We are in unchartered territory and the opinion expressed in our letter should be viewed within the confines of the state’s emergency powers.”

Secretary of State Mac Warner and AG Patrick Morrisey on #WVGov elections https://t.co/Hcz84pvC0q

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 18, 2020

11:16 a.m. Wednesday 3/18/20 Governor Justice plans 2:30 p.m. update

Gov. Jim Justice and other state leaders plan a regular coronavirus preparedness press conference at 2:30 p.m. today.

It may be seen here.

2:30 pm press conference with ⁦@WVGovernor⁩ today pic.twitter.com/sJXcqOYnsx

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 18, 2020

Justice canceled the regular press conference on Tuesday and instead did a statewide address that revealed West Virginia’s first positive test for coronavirus as well as the governor’s order to close down restaurants, bars and casinos.

9:44 a.m. 3/18/20 Drive-through testing facilities being rolled out

WVU Medicine has announced that it is establishing five drive-through collection points in West Virginia to collect specimens from pre-screened patients to test for covid-19.

The collection points will be in Morgantown, Parkersburg, Bridgeport, Wheeling and Martinsburg.

Transmission of the coronavirus is increasing nationwide, and other health systems have successfully used the drive-through approach.

The testing itself will be supported by both Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, which will process the specimens that WVU Medicine collects from patients.

The collection points will operate seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting today. Patients will typically learn test results in three-to-four days, although time will likely vary based on the volume of tests the two companies will be performing.

Tests will be reserved for people who meet screening criteria based on CDC recommendations and are sick with symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19: fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Asymptomatic patients – or those people who have no obvious covid-19 symptoms – will not be tested.

This will ensure only the highest-risk patients are identified and receive the appropriate medical intervention. The screening will not test for seasonal flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), or any other respiratory illness.

Patients who meet criteria for testing will be directed to one of the five drive-through collection points. WVU Medicine staff will collect the specimens, using appropriate precautions, and send them to Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp for analysis. This process reduces the need for other critically constrained resources.

“We are happy to roll these collection sites out to our state and provide this critical service to our citizens,” Judie Charlton, WVU Medicine’s chief medical officer, said.

“We only ask that people who are truly sick and who have symptoms consistent with covid-19 request testing, which they can through their primary care doctor or by calling the WVU Medicine covid-19 triage line at 304-598-6000, option 4.”

WVU Medicine will collect the specimen only if the patient has a valid Epic order from a referring physician.

“Our process of requiring an Epic order expedites our ability to communicate results back to patients and ensure that appropriate measures have been taken in ordering the test, reporting to government agencies, and providing follow-through care when warranted,” Dr. Charlton said.

“Patients whose care is through a provider without Epic access can be accommodated by the treating physician referring the patient to our covid-19 triage number.”

9:10 p.m. Mardi Gras casino responds to order closing casinos because of coronavirus precautions

The situation surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19) has been rapidly developing, and Mardi Gras Casino & Resort continues to be focused on efforts at our facility to protect the health and safety of our guests and employees.
In coordination with the West Virginia Lottery and the State of West Virginia, we are acting to temporarily close the venue beginning at 6:00 a.m., March 18 until further notice. Our hotel will remain open until noon Wednesday, March 18, to accommodate overnight guests. All activities are canceled, including casino promotions.
We will be communicating as quickly as possible with our employees to assist them during this period. We thank them for their ongoing diligence and ability to adapt in a very fluid and unprecedented circumstance.
To date, we have worked to protect public health by following CDC guidelines on sanitizing protocols and cleaning throughout our venue. We will remain in close touch with State and County health officials, and we look forward to reopening our property and continuing to provide a clean, safe environment.
We apologize for the inconvenience to our guests and look forward to hosting them again in the near future. Information will be updated on our website at www.MardigrasCasinoWV.com/ and via www.Facebook.com/MardigrasCasino&ResortWestVirginia/ as details become available.

7:31 p.m. Tuesday 3/17/20 State officials expand on coronavirus confirmation and order regarding bars, restaurants and casinos

Press availability after #WV cornonavirus confirmstion https://t.co/KbsZ6erWQg

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 17, 2020

6:01 p.m. Tuesday 3/17/20  Gov. Justice announces first confirmed coronavirus case in West Virginia is in the state’s Eastern Panhandle. He has also mandated no inside service for restaurants and shuts bars and casinos.

Justice called on West Virginians to stand together during this difficult time.

“We’ll get through this. We’ll win,” he said.

1:51 p.m. Tuesday 3/17/20

Gov. Jim Justice and health officials are addressing West Virginians at 6 p.m. about coronavirus precautions.

This is a change from the earlier stated time of 3 p.m., but also a change of format. The Governor’s Office did not immediately provide the reasons for the change.

UPDATE pic.twitter.com/trXdNqHk4A

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 17, 2020

1:37 p.m. Tuesday 3/17/20 Delegate again requests immediate special session on coronavirus response

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, pushed repeatedly during the recently-concluded legislative session for additional money to prepare for coronavirus.

Isaac Sponaugle

Now he says the state needs a special session for a small business emergency fund, an extension of income tax filing deadlines, establishment of mail-in balloting, more financial support for DHHR and appropriations from the Rainy Day Fund.

“Members of the legislature need to be called in for a special session immediately. We must pass key pieces of legislation before the coronavirus crashes into the state,” Sponaugle said.

“We’re elected to protect our people and we haven’t done that. It’s vital that we get certain key measures in place before it’s too late. No member of the legislature should be hunkering down until we complete our oath of office to take care of our people.”



Isaac Press Release for Coronavirus Special Session 2 (Text)

11:45 a.m. Tuesday 3/17/20  DMV restricts customers to regional offices

@WVDMV announces restrictions at reg. offices "All will remain open and operational. However, each location will permit no more than 10-20 individuals inside their offices at any time. DMV staff will intermittently wipe down counters and chairs." Agency reminds of online options

— Jeff Jenkins (@JeffJenkinsMN) March 17, 2020

9:56 a.m. Tuesday 3/17/20 Justice plans 3 p.m. update 

Questions are likely again over whether bars and restaurants should be closed to dine-in service in West Virginia.

12:20 a.m. Tuesday 3/17/20 Recovery Point West Virginia issues a new policy

Recovery Point West Virginia is limiting clients’ abilities to attend outside meetings as well as preventing guests from its properties.

The group announced the policy on Monday, which is in effect for its facilities in Huntington, Charleston, Bluefield and Parkersburg, as well as its administrative offices.

“Rest assured our doors will remain open so that people all across the great state of West Virginia can continue to receive our programs of recovery from SUD and continue to improve their lives as a result,” the facility said in a letter.

6:04 p.m. Monday 3/16/20 DHHR clarifies West Virginia’s testing criteria 

Due to the evolving #COVID19 situation, @WV_DHHR is clarifying the state’s testing criteria: https://t.co/dCz7013WvV pic.twitter.com/tfuyc6Owoj

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) March 16, 2020

5:53 p.m. Monday 3/16/20 City of Charleston brings in ‘essential personnel’ only 

The City of Charleston will move to essential personnel effective tomorrow. All other personnel will be placed on administrative leave and will continue to be paid, according to an announcement by the city.

Also, all access to City offices, public event facilities and community/recreation centers will be limited to the public in an effort to slow the spread.

