WVa gov's encouragement short-lived on confirmed virus cases

FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2020, file photo, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice delivers his annual State of the State address in the House Chambers at the state capitol in Charleston, W.Va. The former West Virginia public health leader forced out by the governor says decades-old computer systems and cuts to staff over a period of years had made a challenging job even harder during a once-in-a-century pandemic. Republican Gov. Jim Justice demanded Dr. Cathy Slemp’s resignation on June 24.

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday said it’s likely he will extend a shutdown of bars in the state’s largest college town if coronavirus cases continue to spike.

The governor this week ordered a 10-day closure of bars in Monongalia County, which includes the West Virginia University campus, after the county emerged as the biggest virus hotspot in the state.

“The odds are we’re going to have to extend it, especially if our numbers continue to climb like they are,” he told reporters, adding that infections in Monongalia County now account for a third of the state’s total active cases, with young people overwhelmingly driving the increases.

Justice, a Republican, has also reinstated a 25-person limit on crowd sizes throughout the state, canceling fairs, concerts and festivals. Still, the governor has said the limitation does not apply to certain gatherings, such as sporting events and at swimming pools.

West Virginia is among several states experiencing a resurgence of new virus cases and hospitalizations. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reports the state’s active caseload is at its highest since the outbreak began. Hospitalizations and intensive care unit patients have also risen to their highest levels in months.

The governor has repeatedly pleaded with residents to wear face masks, issuing an executive order last week mandating face coverings when people are inside buildings, though he has declined to impose a penalty for noncompliance.

At least 97 people have died from the virus and around than 4,500 people have tested positive in West Virginia, according to state health officials.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.

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