CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice announced a stay-home order as the latest precaution meant to slow the spread of coronavirus after a case was confirmed at a West Virginia nursing home.
“If we have a case in our nursing homes then it is really something we need to act on,” Justice said.
Justice’s order came after surrounding states such as Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio and Maryland had announced similar orders.
But the tipping point, Justice and other state leaders said, was the identification of a case at the Sundale Nursing Home in Morgantown. That was West Virginia’s first case of “community spread,” which meant the patient hadn’t traveled out of state and instead contracted the virus close to home.
“We’re going to continue to say the biggest prayers we can possibly say,” Justice said to conclude a long press conference today. “But more than that we’re going to do our job.”
The stay-home order starts at 8 p.m. Tuesday and extends to all but “essential” businesses. The Governor’s Office released the 15-page order during the press conference.
“If your business is non-essential then you’ll be temporarily closed,” saying people would be free to leave home for food, medicine and essential medical care.
Justice said he does not yet know when the order would end.
Asked how the average person should behave during the stay-home order, Justice said it doesn’t mean a life of complete isolation. But, he said, it does mean staying home and keeping distance from other people:
“The reality is, we’ve got to find a way for all of us to survive. We all believe this is going to pass. I would encourage everyone if you want to go outside and go for a walk, if you want to say hi to a neighbor say hi but keep your distance,” the governor said.
State Health Officer Cathy Slemp added her own description of life under a stay-home order.
“If you need to go to the grocery store, go to the grocery store. You go when it’s not crowded. If you need to go to the pharmacy, go through the drive through. You do takeout at the restaurant,” Slemp said.
Essential services include going to the grocery store or gas station; picking up a prescription or receiving medical care; and getting outdoor exercise for yourself, your children and your pets,” the FAQ says. “They also include working jobs to provide essential services.”
West Virginia health leaders who gathered with the governor described the order as necessary and timely.
“This is the right move at the right time,” said Bill Crouch, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources.
Clay Marsh of WVU Health added, “This is the move, being very aggressive, that can keep that rate of spread down.”
Marsh said it’s becoming increasingly clear that the virus is spread less by being right next to someone coughing and more by picking up the virus from a surface and then touching your own mouth or nose.
“Why do we do this, and what’s the goal?” Marsh said. “The main way this virus spreads is through people picking it up on their hands and passing it to their face.”
Local leaders such as Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin and Kanawha County Commissioners Kent Carper, Hoppy Shores and Ben Salango had sent a letter to Justice asking that he issue the stay-home order. Salango is running in the Democratic primary for governor.
On Monday, they offered praise for the decision.
“We applaud the Governor for taking this necessary step urging citizens to stay at home and requiring non-essential businesses to cease operations,” they stated.
“We are facing a unique and constantly-changing challenge and we must continue to evaluate the circumstances and adjust quickly to stay ahead of the curve.”