The Kanawha County Commission is also asking the public to limit access to the Courthouse to visits for only essential business or services, although the courthouse will continue to be open.

The Commission is encouraging the public to call first (304-357-0101) or visit the county website at www.kanawha.us to determine if business can be conducted telephonically or online before visiting the courthouse in person.

In addition, the Kanawha County Commission wants county employees to work from home or work remotely if possible, especially employees who have been affected by the recent public school closure.

The Commission will be allocating funding to help offset overtime that may be required due to staffing shortages caused by covid-19.



03 16 2020 Public Buildings (Text)

3:15 p.m. Monday 3/16/20  Supreme Court chief justice suspends all but emergency court hearings

Read announcement here 

2:00 p.m. Monday 3/16/20 DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch on coronavirus response

.@WV_DHHR Cabinet Secretary Bill J. Crouch discusses the proactive approach West Virginia is taking in response to #COVID19. Stay up to date at https://t.co/2oyUxmvobh or call our 24/7, toll-free COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-887-4304. #KnowTheFacts pic.twitter.com/gwjpkLLJkx

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) March 16, 2020

 

1:48 p.m. Monday 3/16/20 Morrisey says office is on the watch for consumer issues

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said his office is watching out for consumer fraud issues during the coronavirus situation.

During a news conference Monday afternoon, Morrisey discussed issues such as the adequacy of supply and his office’s outreach to retail stores.

“The coronavirus pandemic presents a challenge like none other,” Morrisey stated. “COVID-19 has seemingly affected every aspect of life from the average trip to buy groceries, dine out and attend concerts or sporting events to one’s dream vacation planned months, if not years, in advance.

“Furthermore, the impact is still evolving, yet the need for consumers to be vigilant and take common-sense steps to protect their financial wellbeing is constant.”

12:13 p.m. Monday 3/16/20 Justice schedules update on coronavirus precautions

Gov. Jim Justice and his staff plan a 2:30 p.m. status report on West Virginia.

Video is embedded above or may be seen here.

9:34 a.m. Monday 3/16/20 Feeding sites opening for children 

The West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition has worked with all 55 counties to open sites to feed children this week.

Starting today, counties will begin to open more than 500 sites around the state to ensure children who require school breakfasts and lunches will receive meals during the statewide school closure caused by coronavirus precautions.

Amanda Harrison, Executive Director of the @WVeducation Office of Child Nutrition, talks with @HoppyKercheval about how each county is feeding students. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/H5N7fFruwA

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) March 16, 2020

Last week, the department received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowing counties flexibility to feed students in non-congregant settings during unanticipated school closures.

Following Gov. Jim Justice’s decision to close all pre-k–12 schools to reduce the potential impact of the disease, the department began the process of getting plans finalized and sites approved so that meal distribution can begin Monday.

Both Governor Justice and Superintendent Clayton Burch have said child nutrition is a top priority during the closure.

9:59 p.m. p.m. Sunday 03/15/20

West Virginia’s DHHR is still reporting no positive tests out of 41.

Thirty-eight have come back negative with three more still pending as of Sunday evening. West Virginia is now the only state in the nation without a confirmed case, although state leaders including Gov. Jim Justice have said coronavirus is likely in the state without yet being identified.

Now that COVID-19 testing is expanded and available through commercial laboratories and some hospitals, DHHR is only reporting those tests that have been processed through its state public health lab. All positive results obtained by commercial laboratories are reportable to DHHR and are included in the positive case counts.

@WV_DHHR reports no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in WV: 41 residents tested with 38 results coming back negative and three tests pending. #COVID19 https://t.co/2oyUxmvobh https://t.co/YXdW6SenwG pic.twitter.com/m0lzn5Dm65

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) March 16, 2020

7:39 p.m. Sunday 03/15/20 Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin signs State of Emergency declaration 

Here is the proclamation signed by Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin just moments ago. The proclamation allows the city the authority to issue emergency policies and direct city personnel, services and equipment to perform acts as necessary. pic.twitter.com/f4Xn52cbb4

— Jake Flatley (@JakeFlatley) March 15, 2020


5:00 p.m. 03/15/20  Kanawha County library system announces total closure 

pic.twitter.com/pujCtKEQid

— Kanawha County Library (@KanawhaLibrary) March 15, 2020


4:30 p.m. Sunday 3/15/20  Gov. Jim Justice announces Monday news conference at state Capitol at 2 p.m.  Announcement says still no confirmed cases of coronavirus. 


3:37 p.m. Sunday 3/15/20 Kanawha County Schools adjusts school schedule 

Parents: we've updated our KCS COVID-19 Plan. Please find the updates at https://t.co/F1JLESmuny. We will be out through at least March 27th and bagged meals will now be delivered along bus routes (among other updates). pic.twitter.com/buJp8BJKNp

— Kanawha County (@KCBOE) March 15, 2020


12:50 p.m. Sunday 3/15/20 Senior services continue to be offered

The West Virginia Directors of Senior and Community Services, providers of senior services, are continuing operations while monitoring the coronavirus situation.

That includes providing meals and in-home services as needed to senior citizens in West Virginia.

“Because so many seniors rely on us, at the present time, providers are continuing to offer services on a normal basis until the situation warrants otherwise,” said William Carpenter, President of the West Virginia Directors of Senior & Community Services.

He added, “Many of the county meal providers throughout West Virginia have or are in the process of purchasing additional shelf stable meals to offer seniors in the event it would become necessary to close senior centers. Providers are also contacting in-home patients in order to update them on the current situation.”



WVDSCS COVID 19 Statement (Text)

12:43 p.m. Sunday 3/15/20 WVU health expert advises caution on travel

Clay Marsh, executive dean for health sciences at West Virginia University, provided advice about travel. WVU has shut down in-person classes for students, but Marsh’s advice was also meant for others in West Virginia.

Everyone has to make a personal decision about their activities, Marsh said, but limiting non-essential travel right now is a prudent thing to do.

This is especially true for international travel, travel to hot spots in the United States and on cruise ships, he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Kathy Moffett, WVU School of Medicine’s Pediatric Infectious Diseases section chief, described the importance of “social distancing” in an article in Morgantown’s Dominion Post newspaper.

“It’s a social responsibility just like vaccinating. We’re doing it not just for ourselves but for others. … We’re all going to be in our communities for a while. We have to accept that.”

Here’s good social distancing advice from Dr. Kathy Moffett in today’s The Dominion Post. Let’s spread the word, not the germs.

Kudos to our local paper for making this super shareable. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 https://t.co/bRwj5jnF3x

— WVU Medicine (@WVUMedicine) March 15, 2020

12:35 p.m. Sunday 3/15/20 West Virginia spiritual leaders go online with messages

Churches, synagogues and other places of worship across West Virginia canceled public attendance at services but made live messages available online.

For example, Vienna Baptist Church in Wood County provided a specific coronavirus update to congregants. That also provided congregants some advice for how to approach the situation spiritually:

  • Pray for mercy for the sick, strength for doctors, insight for researchers, and wisdom for officials.

  • Look for opportunities to love and care for others, whether they are sick, isolated, marginalized, poor, or oppressed.

  • Avoid every semblance of prejudice or racism. In light of the origination of this virus in Asia, it has been grievous to see a rise in racist incidents against the Asian community. So just as we do in any circumstance, guard against all prejudice or racism in your thoughts, your words, and your actions.

