Justice says he’s watching Monongalia County “really close”

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice did not rule out the possibility Monday that some special guidelines might be in order for Monongalia County which has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent days.

Gov. Jim Justice

“We’re watching Mon County, we’re watching really close,” Justice said during his coronavirus media briefing at the state capitol. “We’re really, really concerned about all of these kids (WVU students) coming back and the situation could explode.”

The Monongalia County Health Department reported earlier Monday that cases have increased by 61.7 percent since July 1. The county listed 112 active cases.

“Monongalia County has seen a dramatic spike in COVID-19,” Monongalia County Health Department Executive Director and County Health Officer Dr. Lee Smith said. “These cases are from restaurants and bar staff, as well as gyms and fitness centers, vacations, barbecues and travel-related exposures.”

Clay Marsh

State Coronavirus Czar, Dr. Clay Marsh of WVU Health Sciences, said Monday there’s ongoing communication with the local health department.

“We are working closely both at the state level and the university level with Dr. Smith and with the team at DHHR and at the local health department,” Marsh said.

Marsh said it’s possible there will be different guidelines for different parts of the state, something Justice did early on in the pandemic when counties were designated as hot spots.

“As we go then those decisions will certainly be with the governor and the governor’s office but we are constantly developing strategies,” Marsh said.

The health department reported that it’s struggling to contact trace all the new cases and will begin working seven days a week.

Fall semester classes at West Virginia University are scheduled to begin Aug. 24. The university has already mandated masks to be work on campus. WVU President Gordon Gee tweeted support for Gov. Justice’s statewide mandate Monday afternoon.

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