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West Virginia business, institutions taking precautions against coronavirus, officials say (WV News)

3/17/2020

CLARKSBURG — In what almost seems like an overnight phenomenon, the coronavirus has spread from its origin point in China to countries around the globe, affecting the world’s citizens, institutions and businesses, including those in the Mountain State.

On a national level, President Donald Trump initiated a 30-day travel ban to and from Europe, with an exception being made for the United Kingdom, but that was recently changed to include the British Isles. The NBA has postponed its season due to the disease, and the NCAA’s “March Madness” has been called off completely.

Also, West Virginia University, Marshall University and several other higher learning institutions have made efforts to implement online instruction. On Friday, Gov. Jim Justice ordered schools in all 55 counties to be closed as a precaution.

West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts said employees across the state have been taking preemptive measures in hopes to combat the pandemic’s spread in the heart of Appalachia.

“I have been in touch with employers all day who are revising their plans and urging employees to take immediate steps to their own safety, safety of co-employees and customers, because it’s such a fast and quickly evolving situation. People are immediately evaluating what should be done,” he said.

Roberts said business are canceling travel plans and moving in-person meetings to video or conference calls.

“We are hearing from many employers that have plans to work remotely. We think that this is an immediate issue and one that is currently getting the highest level of attention. ... For us, there is no higher priority than the COVID-19 crisis, and the safety and wellbeing of our employees and customers are the foremost in our mind,” he said.

Roberts said he and others at the Chamber are aware of companies and agencies in Washington, D.C., and other places who have already made necessary implementations to help reduce the impact on productivity and keep people safe.

“We don’t think there is reason to panic, and we don’t think it will happen, but we want people to thoughtfully consider how they will manage over the next few weeks. We would want everyone to have health and safety for themselves (and others) as their No. 1 and highest priority,” he said.

Roberts said taking precautionary measures and observing both the right and wrong actions made from around the world are helping the state deal with the pandemic.

On Thursday during a press conference, Gov. Justice said he issued a “state and international travel ban for business” and encouraged residents not to leave the state.

In a press release, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he is refraining from holding any public events in the coming weeks.

“Public health experts have made it clear that we must take action to mitigate the spread of this virus from now until April 1, or else risk severe consequences like we are seeing in Italy and China,” Manchin said.

“We all share the responsibility to prevent the spread of this virus and exercise responsible choices, including social distancing, frequently washing your hands with soap and water, wiping down surfaces with products that contain at least 60 percent alcohol, avoiding crowded places, canceling nonessential domestic and international travel and staying home if you are feeling under the weather. I will continue to monitor the outbreak and provide as much information as possible to West Virginians as the situation develops,” Manchin said in a release.

For ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other information relating to the outbreak, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at cdc.gov.

Staff writer Steven Baublitz can be reached at (304)626-1404 or sbaublitz@theet.com.

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