Regular church services were canceled but a live sermon was made available on the church’s website.

Likewise, Bible Center in Charleston advised congregants to “join us online.” The message there was revised to be timely: “A Christian Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Part 1.”

 

Victor Urecki

B’Nai Jacob Synagogue in Charleston also provided a coronavirus update.

The synagogue had Shabbat services but canceled the kiddush. Other services and classes at the synagogue were continuing, but Rabbi Victor Urecki advised that the synagogue would practice good “social distancing,” causing the alteration of some traditions.

“Most importantly,” Urecki wrote, “and I hope you agree, that our primary goal should be to honor and love G-d in worship and can do so without spreading germs.”

12:09 p.m. Sunday 3/15/20 New York Times looks at West Virginia situation

“We know it’s here. I mean, let’s be real. It has to be here. We just haven’t found it yet.” https://t.co/sMUPi65MCP

— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 15, 2020

9:45 p.m. Saturday 3/14/20  DHHR days still no confirmed cases.

@WV_DHHR reports no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in WV: 39 residents tested with 38 results coming back negative and one test pending. #COVID19 https://t.co/2oyUxmvobh https://t.co/nj8ENh10sa pic.twitter.com/LKYNN0qXcm

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) March 15, 2020

9:15 p.m. Saturday 3/14/20  Alterra, parent company of Snowshoe Mountain Resort, had announced all its resorts will close Sunday.

Alterra Mountain Company to close 15 North American Resorts starting March 15. https://t.co/zeLwY89wZs pic.twitter.com/GEfRCIA4ep

— Crystal Mountain (@CrystalMt) March 15, 2020

6:07 p.m. Saturday 3/14//20 Governor clarifies that school will be out until at least March 27, 2020

Here are the highlights of an update Gov. Justice and state officials put out Saturday evening:

  • All schools will remain closed to students through at least Friday, March 27.
  • Essential staff, as determined by each county board of education, will report Monday, March 16 through Wednesday, March 18 to develop continuity plans for students.
  • All teachers, staff, and school service personnel will report Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20.
  • County boards of education will determine staff requirements for Monday, March 23 and beyond.

Only essential staff will report on Monday, March 16 through Wednesday, March 18, and county superintendents will determine who these employees are in their counties.

During this time, the county superintendents will work with local boards of education, leadership teams, and essential staff to devise a continuity plan that outlines how to best meet the needs of students and the community during this extended closure.

All child nutrition programs will be minimally affected by this statewide school closure. Essential personnel including transportation staff, custodial staff, and food service staff are necessary during this time to ensure child nutrition efforts are implemented effectively for the over 200,000 students who rely on school meals for their daily nutrition.

County boards of education may use school buses to transport meals to students throughout the duration of the closure.

All remaining teachers and staff will return to work on Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20 to make sure plans are properly implemented so student needs, educator well-being, and the continuity of instruction are properly addressed.

County boards of education will determine staff requirements for Monday, March 23 and beyond. The county leadership team may choose to establish flexible work options including adjusted schedules and remote work.

Beyond online instruction, county leadership teams have an array of options to ensure the delivery of instruction including distance learning, telecommunication, electronic communication, traditional instructional packets, and more.

More information on the Department of Education’s plans to supplement student learning and nutrition will be available at wvde.us/COVID19.

The West Virginia National Guard and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture are also prepared to step in and support counties in offering adequate student support.

UPDATE to the statewide school closure plan here: https://t.co/MwCIbxlA3O. Schools will remain closed to students until at least March 27, 2020. I encourage all teachers, school service personnel, students, and parents to read and share this update. @WVeducation #WV #COVID19

— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) March 14, 2020

“At the heart of everything we are doing right now is the protection of our children, making sure our schools are safe for our teachers and staff, and making every effort to protect all of the people of West Virginia,” Justice stated.

“I have been and will remain in constant contact with Superintendent Burch, and we both have heard the concerns of our teachers and school service personnel. We want to make sure all their concerns are taken into consideration as we develop our plans.”

6 p.m. Saturday 3/14/20 W.Va. congressional delegation splits on relief package

Reps. David McKinley and Carol Miller joined most of their Republican colleagues and all present Democrats in passing the measure. Rep. Alex Mooney was one of 40 Republicans who opposed the legislation.

Legislators passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in a bipartisan 363-40 vote. The measure sets aside $1 billion for food programs in addition to providing free coronavirus tests and paid sick leave.

Cathy Kunkel, a Democrat running in this year’s 2nd Congressional District contest, issued a statement Saturday morning denouncing Mooney.

Read more from Alex Thomas: US House passes extensive coronavirus measure

5:51 p.m. Saturday 3/14/20 Emergency officials meet to go over preparedness

Officials met today to go over the response by emergency units in Charleston and Kanawha County. That’s preparation by the Emergency Operations Center located at Metro 911.

The group was comprised of government, emergency services, health and community officials. The meeting was led by City of Charleston Director of Homeland Security & Emergency Management Mark Strickland and Kanawha County Director of Homeland Security & Emergency Management C.W. Sigman.

Throughout the day, officials coordinated with local nursing homes, hospitals and representatives that work with the homeless population to identify supply levels and areas of need.

“When our agencies can all come together to protect the community, we accomplish the coordination of resources and identify the needs of our at-risk population,” stated C.W. Sigman, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Kanawha County.

“We will continue to plan and coordinate efforts to protect the Kanawha Valley.”

Organizations represented in today’s meeting included the City of Charleston, Kanawha County, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, Charleston Police Department, Charleston Fire Department, Kanawha Valley Collective, American Red Cross and Metro 911.

Right now, the Unified Health Command at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department will continue to operate 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For questions regarding COVID-19, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is available by phone 24-hours a day at 304-348-1088.

3:22 p.m. Saturday 3/14/20 Visitation limited at major West Virginia medical providers CAMC, WVU Medicine

Two of West Virginia’s biggest medical providers are restricting access.

WVU Medicine has posted a series of guidelines, saying that visitors will be limited to just one per patient in the hospital at a time and that minimal visitation is encouraged. Visitors with a cough, fever, shortness of breath, and/or fatigue should reschedule their visit.

WVU Medicine, also known as the WVU Health System, includes J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital and WVU Medicine Children’s in Morgantown, Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg, Braxton County Memorial Hospital in Gassaway, Camden Clark Medical Center in Parkersburg, Jackson General Hospital in Ripley, Jefferson Medical Center in Ranson, Potomac Valley Hospital in Keyser, Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Buckhannon, Summersville Regional Medical Center in Summersville, and United Hospital Center in Bridgeport.

Please be take a moment to familiarize yourself with our new visitation policy before coming to campus, and thank you for your assistance in helping protect our patients, employees, and other guests. #COVID19 https://t.co/gQhO1InWJY

— WVU Medicine (@WVUMedicine) March 13, 2020

CAMC is limiting visitors hours, although essential visitors such as a spouse, a parent or a caregiver have more flexible options. And on Monday, CAMC will phase in restricted points of entry at its locations.

