CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state’s largest county and city have joined forces in an effort to prioritize health and safety of citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, Commissioner Ben Salango and Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin held a joint press conference in Charleston City Hall on Friday to discuss how they are preparing for cases being confirmed in West Virginia, supporting first responders and to ask federal officials for help.
“This is a marathon. We are in mile one but we have been training for this moment for years, decades here in Charleston and in the county,” Goodwin said.
“Our police, our firefighters, our first responders are the best of the best. We are ready and this is our wheelhouse.”
Carper said the county will do everything in its power to support those first responders and keep the public calm.
“The way to avoid fear is with the truth, transparency, and to let the public know that your first responders are going to be on top of this the best they possibility can,” he said.
There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in West Virginia as of Friday afternoon but Carper added the financial damage has more than already been done locally. He expects the pandemic to last for several weeks longer.
“If this stopped today (Friday), this will make the water crisis look like a small piece of what this will be. The ramifications of this are very serious financially,” Carper said.
A major financial hit in the county and city was taken when the girls and boys high school basketball state tournament was suspended on Thursday. The city then announced Thursday that any city run public event, including all events at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, of at least 250 people are postponed for the next 30 days.
The suspension of the tournaments were mentioned in a joint letter to U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Congressman Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.).
“We ask that you seek federal financial assistance for the City of Charleston and Kanawha County as a whole, which would include all of our local government agencies and municipalities across the board and quite frankly the entire state of West Virginia to help with this unforeseeable future,” it stated.
On Friday shortly after the press conference, U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, opening up $50 billion for states and calls on states to set up emergency centers. The Small Business Administration also opened up disaster relief lending for small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the coronavirus.
Goodwin said if there is any way possible, citizens should continue to support the local economy in Kanawha County.
“Don’t forget about your small businesses, don’t forget about the folks who are the backbone of the economy of this county and this city, those are our small businesses,” she said.
Kanawha County school kids will not head back to school next week after this week’s spring break. That is because they will be held out of school with all others in West Virginia in connection with the virus. Gov. Jim Justice announced closing all schools in the state “for the foreseeable future” at the end of the day on Friday.
The school system’s plan for food was released by officials, “Each of our eight high schools will serve as food prep sites for bagged lunches. Bagged lunches will be available at the high schools beginning at 10:30 a.m. each day and going until noon or 12:30. Buses will also transport bagged meals to each of the feeder elementary and middle schools. Bagged meals will be available at all feeder schools between 11 a.m. – noon.
“After Monday, we will be able to distribute a more precise schedule for elementary and middle schools. This program will begin on Monday, March 16.”
The USDA has approved a waiver for the West Virginia Office of Child Nutrition to prepare to feed meals to children all across the state during closure.
According to officials, both the city and county have been in discussions Chairwoman Charlotte Lane and the Public Service Commission is working to help those who may be affected by the pandemic.
West Virginia American Water announced on Friday that they put into place business continuity plans and placed a moratorium on water service shut offs.
The City and County encourage individuals to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control.