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West Virginia officials trying to be ‘as proactive as possible’ about novel coronavirus (WV MetroNews)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State officials provided an update this afternoon on coronavirus response, while precautions were taking place all over West Virginia.

“We don’t have any identified cases here, but we won’t be surprised when we find the first one,” said Cathy Slemp, the state health officer.

Meanwhile, all 55 county school superintendents in West Virginia will get an update on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, from state officials later this week.

Clayton Burch, state superintendent of schools, Bill Crouch, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Resources and Dr. Cathy Slemp, state health officer and commissioner for the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health were scheduled to address the superintendent group on Friday.

The focus was to be on ongoing preparations for any arrival of COVID-19 in the Mountain State.

“It’s just going to continue to reinforce the message and we also want to make sure that we are as proactive as possible,” Burch said.

“We want to treat any potential outbreak the way we would treat a power outage. We want to isolate it. We want to target the school, when possible, but, as far as now, the safest places for our children are in the schools.”

In Jefferson County, the Panhandle News Network reported public schools would dismiss two hours early this Friday, March 13, to complete Phase II of Jefferson County’s Pandemic Response Plan.

Teachers and staff in Jefferson County were going to use the time without students to prepare instructional packets to be used in cases of future dismissals for COVID-19. Facility cleaning work was also planned.

On Tuesday, West Virginia University announced plans to suspend classes on campus effective March 23, the Monday after next week’s previously-scheduled Spring Break.

Beginning on March 30, instruction for WVU was to move largely online for an undetermined period of time.

Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for health sciences at WVU, said the decision was the “right move to make.”

“What we’re really trying to do is we’re trying to reduce the spread on people that repatriate from Spring Break who might go elsewhere and become exposed,” Dr. Marsh said during an appearance on Wednesday morning’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

At that time, the state Department of Health and Human Resources was reporting no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia.

That was depicted in a map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Schools were not the only places making preparations.

On Tuesday morning in Huntington, about 100 people participated in an informational seminar on COVID-19 from the Cabell-Huntington Health Department and the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce at the St. Mary’s Highlawn Building.

“It was an exchange not only of information, but also a question-and-answer period,” said Bill Bissett, president and CEO of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“Right now, I really think the key is information and quality information. Make sure it comes from a medical professional or public health department.”

A similar event was held Tuesday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

Next week, a public informational event was planned at WVU Medicine’s Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg. It was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center Auditorium and was to be streamed on Facebook Live.

At Shepherd University, students were being advised to take textbooks, course materials, laptops, tablets and other critical items with them as they departed Shepherdstown this week for Spring Break.

Shepherd officials said it was possible campus classes would not resume, as scheduled, on March 23. Online instruction may be necessary “depending on the severity of the coronavirus,” information from Shepherd indicated.

In county public schools, “Many of our districts have not had Spring Break. Many of them are gearing up for Spring Break in the coming weeks,” said Burch.

Entry restrictions started this week at federal courthouses in the Northern District of West Virginia.

Prohibited from entry were the following:

– People who had been in China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran during the last 14 days; – People who live with or have had close contact with someone who had been in one of the listed countries within the last 14 days; – People asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital or health agency; – People diagnosed with or in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19; – People with fever, cough or shortness of breath.

Shauna Johnson, a Fairmont native, is an award-winning reporter who has been covering news in West Virginia for more than a decade.

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