Please take note of CAMC’s restricted visitation policy – in effect immediately. pic.twitter.com/lxbmUmbaoC

— CAMC Health System (@CAMCHealth) March 14, 2020

Also, CAMC is emphasizing a telemedicine option for anyone with suspected covid-19 symptoms

If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and are concerned about Coronavirus, you can use CAMC’s 24/7 Care app to talk to a provider FREE – anytime, day or night. It only takes a few minutes to download the 24/7 Care app and set up an account.

— CAMC Health System (@CAMCHealth) March 14, 2020

1:15 p.m. Saturday 3/14/20  West Virginia remains only state without confirmed case 

West Virginia remains the only state without a positive case of Covid 19 Novel Corona Virus diagnosed. Information from the state Department of Health and Human Services on Saturday indicated the state has now tested 31 individuals who showed symptoms and met the threshold set for the testing. Of those tested, 26 have been negative and five of the tests are still pending.

The DHHR notes the number of tests may be higher since several private labs and hospitals now have the ability to do their own testing for Covid 19. They are not required to report the test, but if a case is positive it is required to be reported to state health officials.

The virus has been confirmed right on West Virginia’s border.

Belmont County, Ohio, has reported two positive cases. Belmont County is across the Ohio River from Wheeling.

Washington County, Pennsylvania, which is not far from West Virginia, also reported a case.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has announced the cancellation of the Sportsman’s Sectional Meetings which were set for Monday and Tuesday across the state. They have also announced the Archery in Schools State Tournament set to be held at Marshall University two weeks from today has also been cancelled.

2:20 a.m. US House passes coronavirus legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping measure regarding the coronavirus, which includes free coronavirus tests, paid sick leave through the end of the year and $1 billion for food programs.

The chamber approved the bill 363-40.

How West Virginia’s representatives voted:

@RepMcKinley: Yes.
@RepAlexMooney: No.
@RepCarolMiller: Yes.

— Alex Thomas (@AlexHouseThomas) March 14, 2020

8:40 p.m. Hoyer provides update regarding the West Virginia National Guard

State Adjutant General James Hoyer said Friday the West Virginia National Guard will be taking actions to minimize the spread of coronavirus among members and their families.

“At this time, we have not implemented any changes to our individual and unit training schedules,” he said. “We are preparing our force for this rapidly evolving global situation and are implementing steps to educate and safeguard our people across the state. Our number one focus is our service members and their families.”

There are no changes regarding access to National Guard facilities at this time.

Hoyer also said the Mountaineer Challenge Academy will remain open during the statewide school closure Gov. Jim Justice announced earlier in the day.

8:30 p.m. Update from the state DHHR on test results

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced Friday evening out of the 31 residents that have been tested for coronavirus, 26 results have come back negative with five other tests pending.

5:30 p.m. Update on test results from state DHHR

21 total tests, 17 negative, 4 pending

4:30 p.m. State’s largest school district, Kanawha County, releases its instruction and food plan for COVID-19 shutdown

Please find our updated KCD COVID-19 information at: https://t.co/F1JLES4SYY. No school indefinitely beginning Monday. All staff should report. Additional details on feeding sites and technology are available through the link. pic.twitter.com/wuzcoMW9AB

— Kanawha County (@KCBOE) March 13, 2020

4:20 p.m. Mass suspended in Wheeling-Charleston Diocese

Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Mark Brennan: I am suspending for the time being the public celebration of Mass, both for Sunday obligation and daily Masses, beginning with this weekend’s Saturday afternoon Masses. @WVMetroNews pic.twitter.com/omyuHS9juT

— Jake Flatley (@JakeFlatley) March 13, 2020


4:10 p.m. West Virginia state parks to remain open

Special notice to our guests & visitors regarding COVID-19: pic.twitter.com/tuwZXrwBMZ

— WV State Parks (@WVStateParks) March 13, 2020

 

3:33 p.m.  Trump declares national emergency

BREAKING: Pres. Trump declares national emergency.

— Opens up to $50 billion for states, territories and localities.
— Calls for states to set up emergency centers.
— Calls on hospitals to activate emergency preparedness plans.
— Confers new authorities to HHS secretary. pic.twitter.com/AMLe2eOjWX

— ABC News (@ABC) March 13, 2020

2:27 p.m. Warner floats special session to make balloting more flexible 

Secretary of State Mac Warner says he’s getting close to formally requesting Gov. Jim Justice to call a special session of the legislature soon in connection with the May 12 Primary Election and the coronavirus.

Warner told MetroNews Friday he’ll propose amending the state’s election law to “tweak” the current absentee ballot process, the timing of early voting and existing poll worker requirements.

More from Jeff Jenkins: Warner close to seeking special session to propose voting changes prior to May 12 primary

2:20 p.m. Charleston, Kanawha leaders lay out preparation plan

Goodwin: “This is a marathon and it’s mile one. But we’ve been training for this for decades….We have the best of the best here.” pic.twitter.com/Wo2RmU1P9z

— Jake Flatley (@JakeFlatley) March 13, 2020

Carper on economic impact: “If this crisis is stopped today, it would make the water crisis look small. This is serious.”

— Jake Flatley (@JakeFlatley) March 13, 2020

Full update from the city and county: pic.twitter.com/I7QSQG7HMe

— Jake Flatley (@JakeFlatley) March 13, 2020

1:40 p.m. Federal courts continue everything that can be continued 

Federal court in southern #WV is being continued, continued, continued pic.twitter.com/dcfuCeORnh

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

12:55 p.m. Superintendent Burch says schools got confirmation of closure via midday press conference

#WVGov schools superintendent Clayton Burch did a gaggle with reporters after today’s closures announcement. He said local school personnel would have learned via the governor’s remarks and the rest of the day will be organizing to get kids homehttps://t.co/0n0eEHzM2p

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said the governor made the right decision. He said closing schools will provide increased safety for students, teachers and staff.

#WVGov schools superintendent Clayton Burch did a gaggle with reporters after today’s closures announcement. He said local school personnel would have learned via the governor’s remarks and the rest of the day will be organizing to get kids homehttps://t.co/0n0eEHzM2p

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

11:05 a.m. Governor Justice says he will close schools

“We’ll close the schools as long as we have to close the schools,” Gov. Jim Justice said at a news conference today at the Capitol.

“I’m closing the schools. That’s all there is to it.”

Big @WVgovernor announcement

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

Stream here.

10:47 a.m. Manchin says Senate should have stayed to receive response package

Senator Joe Manchin appeared on MetroNews’ “Talkline” this morning and expressed frustration that the Senate has recessed instead of remaining to act on a response package passed by the House of Representatives.

.@Sen_JoeManchin speaks with @HoppyKercheval about his frustration that the Senate has adjourned without passing a coronavirus economic “package”. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/c5bNZj0IqY

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) March 13, 2020

Manchin says Senate should have been ready to receive response package sent over by the House

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

Congress has been working on a package and it’s expected to be close to passage.

Congress is close to a deal on a broad coronavirus stimulus package, following lengthy negotiations between Democratic leaders and the White House https://t.co/KEQpDx15sJ

— POLITICO (@politico) March 13, 2020

Manchin also said West Virginia — and the nation — aren’t doing enough testing.

Manchin: “We don’t have enough tests.”

“It seems like in West Virginia we don’t have any cases. That sounds wonderful. But we just haven’t tested anybody.”

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

10:26 a.m. West Virginia testing capacity is increasing, but is 12 tests so far enough? 

