CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced West Virginia’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
In a televised statewide address aired by 13 News, Justice said that the case reported out of the eastern panhandle.
“We knew it was coming. We’ve prepared for this and we shouldn’t panic. We should be cautious and we should be concerned, but we should not panic,” Justice said. “We should go ahead and try to live our lives as best we can.”
According to information provided by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 137 West Virginia residents have been tested for COVID-19, with 122 results coming back negative and 14 tests pending.
In preparation for this confirmed case, Justice declared a state of emergency inWest Virginia Monday. That allows the state to side-step normal purchasing and hiring rules to get help as soon as possible from the federal government. Friday the Governor ordered the closing preK-12 schools, issued a state-employee travel ban on both national and international travel, encouraged nursing homes and senior care facilities to limit visitation and ordered the cancellation of the state’s high school basketball tournaments.
Until Tuesday night, Justice had declined to follow the actions of Governor Mike DeWine (R) of Ohio and Governor Mike Beshear (D) of Kentucky in ordering restrictions on restaurants and bars. In those states dine-in customers are prohibited and only drive-thru and/or carry-out sales are allowed. Tuesday, Justice reversed course and issued the same order. Many businesses and organizations had also taken steps to close, reduce hours or change how they interact with customers based on guidance from CDC recommendations or corporate decisions for national chain businesses.
Later in a prepared statement, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said “the safety and well-being of every West Virginian must remain our top priority and we all share the responsibility to prevent further spread of this virus and exercise responsible choices which include social distancing.”
“I support Governor Justice’s decision to close restaurants, bars, and casinos because we must do everything we can to slow this virus down, “Manchin said. “We must also support our small businesses and their employees during this difficult time while they make sacrifices for the health of our state and our nation. I hope that the announcement of the first case in West Virginia will encourage every individual to take this virus seriously and follow CDC guidelines to protect themselves and our communities.”
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said in a prepared statement, she is “thinking of the person impacted by this virus and wish them a speedy recovery.”
“I’ve been in touch with Governor Justice, the White House, health officials and others at the state and federal level consistently—particularly when it comes to raising concerns about our rural hospitals and the need for more testing kits in West Virginia,” Capito said. “This is an issue I remain on top of and will continue to monitor as the situation evolves. Recently, Congress passed an emergency supplemental funding package, which means our country is even more prepared to limit the spread of the coronavirus and treat those who have been diagnosed. This week, the Senate will pass a second package, which will provide resources for testing, health supplies, and nutrition assistance, as well as sick leave for workers during this crisis. The Senate is also working on yet another bill that we plan to pass this week that will aid our economy, help our small businesses, and provide assistance to workers and families impacted by this emergency. I will continue working at the federal level, along with Governor Justice and others in the state to make sure we are doing everything in our power to help West Virginians and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”
Earlier this month, Justice and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced an information hotline to address public and medical provider questions and concerns regarding the coronavirus. Anyone with questions can call 24/7, toll-free, at 1-800-887-4304.