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Latest West Virginia closures include gyms, health clubs and recreational facilities (WV MetroNews)

3/18/2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice is now moving to two weeks of gym, health clubs and recreational facilities closing.

The governor said to all employers, “Try in every way you can to let your people go home. Home is the key here.”

West Virginia’s coronavirus precautions have come fast in the past week.

One week ago, West Virginia University announced suspension of in-person classes. A day later, Justice shut down the state high school basketball tournaments. On Friday, he sent home K-12 students for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday, during a statewide address, Justice revealed West Virginia has its first confirmed case of coronavirus and said he would shut down restaurants, bars and casinos. He noted that takeout and delivery remain acceptable.

Today, when Justice spoke at a press conference at the Governor’s Office, those who entered the Capitol were greeted by signs saying the building is now closed to all but those with state business.

Justice said state agencies should do everything they can to let employees work from home, leaving latitude to accomplish essential functions.

“Anybody who can do their work from home, I’m telling them to absolutely do their work from home,” Justice said.

What Justice has been promoting is the concept of “social distancing,” which means trying to stay apart to slow the spread of the virus.

He has emphasized washing hands and staying at least six feet away from all but the closest family members — and most of all, staying home.

Our power is the ability to be separated,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got to use that.”

Clay Marsh, executive dean of WVU Health, also advocated for social distancing.

The virus relies on our connectivity to each other to spread person to person but also relies on the fact that we’ll get things on our hands and introduce it to our face or mouth,” he said.

But that has also had an economic cost.

Steve Roberts, executive director of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said businesses are preparing as if “the pain is going to be great, and it’s going to be protracted.”

Justice acknowledged that has already started.

The governor said there were 1,200 unemployment claims yesterday, compared to 5,300 for all of February.

“This is a very, very, very serious moment,” he said.

Justice started the press conference by saying he would have to leave early to call President Donald Trump, who in a press conference the prior day seemed to indicate West Virginia’s situation is so solid that it might not need the kind of supply influx needed by other states.

So he concluded his part by leaving the rest of the press conference to others and said, “I’m going to try in every way, shape, form or fashion to talk to our president” before walking out a side door.

An hour or so later, the governor’s Twitter account indicated that call had been worthwhile.

Brad McElhinny is the statewide correspondent for MetroNews. Brad is a Parkersburg native who spent more than 20 years at the Charleston Daily Mail.Contact him at brad.mcelhinny@wvmetronews.com or on Twitter @BradMcElhinny

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