Twelve West Virginians have been tested for coronavirus with 11 negative results and one still pending, officials said this morning.

That’s a lower number than surrounding states, which have higher populations, but West Virginia officials said that’s been adequate so far. DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch discussed that this morning on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

Bill Crouch, @WV_DHHR Secretary, joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss if there’s anything new about COVID-19 in West Virginia. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/H23AhIptWZ

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) March 13, 2020

Question from Hoppy: “Why aren’t we testing more and should we be testing more?”

Crouch: “I’ve said from Day 1 we’re low risk. We’re lower risk than other states.”

In the past he has cited lower levels of international travel

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

Crouch cites 11,000 people tested in U.S.

South Korea, he says, 230,000 people “so we do need to do more widespread testing. We’re looking and hoping for more testing as we go forward here.”

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

The standard for testing remains tight.

Testing focus in West Virginia has been on those who who are showing symptoms consistent with Covid-19 and who have credible reason for exposure such as recent travel to an area with an outbreak.

Or: individuals who are seriously ill, sometimes to the extent that they have had to be hospitalized, consistent with the virus’ symptoms but without exposure history.

Providers are first asked to rule out other causes, state officials have said.

West Virginia gained the ability to send tests to the state lab last weekend. Before that, tests had to go to the CDC.

This morning, Crouch said commercial providers are now coming online to run tests.

Crouch: “We’re looking to test as much as we can. We have better capability coming online.”

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

10:11 a.m . Justice says he will close schools if need to do so looks inevitable.

Gov. Jim Justice appeared on MetroNews’ “Talkline” this morning. What to do about K-12 schools was the lead topic.

.@WVGovernor joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss the latest on COVID-19 in West Virginia. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/7Et9vTzlK3

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) March 13, 2020

Justice acknowledges those discussions have been happening.

“Ultimately I’m sure that decision will come to rest at my feet.”

“If it looks like we’re going to have to close the schools then there’s no ‘looks like’ with me. We close right now.”

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

9:58 a.m. West Virginia’s biggest city and county to have joint press conference about response

Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin and Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper will have a press conference at 1 p.m. Friday to discuss preparation.

Meanwhile, a Unified Health Command was established today to aid in Kanawha County’s COVID-19 preparation after weeks of initial meetings with leaders throughout the county.

Led by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, the command will include representatives from Kanawha County, the City of Charleston, Kanawha County Schools, Kanawha County Metro 911, Charleston Area Medical Center, Thomas Health and the Putnam County Health Department. At this time, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kanawha County or the State of West Virginia.

Charleston/Kanawha response press conference this afternoon pic.twitter.com/e0zUTgOZxe

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

9:53 a.m. University of Charleston also moves to off-campus learning 

The university issued this statement this morning:

After careful analysis, UC will be transitioning all Charleston and Beckley campus in-seat classes to online instruction.  The last day of in-seat classes will be Thursday March 19, 2020, and the first day of online instruction will be Monday March 23, 2020.

Students are required to move out of their residence hall rooms by Sunday March 22 at 4 p.m.  Classes are cancelled Friday March 20 to allow students three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) to transition out of campus housing. Students leaving the residence halls will receive room and board prorated credit for the vacated time.  Since classes will be continuing, there are no tuition refunds.

Students for whom moving out at this time represents a challenge or hardship, may apply to remain in the residence halls by completing and submitting the Special Housing Request form by Tuesday, March 17th at 5p.m.

At this time, no changes in instruction or scheduling will occur for students, faculty, and staff in our Online programs.

All course-related international travel trips are cancelled, and all University-related travel will require supervisor approval.

UC is still planning to hold its commencement as scheduled on Saturday, May 2.

All UC employees will continue to work their normal schedules, and university offices will be open on their regular schedules.

9:38 a.m. All after-school activities, including practices and games shut down

Very Important Message!!!

The WV State Superintendent just shut down all after school activities including practices and games. Will re-evaluate on April 10th.

— W. VA. Coaches Assoc (@WVSACA) March 13, 2020

That happened after a meeting with county schools superintendents

State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch met with county superintendents this morning about the Coronavirus. Burch has been in constant contact with state health officials and is keeping counties updated. For more information visit https://t.co/uTfWTasz7W pic.twitter.com/wxEOVgsDt4

— WV Dept of Education (@WVeducation) March 13, 2020

On Thursday the governor and the Secondary Schools Activities Commission agreed to halt the state girls basketball tournament, which was already underway, as well as boys tournament that was scheduled for next week.

9:33 a.m.Capitol, perhaps West Virginia’s most public building, takes precautions

Visitors to the state Capitol these days must go through a metal detector to enter. Now those metal detector stations have Lysol and disinfectant wipes right on hand.

The Capitol isn’t closing to visitors, said Administration Secretary Allan McVey, but it is being wiped down.

6:43 a.m. Governor Justice plans another update today

Gov. Jim Justice has announced another 11 a.m. update today on coronavirus precautions. At the end of a Thursday update, Justice said such updates would be regular — probably daily.

Update by ⁦@WVGovernor⁩ on Friday too pic.twitter.com/qUABgCfQcf

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

The announcement about today’s update gave some new numbers about coronavirus testing.

It said 12 suspected West Virginia cases have been tested with nine returning as negatives and three still pending.

West Virginia is doing its testing now at the state lab.

The standard for testing remains high.

Testing focus in West Virginia has been on those who who are showing symptoms consistent with Covid-19 and who have credible reason for exposure such as recent travel to an area with an outbreak.

Or: individuals who are seriously ill, sometimes to the extent that they have had to be hospitalized, consistent with the virus’ symptoms but without exposure history.

Providers are first asked to rule out other causes, state officials have said.

#coronavirus #testing https://t.co/voCUP3BcCi

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 13, 2020

6:31 a.m. Some West Virginia school systems open late or close early to prepare

State officials so far have said closing K-12 school systems is unnecessary, although during a Thursday news conference they mentioned taking some steps such as limiting extracurricular activities.

School systems in surrounding states such as Ohio and Maryland are taking a break for a few weeks.

In West Virginia, some school systems were bringing in students later than usual today or closing early to clean and prepare for possible actions related to coronavirus.

All schools in #Marshall Co on a 2-hr delay Fri 3/13/20 due to support material development and additional cleaning

— WV SnowDay (@WVSnowDay) March 12, 2020

All schools in #Hancock Co on a 2-hr delay Fri 3/13/20 To prepare for potential delays and cancellations due to the corona virus.

— WV SnowDay (@WVSnowDay) March 12, 2020

All schools in #Brooke Co on a 2-hr delay Fri 3/13/20

— WV SnowDay (@WVSnowDay) March 12, 2020

All schools in #Monongalia Co closing 2 hrs early Fri 3/13/20

— WV SnowDay (@WVSnowDay) March 13, 2020

7:26 p.m. Senator Capito reiterates concerns about testing availability

In a post from her official Twitter account, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., again expressed concern about whether enough testing capacity for coronavirus is available.

“I’m concerned. I’m not 100 percent pleased with the way the CDC has rolled out the testing,” Capito said.

The 24/7 West Virginia #coronavirus hotline number: 1-800-887-4304 pic.twitter.com/okpqZAstOW

— Shelley Moore Capito (@SenCapito) March 12, 2020

Capito said she has spoken with Gov. Jim Justice and State Health Officer Cathy Slemp.

