Governor Jim Justice said he self-quarantined after learning he was exposed to the first confirmed COVID-19 patient in West Virginia. He was tested and the result came back negative shortly before he made the announcement during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
The governor also added barbers, nail salons and hair dressers to the list of businesses closed during the health emergency.
Justice said he had experienced cold-like symptoms, and like a lot of people, “I probably didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to that.”
That changed was he saw a photo of himself meeting with the man who would later become the first confirmed case in the state.
“I was told yesterday or the day before that our first positive in West Virginia was a person in the eastern panhandle,” Justice said.
Then, a photo surfaced of Justice meeting with that individual on February 15.
“The picture showed me with the gentleman who was the first positive, and his wife,” Justice said. “It was at an event where I was giving away grants to our minority communities in Martinsburg.”
Thursday morning, Justice said he was pulled aside and told he needed to be tested for COVID-19 due to the potential exposure.
“Today when I came in to the office to go to several different meetings, I was abruptly welcome by one of our people who was going to do a coronavirus test on me,” Justice said. “So I self-quarantined myself over at the mansion.”
Shortly before the press briefing was set to begin at 4 p.m. Thursday, the governor said he learned the test was negative.
Justice said the closure of barbershops, nail salons and hairdressers would be effective at 11:59 p.m. Thursday. He also announced that the state had purchased 100,000 N95 surgical masks from a private business in West Virginia for $570,000.
The governor said he would not close funeral homes, but advised residents to exercise caution.
“When a loved one passes, we all absolutely have to bring some level of closure to that and some level of mourning,” Justice said. “Some families are deciding to go to just the immediate family…. This is not my decision to be making. But I would tell you all just this: As you are going to pay your last respects, a funeral home setting would seem like it is just ripe to cause us all more harm. So be careful and keep your distance.”
Justice also said he had removed roadblocks from getting unemployment benefits flowing quickly to people who lose their jobs due to the health crisis.