Justice Tells West Virginians To ‘Keep Up What We're Doing,’ Announces New Orders To Combat COVID-19
Gov. Jim Justice announced Tuesday additional executive orders to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The governor and other state officials continue to urge residents to stay at home as the projected onslaught of the virus remains weeks away.
In a virtual news conference Tuesday, March 31, Justice announced an executive order that suspends elective medical procedures across the state. That order goes into effect Tuesday at 11:59 p.m, but some hospitals had already voluntarily put such policies in place.
Justice also ordered closed all private campgrounds for newly arriving travelers. He said those who are already camped are allowed to remain.
“We’re doing it, again, in an effort to try to protect us as West Virginians from someone coming in from another state — and basically contaminating or infecting thousands,” Justice said. “That's all there is to it.”
An executive order closing al campgrounds at state parks — and another that calls on travelers from areas substantially impacted by COVID-19 to self-quarantine for 14 days — were announced Monday. Justice said Tuesday he wants all out-of-state residents — excluding those commuting to West Virginia for essential purposes — to not cross the state’s borders.
“We're just trying as hard as we possibly can to not have someone from an outside state, bring an infection here,” Justice said. “Maybe they don't even know it. And before you know it, they infect all kinds of people — and it's as simple as that.”
State coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh says the self quarantine order is in line with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There is currently — internal to the United States — [a] ban on travel and guidance to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and there are clear guidelines that people that come out of those areas should self-quarantine for 14 days,” Marsh said.
Marsh and other advisors to the governor say mitigation practices such as staying at home are paying dividends. They say the state is testing positive at a rate of four percent, which is lower than the national rate of about eight to 10 percent.
Asked by West Virginia Public Broadcasting whether a lack of testing in West Virginia is affecting those numbers, Marsh said state officials have been focused on testing those with the highest risk of contracting COVID-19, those who have traveled to places with higher rates of infection and other criteria.
“We, in many ways, I believe, are biasing our results toward actually having more people that are found positive than some other states,” Marsh said.
With that, state officials remain optimistic for the state’s trajectory in handling the virus. As of Tuesday, state officials had announced 162 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 28 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. One death in the state has been attributed to the virus.
“We're trending and doing all the right things at this time. We need you. We need you so bad to keep up. Keep up what we're doing, stay the course,” Justice said. “This will pass and then we'll all feel wonderful about it. We've already lost one too many lives. Period. We've lost one person — and that's one too many.”
However, most modeling — including that from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — show West Virginia has yet to see the most significant impacts of the virus. As of Tuesday, the peak of the virus was projected to hit the state on May 1.
With West Virginia’s primary election scheduled for May 12,, Justice said he was meeting later Tuesday with Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Secretary of State Mac Warner to discuss plans.
“There's so many things that we've got to consider and moving in election is really serious, serious thing and I don't take that lightly,” Justice said.