West Virginia has tested 12 residents for COVID-19, state officials said this evening, with nine results coming back negative and three pending.

Testing focus in West Virginia has been on those who who are showing symptoms consistent with Covid-19 and who have credible reason for exposure such as recent travel to an area with an outbreak.

Or: individuals who are seriously ill, sometimes to the extent that they have had to be hospitalized, consistent with the virus’ symptoms but without exposure history.

Providers are first asked to rule out other causes, state officials have said.

“The question is, can anybody get a test?” Capito said. “And I think the best way to look at it is, if you have symptoms or if you have been exposed you’re going to be the first priority for a test.

“So I would recommend if you are feeling unwell and you have a fever or if you think you might be exposed, certainly go to your doctor or your health care facility closest to you and see about getting a test.”

Capito made similar comments this morning on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” 

File

Joe Manchin

Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.,said he has canceled public events next week. And Manchin said he has told his Washington, D.C., staff to work remotely and has told his West Virginia staff to prepare to do so.

“Public health experts have made it clear that we must take action to mitigate the spread of this virus from now until April 1st, or else risk severe consequences like we are seeing in Italy and China,” Manchin stated.

🦠 practice social distance, telework if you’re able & avoid crowds
🦠 frequently wash your hands with soap & water
🦠 wipe down surfaces with products that contain at least 60% alcohol
🦠 cancel nonessential domestic & international travel
🦠 stay home if you’re feeling sick

— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) March 12, 2020

6:37 p.m. Nursing homes limit visitors 

Stonerise Healthcare, which has 17 skilled nursing facilities in West Virginia, has announced it is limiting visitor access starting at 8 a.m. Friday.

“We made this decision, in part, following a review of the situation outside Seattle, where the virus spread through long-term care facilities very quickly and proved devastating to the senior population,” stated Larry Pack, chief executive officer at Stonerise.

Limited visitor access means no individual, regardless of reason, will be allowed to enter a facility except under specific circumstances.

Those allowed into a facility include employees, individuals directly providing end-of-life care, family members of a patient who is experiencing a life-threatening health condition or an unexpected change in health condition, or people providing other essential services to the facility.

The visitor restriction is expected to be in effect until March 27 and will continue to be evaluated.

This follows warnings from the West Virginia Health Care Association, which represents the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities, that visitor restrictions would be likely.

The West Virginia Health Care Association issued its own statement this evening:

We are very appreciative of Governor Justice and Secretary Crouch’s continued leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak. The  announcement this afternoon that skilled nursing facilities should restrict visitation is a strong, proactive measure to try to protect our residents from exposure to COVID-19.

Data clearly shows that COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on the elderly population and the health and well-being
of our residents is our absolute top priority. Our skilled nursing centers are quickly exploring all alternative means of communication so families can remain in contact with their loved ones during this period of restricted visitation. We will continue to work with state and local officials to assess the threat facing our residents and adopt any preventative measures necessary to protect them.

Gov. Jim Justice addressed the necessity — but sorrow — of such situations as he spoke during a press conference today.

“If my mom were in one of those nursing homes and I needed to see her and she really, really needed to see me every day — and all of a sudden I can’t go, that really becomes problematic,” the governor said.

6:02 p.m. West Virginia’s court system takes precautions

A protocol announced by West Virginia’s court system encourages judicial officers to postpone proceedings that are not time
sensitive, use available technology such as conference calls and video conferencing to minimize person-to-person contact, and schedule dockets to limit the number of people gathering in large numbers.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

Justice Tim Armstead

“We want to keep courts open, but we want to do all we can to keep people safe,”said Chief Justice Tim Armstead.

“In addition to the protocol for employees, the Court also is issuing guidance intended to ensure the safety of litigants and the public.”

The Court is also sending notices to the State Bar and notices that will be posted in courthouses. These notices will give directions to parties, attorneys, witnesses, jurors and the public.

For judicial employees, special sick leave will be provided under certain qualifying conditions. Out-of-state travel is temporarily canceled except in special circumstances and must be approved by the Administrative Director.

5:53 p.m. Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau cancels big events for 30 days

Just in from the City of Charleston, all events at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center with more than 250 people are canceled for the next 30 days. @WVMetroNews pic.twitter.com/i6cZnd26b2

— Jake Flatley (@JakeFlatley) March 12, 2020

3:56 p.m. West Virginia State University extends spring break, delays return

West Virginia State University joined colleges in West Virginia with coronavirus precautions.

Dr. Anthony Jenkins, the president of the institution, announced the extension of Spring Break through March 24 and cancellation of all campus events until April 12.

Read more: West Virginia State alters school calendar due to coronavirus

3 p.m. Justice announces basketball tournament suspension, state employee travel ban

Gov. Jim Justice announced the state high school basketball tournaments will be halted after this afternoon and a state government employee travel ban will be enacted.

The governor’s announcements came at an announcement this afternoon with state health officials at the Capitol.

Justice was set to coach a game this evening but said the games should end at the close of today’s afternoon session before new crowds come in.

“We just have got to get away from the big crowds,” Justice said.

WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan announced the postponement of the girls basketball state tournament and boys basketball regional games effective immediately Thursday afternoon. #wvprepbb #wvgirlsbbhttps://t.co/bVN6QUZcb0 pic.twitter.com/I6aVcFSpmQ

— MetroNews HS Sports (@MetroNewsPrep) March 12, 2020

The travel ban only extends to state employees, but Justice urged other citizens “”I am asking all West Virginians to reconsider all non-essential travel out of this state.”

West Virginia does not yet have a confirmed case of coronavirus out of eight tests, but Justice said residents should start taking precautions to slow any spread.

“”I have to tell you just from my heart. Our elderly could be the most susceptible by far. People in excess of 60 years of age need to be concerned. They need not go and just be in big gatherings. They need to watch their health and everything they’re exposed to,” he said.

1:35 p.m. Governor Justice and officials provide update

Gov. Jim Justice and state officials were providing an update on coronavirus precautions. Watch below.

1:08 p.m. Kanawha County school group tries to return from Europe

A student group of about 28 from Kanawha County was scheduled to arrive back in the United States on Friday evening after their trip to Europe was cut short due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19.

Read more:  Kanawha County school group en route home from Europe

12 p.m. Big 12, college basketball tournaments are being canceled

The Big 12 basketball tournament, where West Virginia University was playing, was shut down immediately today because of concerns about spreading the coronavirus.

MetroNews’ Alex Hickey was at the tournament and will provide additional updates.

Read more: Big 12 commissioner Bowlsby announces tournament cancellations

WVU will be releasing a statement from Bob Huggins sometime this afternoon. It’s my understanding that the team is packing up to return to West Virginia.

— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) March 12, 2020

Read more:  WVU cancels all athletic events and travel through March 22

Similarly, Conference USA shut down its basketball tournament, which involved Marshall University.

Conference USA has officially announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2020 Air Force Reserve C-USA Basketball Championships, effective immediately. pic.twitter.com/tBrrJVhAFN

— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) March 12, 2020

Confirmed: The Big 12 Tournament has been cancelled.

— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) March 12, 2020

11:35 a.m. Governor Justice plans coronavirus briefing 

Gov. Jim Justice and other state officials plan a 1:30 p.m. briefing today about the state’s preparedness and response.

