Developments in the coronavirus pandemic are happening rapidly.  Another significant turn came yesterday in West Virginia when WVU Medicine Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences, Dr. Clay Marsh, revealed on Talkline that the state had its first case of COVID-19 as a result of community spread—a woman at a nursing home in Morgantown.

Each of the previous confirmed cases could be connected to the source, typically through travel outside the state.  However, according to the CDC, “Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

That means it is much more difficult to track and isolate the source. State health officials and the National Guard responded quickly by rushing to Sundale Nursing Home and testing residents and employees.

Dr. Marsh said the first case of community spread was a “threshold breaker” because it confirms that the virus is within the state.

That caused Governor Jim Justice to take the next step to try to tamp down the circulation of the virus as much as possible.  Justice issued an executive order for people to stay at home and for all non-essential services to shut down by 8 o’clock tonight.

That means services and businesses deemed “essential” can continue to operate. That’s a very long list, and you can read it on our website.

But generally speaking, any business that is critical to the health and well-being of individuals will stay open—grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, gas stations, child care centers, nursing homes, manufacturing and distribution of critical products, coal mining, funeral homes and, yes, media companies. Everyone else is expected to close.

These measures will create additional inconvenience and hardship, and it is unclear how long they will be in place.  However, they are wise and prudent steps.  Unfortunately, we have plenty of examples, around the world and here in the United States, of what happens when officials are slow to react.

So far, West Virginia’s government and health officials have been proactive in trying to stay ahead of the virus. They have seen examples from other parts of the country where social distancing, staying at home and shutting down non-essential services have helped “flatten the curve” and are implementing those strategies here.

These are tough decisions that come at a considerable cost, but they are necessary given the alternative.



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