Governor addresses surge in COVID-19 cases in Eastern Panhandle

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported that 36 new cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the Mountain State on Thursday, including many in the Eastern Panhandle.

Berkeley County has reported more than 250 cases of the virus since the pandemic began in March, the most of any county in the state. Locally, all six cases in Upshur County have recovered, and most central West Virginia counties have stabilized in terms of new cases.

Gov. Jim Justice acknowledged the surge over the past two days, saying the National Guard would be dispatched to the Eastern Panhandle today and restrictions that have been lifted in recent days could be reinstated as soon as Friday.

However, Justice said in his daily briefing that going forward, most guidelines and orders will be issued on a county-by-county basis, not statewide.

“Tomorrow we may have to pull the reigns back, we may have to go to mandatory masks,” Justice said. “We’ll do whatever we have to do… This will be more of a county-by-county situation than it will be a statewide thing.”

Justice raised the issue of masks several times during the briefing, imploring residents to wear face coverings in public — not because they are required to do so but out of their sense of “honor as West Virginians.”

“You have got to wear a mask when you go out and are in a public building,” the governor said. “The level of inconvenience from the mask is miniscule – miniscule – compared to the benefit.”

He said new studies coming to his desk almost daily show how facial coverings can significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 when worn by a large percentage of people.

“If that’s all we have to do, it doesn’t seem like a big ask,” Justice said. “It may be we have to make it mandatory.”

The governor also announced a new round of statewide reopenings, saying bowling alleys, pools and skating rinks can resume operations on May 30. Movie theaters will have to wait another week, according to Justice, and can reopen June 5.

In addition to the new cases, the DHHR announced two new deaths attributed to the virus: a 73-year old female from Jackson County and an 85-year old female from Kanawha County.

“The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reports as of 5 p.m. on May 21, 2020, there have been 84,319 laboratory results received for COVID-19, with 1,603 positive, 82,716 negative and 71 deaths,” according to a press release.

About 533 West Virginia cases remain active, according DHHR data. Of the cases that are no longer active, 983 people have recovered and 71 have died, a mortality rate of about 6.7 percent.

New cases were reported Thursday in Berkeley, Cabell, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Jefferson, Marshall, Mineral, Monongalia, Ohio, Pocahontas and Putnam counties.

CONFIRMED CASES PER COUNTY: Barbour (7), Berkeley (251), Boone (9), Braxton (2), Brooke (3), Cabell (56), Calhoun (2), Clay (2), Fayette (39), Gilmer (9), Grant (6), Greenbrier (9), Hampshire (13), Hancock (13), Hardy (34), Harrison (37), Jackson (135), Jefferson (132), Kanawha (203), Lewis (5), Lincoln (5), Logan (15), Marion (48), Marshall (27), Mason (15), McDowell (6), Mercer (13), Mineral (35), Mingo (3), Monongalia (119), Monroe (6), Morgan (17), Nicholas (9), Ohio (38), Pendleton (5), Pleasants (2), Pocahontas (15), Preston (15), Putnam (31), Raleigh (14), Randolph (9), Ritchie (1), Roane (8), Summers (1), Taylor (8), Tucker (4), Tyler (3), Upshur (6), Wayne (96), Wetzel (7), Wirt (4), Wood (48), Wyoming (3).

Want to keep up-to-date with the latest local information about COVID-19? Bookmark our COVID-19 HQ page, which has the latest local news, numbers and morelike the charts below.

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