Governor Justice plans a coronavirus briefing today pic.twitter.com/HeQTr8OY5I

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) March 12, 2020

11:11 a.m. DHHR’s Crouch and Public Health Officer Slemp advise caution

State Health Secretary Bill Crouch and Public Health Officer Cathy Slemp said that although no coronavirus cases have been confirmed so far in West Virginia, they would not be surprised by a confirmation.

File

Dr. Cathy Slemp

“We will not be surprised to see our first case,” Slemp said. “We are watching carefully what is happening in nearby states and realizing it does move quickly.”

West Virginia has only tested eight people. There have been seven negative results and one pending.

West Virginia gained the capacity last weekend to test at the state lab, but Slemp agreed that more capacity would be better.

We have increasing calls for testing, which is great, so that is rapidly increasing.”

She added, “As a nation, we all feel like we would like more testing capacity.”

They advised caution, particularly for older people and those with diabetes, heart problems or breathing issues.

“If you’re high risk, it’s worth thinking about not going into large groupings,” Slemp said.

Slemp described attempts to flatten the curve, meaning limiting exposures to try to slow the spread and prevent strain on the medical system.

“Those early interventions can be very helpful,” she said

.@WV_DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch and State Health Officer Dr. Cathy Slemp join @HoppyKercheval with his latest insights on the coronavirus in WV. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/xJGM9EhmHL

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) March 12, 2020

11:06 a.m. Marshall President Gilbert says extending spring break, off-campus class is right call

Marshall University joined West Virginia University and its campuses in extending spring break by a week and then transitioning to off-campus, online learning.

Marshall University

Jerome Gilbert

Marshall President Jerome Gilbert said that decision was a precaution. He said the university doesn’t want students coming back from travel during spring break and then — even if they are without symptoms — spreading the virus to others.

“I’d rather overreact and be safe than come in late and be accused of spreading the disease and killing people we could have saved,” Gilbert said.

“We are very much student-centered. We want to take care of our students and their families. We don’t want this spreading to elderly family members unnecessarily.”

He said the campus will not shut down entirely. Students who need to remain in residence halls may do so through the break.

.@marshallu President .@MarshalluPres joins @HoppyKercheval to talk about their decision on coronavirus. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/Sjk7NAhf9g

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) March 12, 2020

10:18 a.m. Capito expresses frustration over testing availability

Shelley Moore Capito

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., described concern over the availability over tests for coronavirus this morning.

Read more: Capito is concerned about coronavirus testing availability, says W.Va. isn’t business as usual

“The bottom line, at least from the meeting I was in, was a frustration over testing — the availability of testing — and why don’t we have more testing as they are doing in South Korea,” Capito said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“And there’s no real explanation for that except our system is set up for people to go to the doctor and be referred for a test, when in actuality we should be having more availability in our public health system.”

From state health officials yesterday: There have been 8 WV tests so far, 7 negative, one pending.

But the standard for testing is quite high.

Testing focus has been on those who who are showing symptoms consistent with Covid-19 and who have credible reason for exposure such as recent travel to an area with an outbreak, state officials said on Wednesday afternoon.

Or: individuals who are seriously ill, sometimes to the extent that they have had to be hospitalized, consistent with the virus’ symptoms but without exposure history. Providers are first asked to rule out other causes.

Capito said, “We need to know not just how many people are sick from the virus, but we need to know how many people have it so you can make calculations as to how deep or how consequential the virus actually is.”

Capito, speaking on “Talkline,” said the system needs to change, giving local health authorities more influence over testing.

“Our health system is set up for you to go to the doctor and get referred for a test, when in actuality we should have more availability of our public health systems.”

Perspective, she said, came from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Just because we don’t have someone diagnosed in West Virginia does not mean business as usual and we should assume that there is something going on.”

She said that should influence behavior, “like practicing hygiene, telework if you can, try to avoid larger crowds, don’t get into big social gatherings.”

.@SenCapito talks with @HoppyKercheval about Coronavirus and steps to take to shore up the economy. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/abrljQzD6G

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) March 12, 2020

9:47 a.m. PEIA says it will cover 100 percent of coronavirus testing cost 

The Public Employees Insurance Agency, which covers thousands of West Virginia government workers and retirees, released a statement on Wednesday that it will cover the cost of coronavirus testing for those with the insurance.

The information is here. 

“Effective March 1, 2020, PEIA will cover COVID-19 testing at 100% of the contracted allowance, at a network provider, for members who meet CDC guidelines for testing.  This will apply to PEIA PPB Plans A, B, C and D.  This means that members will have no out-of-pocket expense for the actual test.  Deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance will also be waived for any physician or facility services incurred in the process of being tested.

“Treatment of any members, who test positive for the virus, will be covered at normal benefit levels.”

 

 

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Trump approves major disaster declaration

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — President Donald Trump has approved Gov. Jim Justice’s request for an expedited major disaster declaration related to the coronavirus.

The declaration, signed Friday, allows the state to pursue funding from FEMA to respond to the pandemic.

“I want to thank President Trump for quickly approving my request for this disaster declaration,” Justice said. “West Virginia has taken extraordinary measures to protect our citizens and keep them safe and healthy and this allows us to take full advantage of federal resources.”

West Virginia’s federal lawmakers sent a letter to Trump on Tuesday supporting Justice’s request.

“We know our population in West Virginia is among the most vulnerable to complications from the coronavirus. Our healthcare professionals need all the help they can get when it comes to providing the care necessary to get us through this time. They need personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and tests to be able to protect themselves while they are caring for others,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in a statement.

“This disaster declaration will help West Virginia receive the funding and assistance we need to fight this terrible virus.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also stressed the importance of the financial resources.

“I’ve been, and will remain, in contact with administration officials, particularly at FEMA at the national and regional levels, to make sure West Virginia’s priorities are heard,” she said.

“As chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I’ve also ensured that funds have been funneled into the Disaster Relief Fund for the needs we are facing as a nation during these challenging times.”

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Justice describes ‘outbreak’ in Eastern Panhandle and tightens restrictions

Gov. Jim Justice described “an outbreak over in the Eastern Panhandle” during a daily news conference Friday, but the information was so new that he and public health experts had to promise to provide more details later.

Office of the Governor

Gov. Jim Justice

“All I would say about that is everyone is sitting on the edge of their seat nonstop, including me,” Justice said after it became clear many questions about the cluster could not yet be answered.

By Friday evening, a few hours later, Justice had issued an executive order specifically for Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.

The order is meant to limit groups to a maximum of five people and directs all businesses to require employees to work from home “to the maximum extent possible.”

It authorizes the county health departments to limit occupancy of any businesses that remain open to the public and designates support from the State Police and the West Virginia National Guard.

One overriding question that remained unclear is what milestone tipped the Eastern Panhandle to being considered an outbreak.

Another was how widespread the outbreak — or cluster — is believed to be.

And yet another was whether any particular factor led to more rapid spread.

During the midday press briefing, Justice and the health officials described the cluster both as a long-anticipated outcome and as a very serious development — as a news flash but also as a matter that could be elaborated on later.

“The biggest news, I think, of the day is just this, and our health officials will touch on this in a little bit: We’ve got an outbreak over in the Eastern Panhandle,” Justice said to lead off Friday’s briefing.

