CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has issued a stay-at-home order for West Virginians beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Justice announced the new measure during a Monday afternoon press conference, along with the closure of all non-essential businesses in the state. The executive order comes as the amount of confirmed positive cases in the state continues to rise.
As of Monday evening, 20 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the state, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources. The cases included a patient at Sundale Rehabilitation and Long-Term Care in Morgantown, The Register-Herald of Beckley reported, and health officials were investigating whether she contracted the disease within the facility, from a visitor or healthcare worker, or during a visit elsewhere. The woman was the state’s first confirmed case of community transmission, Justice said.
The press conference had originally been scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday. Before it was postponed, Justice said, he'd been intending to close non-essential businesses. After consulting with state health officials, he said, he realized the situation had become "even more serious," prompting him to decide to issue the stay-at-home order.
It's “not that we’re closing state borders or closing any bridges or roads,” Justice said, encouraging residents to stay home for anything less than essential trips out.
“We have been transparent beyond belief," Justice said. "… We have absolutely done and pushed the right buttons at the right time, but it’s still not enough. This disease is really serious stuff.”
Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia University vice president and executive dean for Health Sciences, said two particular factors have been monitored all along: The rate of positive tests relative to the total number of tests administered, and the presence of community transmission. Those factors, he said, would alert health officials of a potential impending “tsunami wave” of rising rates of infection and hospitalization.
Thus, Marsh said, Monday's announcement was “really an important moment in this pandemic we’re seeing today.” He also urged residents to continue observing social distancing measures, calling them especially important for preventing the spread of the disease at such a critical juncture for the state.
In his remarks, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch commended the state's health care workers as "heroes," and called Justice's order "the right move at the right time."
Follow staff writer Lindsay Renner-Wood on Twitter @LindsayRenWood