CHARLES TOWN — Gov. Jim Justice issued a “stay at home” order directing all state residents, that started Tuesday evening, to restrict their activities outside their homes to “essential” functions to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
“We’ve absolutely done and pushed the right buttons at the right time, but it’s still not enough,” Justice said during a news conference Monday. “Things continue to change. Everyone needs to be very, very, very concerned.”
He called a coronavirus infection in a Morgantown nursing home “tremendously concerning.” The infection was the state’s first case of “community spread,” meaning an infection transmitted from within the state, given to a state resident by another state resident.
Justice called in the National Guard members to help establish a staff quarantine at the Sundale Nursing Home and investigate how the virus infected the resident there.
“I have had more consultation back and forth with our health officials and [the outbreak] has become even more serious,” the governor said.
He and his health advisors have so far decided to avoid taking “the biggest step forward and shut the entire state down,” he said.
“Do better,” he added, urging citizens to practice social distancing more diligently to reduce the spread of the virus. “Because in some ways we’re winning the battle, but in some ways we’re losing the battle.”
As of Monday, health officials confirmed four new coronavirus infections, bringing the total cases in the state to 20, including three in Jefferson County. By Monday evening, 630 residents had been tested for the virus infection. No deaths had been reported.
Jefferson County Health Department Director Marty Freeman said the state officials had about 400 coronavirus “test kits” that allow labs to determine whether a person has been infected. However, she noted that private labs are also screening patients at five WVU Medicine drive-up screening sites, including Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg. She did not know the testing capacity of those screening sites and private labs.
Issued Monday, Justice’s executive order allows “essential” businesses or services can remain open. Those are defined to include health care providers and pharmacies, grocery and convenience food stores, banks and gas stations, and government services such as police, fire stations and trash collections, among various other services.
Take-out and delivery food service can continue under the governor’s order.
“You can leave your home to perform or receive essential services,” Justice said. “You can go to work if you provide these services or support them.”
Otherwise, the order requires all other “non-essential” businesses to close to the public until further notice. Those include bars, dine-in restaurants, casinos, barbershops and beauty salons, gyms and fitness centers.
Working from home should take place “wherever possible” under the governor’s directive. Public transportation and ridesharing should be limited for essential travel only.
Exercising outdoors, including walking pets, is allowed as long as people keep a safe distance at least six feet apart.
Church services can continue, but social visits inside homes should end as should hospital and nursing home visits. However, visiting family and friends to care for relatives, the elderly, people with disabilities and other “vulnerable persons” would be allowed.
Justice said law enforcement officials would not stop residents on their way to or from work at essential businesses or jobs. The West Virginia National Guard would not be used to enforce the order, he said.
“A stay-home order is not marshal law,” Justice added, hinting at potentially more restrictive measures ahead. “It’s going to be that somebody’s going to come and lock you in your home. It’s not that we’re shutting down the state borders.”
Nevertheless, Justice urged citizens to take his more restrictive precautions seriously. “This disease is really serious stuff,” he said. “Please stay home. Please listen to our orders.”