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Coronavirus News And Resources
Coronavirus and COVID-19 News & Resources

6 West Virginia Counties Expanding Guidelines To Fight COVID-19 Outbreak Per State Order

Dave Mistich
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
The entrance to a Giant Eagle grocery store in Morgantown, West Virginia. Six counties in the state are under an expanded executive order from Gov. Jim Justice to fight an outbreak of the coronavirus.

For the latest on guidelines and restrictions enacted by your county’s officials, please contact your health department. You can find a list of those contacts here. 

Six West Virginia counties under an expanded order from Gov. Jim Justice are quickly enacting new policies aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Under the direction of local health departments, those counties have outlined changes to the amount of people businesses can allow in some stores, placed restrictions on the sales of alcohol products and enacted other guidelines to ensure the well-being of the public. 

As of Sunday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is reporting three deaths related to COVID-19 and 324 cases of the virus across the state. With some counties showing growing numbers of cases — as well as reporting large crowds at retailers — Justice offered those areas additional state resources. 

In the Eastern Panhandle, Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties were placed under an expanded executive order Friday following a regional outbreak of COVID-19 cases. By Saturday, Justice added three more counties to the directive — Kanawha, Harrison and Monongalia. 

The governor’s expanded executive order limits group gatherings to five people, directs all businesses to require employees to work from home as much as possible and calls on local health departments to establish a maximum occupancy and proper social distance for all essential businesses.

Both the West Virginia National Guard and the West Virginia State Police have been directed to assist counties under the new order.

Local officials have quickly responded to the governor’s order by stricter guidelines for businesses in their respective areas. 

Health departments are limiting the number of customers at grocery stores and other businesses at any given time, as well as offering other guidelines to ensure the well being of employees and customers. All counties under the order are urging residents to stay home unless absolutely necessary. 

Berkeley County announced Saturday it would limit grocery stores to allow 2 shoppers per 1,000 square feet and 2.5 customers per 1,000 square feet for other businesses deemed essential. County officials have also directed hotels, motels, Airbnb’s to require a minimum stay of 14 days. Health care workers would be allowed to stay upon request. 

Dr. Terrance Riedy, health officer for the Berkeley-Morgan Health Department and the Jefferson County Health Department, said counties Eastern Panhandle have been working together keep policies as consistent as possible. 

“The three counties are trying to have similar protocols so there's less confusion,” Reidy said. “The purpose is the same in each of the counties. We're trying to get people to not be mingling and spreading the virus. If you have a store that's overcrowded and you shut that down and people just go to a similar store across the county line, you haven't achieved what you've wanted — and you made it worse for another count

Some counties, such as Monongalia, had updated their guidelines before the governor’s expanded order. The north central West Virginia county announced Saturday it was restricting the sale of liquor to in-state residents only. Officials there have not announced additional directives since the governor’s updated order allowed them to do so. 

In the Northern Panhandle, Hancock County — which has not been placed under the expanded order — announced Sunday a similar policy related to alcohol sales. 

On Sunday, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department enacted many of the same policies as Berkeley County. 

Kanawha County officials are calling on residents to heed stay at home orders, except to acquire essential items like groceries and prescriptions. They are also directing stores to limit occupancy in stores to 2 persons per 1,000 square feet — and for stores to prominently display such occupancy limits. Officials there are also directing businesses to send employee home from work if they have a cough, fever or other symptoms related to COVID-19.

Businesses in Kanawha County using non-invasive thermometers to measure the temperatures of employees and customers should not permit entry to those with a fever greater than 100 degree Fahrenheit.

“We are grateful to Gov. Justice for the ability to enact new restrictions for businesses and individuals that will help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Kanawha County,” Dr. Sherri Young, KCHD health officer and executive director, said in a news release. “We encourage people and business owners to follow this new guidance and reach out to the health department at 304-348-1088 if they have questions.”

Officials in some counties had not yet released updated policies and guidance as of Sunday evening. Chad Bundy, executive director of the Harrison County Health Department said he had met with other officials Sunday and that they were in the planning phases of rolling out updates. He said he expected some developments to be announced Monday by noon. 

Gov. Justice has announced a Monday virtual news conference at 1 p.m. to update news media and the public on the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

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