CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice and key members of his administration and medical experts from across the state gathered Wednesday to coordinate precautionary measures and continue preparations and planning for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Following the meeting at the State Capitol, Gov. Justice announced that he has issued a State of Preparedness for West Virginia.
“Currently West Virginia has no cases of COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean we don’t take this very seriously because we most certainly are,” said Gov. Justice. “I want us to be fully prepared and take every precaution we need to keep West Virginians safe. That is the highest of priorities.
Last week, Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, criticized Governor Justice for not including line item funding or an emergency appropriation in budget plans to prepare the state financially to fight the coronavirus. Sponaugle’s comments came as the Finance Committee of the WV House of Delegates took up the 2021 Fiscal Year Budget Bill.
Sponaugle said the virus, which causes an illness officially known as COVID-19, has been in the news since early January, when it emerged in Hubei Province, China.
“The stock markets are plummeting, the World Health Organization is giving daily briefings about the potential pandemic, and across the world, governments are closing schools and postponing large gatherings. What is West Virginia doing? Nothing. No planning. No preparation. No immediate funding. … Now is the time to put that money to work for emergency planning on the coronavirus and its effect on West Virginians.”
Gov. Justice said that in addition to the State of Preparedness, a website with up-to-date information, www.coronavirus.wv.gov, is available for the public to monitor.
“We are actively engaged on this and have been for more than a month now,” Gov. Justice added. “And we will continue to keep the public informed in the days ahead.”
“The one really big thing that I would like to remind everyone to do is this, good hygiene is a key to limiting the spread of any virus and/or disease and this is no different,” Gov. Justice added. “Good handwashing is really critical.”
Other key state agencies also issued statements on the virus.
WVDHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said, “DHHR is closely monitoring this outbreak and maintaining communication and outreach with federal, state and local public health partners.”
Crouch said local health departments are equipped with guidance to safely monitor the health of any residents returning to West Virginia from China and elsewhere around the world experiencing outbreaks. … We are also holding weekly calls with local health departments and emergency managers.”
DHHR has established a website to keep the public updated: www.coronavirus.wv.gov.”
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch said, this agency is working to “… ensure the school community is preparing for a potential Covid-19 outbreak. To date, the WVDE is in ongoing contact with all 55 counties and the School for the Deaf and the Blind. Districts are encouraged to review their plans for infectious disease outbreaks and their emergency communication plans. Additionally, administrators are reminded to be diligent in cleaning surfaces throughout their facilities and to remind families to keep sick children home.”
Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, interim chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission and chancellor of the Community and Technical College System said, she would be talking with presidents at West Virginia’s public and private two- and four-year higher education institutions to share available resources and guidance for the state’s campus communities.
“As always, the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff is paramount,” Tucker said.
Major General James Hoyer said the National Guard is also preparing to assist, if needed.
“The West Virginia National Guard is prepared to assist our partner agencies across the state in all aspects of response through our highly trained personnel and units who specialize in medical isolation and decontamination and who can help expedite supply deliveries to medical facilities and communities throughout the state,” Hoyer said.