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State response to coronavirus continues with DHHR hotline and Department of Education website

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There remain no confirmed novel coronavirus cases in West Virginia despite several in surrounding states.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources said Monday that five cases have been tested, two came have come back negative and three others are pending. Those samples were sent to the Centers for Disease Control. The state Bureau of Public Health received certification Saturday to begin testing in its lab here.

Gov. Jim Justice and the DHHR announced the creation of an information hotline Monday. Residents can get answers to questions about the coronavirus (COVID-19) at 1-800-887-4304.

As of Monday morning, there were at least four confirmed cases in Kentucky, five in Maryland, six in Pennsylvania and two in Virginia. Three were confirmed in Ohio Monday afternoon.

“This hotline is yet another example of the proactive measures we’re taking to help our fellow West Virginians stay as safe as possible,” Justice said in a Monday morning news release. “With this great tool, we’re going to be able to provide more people the knowledge they need to make informed decisions to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy, while helping minimize the potential for any community spread.”

Clayton Burch

The state Department of Education has established a web-page to get information out to school communities. State School Superintendent Clayton Burch said the goal of the page is to provide information that families can use.

“I think consistent and ongoing communication is key to make sure that we don’t have any panic or misinformation,” Burch told MetroNews Monday.

WVU Medicine infectious disease expert Dr. Matt Simmons also said this is not the time to panic.

“Panic is absolutely the wrong thing to do,” Simmons said Monday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “At this point I think you should continue to trust your health care providers, you should wash your hands well, taken your vitamins, take your medicines, avoid sick people and stay home if your sick.”

Simmons said the average West Virginian and average residents across the U.S. remain a low risk to get coronavirus.

“The CDC recommends that you’re considered high risk if you’re closer than six feet (to someone with coronavirus) for 10 minutes,” Simmons said.

Burch said the message to county schools systems is a similar message when the flu rolls through schools.

“Schools already have processes in place to treat surfaces, cleanse and sanitize their buildings,” he said.

Matt Simmons

Burch also said it’s a good time to be smart with students and parents.

“Let’s be very clear; let’s continue to wash our hands on a regular basis and model good hygiene.”

Burch said county school systems and schools are to have a plan if there are at some point confirmed cases of the virus.

There are some big events over the next few weeks involving schools including the girl’s and boy’s state high school basketball tournaments. Burch said the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission Executive Director Bernie Dolan and his staff are part of the state’s communication chain. He said there are no plans cancel any events.

Simmons agreed that normal every day life events should continue.

“We’re not suggesting restriction of local movement–not going to local basketball games or the grocery store,” Simmons said. “The best thing the average person can do is wash their hands more frequently and at least for 20 seconds.”

Announcements concerning hand washing and other precautions will be announced at the upcoming basketball tournaments in Charleston, Burch said.

“We want folks to be smart and be healthy,” he said.

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