CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia has one test kit on hand that could be used to test hundreds of people if necessary for signs of the coronavirus, according to state Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch.
Crouch said during a Tuesday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline,” airing live from the state capitol, there are 75,000 kits available nationwide with more to come.
“That’s a large number when you consider each one of those kits can test about 700 or 800 individuals,” Crouch said. “The expectation is that within a couple of weeks that states will be able to test themselves for suspected cases and we’re gearing up for that. The availability of test kits is important.”
Crouch and Gov. Jim Justice were part of a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence Monday. Pence is heading up the U.S. response to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
There remain no confirmed cases in West Virginia but Crouch said the state will be ready when there is one.
“We are low-risk. But if it happens–it’s a virus and it’s something we’ve dealt with before, in 2009 with H1N1 but it’s still a virus,” Crouch said.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) March 3, 2020
Gov. Jim Justice has called for a roundtable discussion to be held Wednesday with the leaders of the WVU and Marshall schools of medicine.
“It’s communication and sharing of information to get feedback from these folks,” Crouch said. “The governor wants to know how the medical schools view this, their role in this. Everyone has a role in this.”
The state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety along with the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Services will also take part in the discussion.
Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold has assembled a response team. The representatives met in Beckley Tuesday. Rappold said they don’t want to be caught off-guard and they want the people of southern West Virginia to know they aren’t operating in a vacuum.
“We brought the best health care professionals in Beckley together to discuss it,” he said. “We hopefully will come up with some solutions on communication and awareness.”
Dr. Zonaira Gul, a geriatrician who works at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital, said coronavirus has overlapping symptoms with other viruses.
“That’s why your suspicion of infection has to be higher,” Gul said. “So if someone traveling from Seattle or Iran our suspicion would be higher.”
The state has established an information portal at coronavirus.wv.gov.
Crouch said the message for West Virginians is that when and if the first case of coronavirus shows up here the state will be ready.
“This is a virus and we’ve dealt with viruses in the past many, many times and we’re learning more every day about this particular virus,” Crouch said.
WJLS Radio Report Rodney Wheeler contributed to this story.