West Virginia governor Jim Justice stopped short of ordering a complete shutdown of the state during an address Saturday night even as the number of confirmed cases continued to increase.
“We are not going to shut down the entire state – now,” Justice said in the statewide address.
However, he warned that if West Virginia residents don’t voluntarily limit their exposure to others, that step could be coming.
“This is the event, the event of all of our lifetimes,” Justice said.
The W.Va. Department of Health and Human Resources reported four new cases Saturday, two in Marshall County, one in Kanawha County one in Mercer County. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 12. Statewide, less than 400 people have been tested so far, according to the DHHR website.
One of the confirmed cases is an employee of the judicial branch who is hospitalized in Kanawha County, the Supreme Court announced early Saturday evening.
“The court is working closely with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to directly contact all co-workers who may have been in contact with the individual,” according to a press release. “The coworkers are being notified of all recommended health and safety protocols.”
Worldwide, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 300,000 with almost 13,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
The coronavirus continued to ravage Italy, which reported another 793 deaths Saturday. The death toll in that country totaled 4,825 with 53,578 confirmed cases. In nearby Spain, the number of cases jumped by 25 percent in one day, with 300 new deaths bringing the total to 1,326.
In West Virginia, cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marshall, Mercer, Monongalia and Tucker counties. Hundreds of tests are pending.
The governor has shut down schools, dine-in restaurants, bars, barbershops, gyms, state park lodges and more to stem the spread of the virus, adding new closures almost daily.
Local governments have also taken measures to shut down non-essential services. The City of Buckhannon has closed City Hall, suspended municipal court and banned gatherings of 10 or more people. The Upshur County Commission, meanwhile, declared a countywide state of emergency, which grants the commission president the power to activate the Emergency Operations Center and take other actions during the pandemic.
West Virginia, like most states, is facing a lack of test kits and shortage of medical supplies, including masks for doctors and nurses. With the government failing to supply the necessary equipment, the Charleston Area Medical Center on Friday put out a call for volunteers to help sew masks to protect the healthcare workers who are on the front lines fighting the virus.