“We’ll get into that in just a few minutes, but the reality is just real simple — and that is, we’ve anticipated this. Anything that is really close to a major city, like the Eastern Panhandle is right on the back door of Washington, D.C., we’ve been on it. We’ve been concerned about it.”

The West Virginia National Guard said it is prepared to provide surge support, and Justice alluded to the possibility of tightening down what businesses are considered essential.

“If it comes to the point that we need to send the National Guard in there to try in every way to get a better handle on it, we may have to try to put more strenuous guidelines as far as essential and nonessential — but we need to at least contain this there,” Justice said.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, W.Va. adjutant general

Adjutant General James Hoyer referenced increased National Guard presence in Monongalia and Kanawha counties — which both have significant numbers of positive cases — and said more support could be provided for Eastern Panhandle healthcare workers, including personal protective equipment and rapid testing for the workers themselves.

The governor and health leaders made reference to a batch of testing recently made available that indicated community spread in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Information posted at midday by the state Department of Health and Human Resources showed 37 confirmed coronavirus cases in Berkeley County and 12 in Jefferson.

Clay Marsh

But Justice and the state’s coronavirus czar, Clay Marsh, described 60 positive tests — some that were sent for processing a week ago by commercial labs and others run in the last 24 hours by labs at West Virginia University.

“So we know this has been exchanged in this community over a period of time,” Marsh said.

Questions posed to the Berkeley County Health Department didn’t provide immediate clarity.

“Thank you for your inquiry but right now it is still being investigated for the extent of an existing cluster,” wrote health department administrator Bill Kearns in an email.

File

Dr. Cathy Slemp

State Health Officer Cathy Slemp said the cases are not associated with any one town or facility.

“We don’t think it is one particular outbreak in terms of one facility or one entity,” Slemp said. “It was more community transmission.”

Justice, later in the press conference, indicated he is among those who would like to know as much as possible about the geography of the spread.

“I think it would be really helpful to those people in those counties if we could say ‘We had more cases, we had a lot of cases, you know, in Martinsburg or whatever may be,” he said, directing the comment at state health officials.

“But we’ve got cases all over the county — is that what we’re saying?”

Slemp agreed with that assessment, saying that data from testing shows “It is transmission within the community across a broad geographic area.”

But Justice twice mentioned Hobby Lobby, a national craft store, without elaborating on specifics.

Hobby Lobby generated controversy by keeping open stores across the country as social distancing guidelines were meant to keep people home. But the chain announced closure of all those stores on Friday.

“I think we had a Hobby Lobby deal and you know that was a potential problem there and just different things,” he said near the beginning of the press conference.

He later said, “From what I’ve been fed so far I was told some information about the Hobby Lobby, but y’all can elaborate please.”

Slemp again said the spread is not specific to any particular facility.

The Hobby Lobby store in Martinsburg was already listed as closed on Friday and no one answered calls there.

State Police Capt. Shallon Oglesby, in an email to MetroNews, described a trooper visiting and Hobby Lobby “and had a conversation with the management. After the conversation, the management agreed to close the store.”

Marsh promised to provide more information about the spread in the Eastern Panhandle as it becomes available.

He said the information about spread in the Eastern Panhandle was revealed to state leaders only about half an hour before today’s midday press briefing was scheduled to begin.

“This is really hot off the press,” he said. “We had a conversation at 11:30 versus the 12 p.m. briefing so as we find out more information or more specificity, as many people are interested, we would be happy to share that with people,” he said.

“It really is just an issue that we just found out about.”

He said the finding puts West Virginia in company with other concerned states.

“Right now,” he said, “this is the first part of us being in a position that much of the rest of the country has experienced.”

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State officials debunk several rumors in the state surrounding pandemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There are plenty of rumors floating around about what is happening around West Virginia during the COVID-19 outbreak and Gov. Jim Justice wants to set the record straight.

Justice squelched much of the gossip during his Friday press briefing, calling any false statements “silly” and “shameful.”

“If you don’t know something to be absolutely the truth and if you are questioning something, call someone to make sure. Let’s stop with the rumors because they hurt people,” Justice said.

During the briefing and later in a tweet, Justice stated the following about rumors:

– West Virginia State Police is not stopping traffic at our borders.

– West Virginia State Police is not pulling over vehicles just because they have out-of-state plates.

– West Virginia National Guard is not being used to enforce a lockdown.

– There is no curfew.

– There is no national quarantine.

West Virginia is currently under a stay-at-home order but does allow for essential travel and essential businesses to remain open.

Justice said to review the order carefully and continue to follow the Center for Disease Control guidelines through this health crisis.

“It is extremely important that you continue to follow the guidelines and stay at home as much as possible, but these lies are targeting the very people who are trying to help: our first responders, our National Guard, our health care workers,” Gov. Justice said.

State Adjutant General Jim Hoyer addressed a situation where he said flyers on cars and in the mail state that the Stafford Act is in effect.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, W.Va. adjutant general

“Talks about FEMA invoking the Stafford Act and mobilizing the National Guard nationwide, I want to let folks know that information is both false and inappropriate,” he said.

Hoyer said anyone with questions and concerns about what the National Guard is doing in West Virginia to look at the guard’s social media pages.

“We try to be upfront with all the citizens with all the work we are doing across West Virginia on this situation.”

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Scholarship status of returning WVU seniors remains to be decided

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — This week, the NCAA voted to allow seniors in spring sports to return for an extra season of competition next year. But it left the matter of whether their scholarships will be funded up to the discretion of the individual institutions themselves.

According to West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons, the decision has yet to be made on whether WVU’s returning seniors would receive their scholarships next year.

“We have not [decided], just getting that information Monday night,” Lyons said when he met with reporters via video conference on Wednesday. “I know some of my sport administrators have been in discussions with athletes that would be returning. In our case, that’s men’s golf, track, rowing and a few baseball players.

“It’s a matter of us sitting down with the student-athletes. There’s the initial emotion, ‘I want to play another year.’

“If they’re going to finish their degrees and graduate, is their hope to come back next year? We have to have those conversations now and figure out from that standpoint how we move forward… we’re really at the front end of this, and we’ll be making decisions of what that looks like in the coming weeks.”

If every senior comes back, Lyons estimates the total cost to WVU would be close to a half-million dollars.

“We’re probably looking at $450-500,000 in additional expense if all of those student-athletes returned,” Lyons said. “That’s something we’ll have to look at. Overall, the financial picture and how we’re going to operate is just a lot of unknowns at this point.”

Construction proceeding

All of the construction projects currently in progress at WVU remain on target for scheduled completion.

That includes the renovation at the Milan Puskar Center as well the replacement of the seats and installation of a new video board at WVU Coliseum.

“We’re hoping there’s no delays in materials we’re receiving,” Lyons said. “The work here on campus is moving forward. We hope to have those completed on the deadline dates.”

Lyons working towards Pitt renewal

December’s basketball game with Pitt is the last on the current four-year contract with the Panthers. Lyons said that Pitt AD Heather Lyke and Mountaineers basketball coach Bob Huggins are both receptive to continuing the series, but renewal talks are understandably on the backburner during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think she’s on the same page as me, and talking to Coach Huggins as well, we’d love to see that series continue,” Lyons said. “We’ll be in discussions with Pitt to continue that series.”

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