FAIRMONT — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday issued a “stay at home” order related to the COVID-19 pandemic to all West Virginians to take effect Tuesday at 8 p.m.
The order tells West Virginians to avoid leaving their homes for this time, and to only go out to purchase essential needs or work in fields deemed essential. The governor’s website lists essential businesses, which will be able to stay open during the effects of this order.
“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,” Justice said Monday. “Please stay home, please listen to our orders.”
A press release also lists certain actions under “You can” or “You should not,” which let West Virginians know what is allowed during this order. Residents are allowed to shop for essential needs, visit friends or family in small groups, pick up food from a restaurant, exercise outdoors and receive deliveries from businesses.
People are advised not to go to work unless they work for an essential business, not to visit friends or family if it is not an urgent need and not to get within six feet of others when out.
The release also says that the “stay at home” order is a stricter form of social distancing, and is meant to stop people from making too much close contact with others, which can slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.
“A stay home order is not martial law,” Justice said. “It is not going to be that somebody is going to come lock you in your home, it’s not that we’re shutting down any state borders, it’s not that we’re closing any bridges or roads, and we can do all this and slow down this terrible virus even more.”
When Justice began giving updates and mandates concerning the coronavirus, the United Way of Marion and Taylor Counties developed a plan for how to help people in need during the shut down of businesses. Dubbed “The COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund,” the new program is designed to provide funds for organizations they can then use to help residents with the crisis.
“We put it in place so that individuals would have an opportunity to donate to a local fund that’s going to stay right here in Marion and Taylor Counties and be put to use for whatever the most important needs are during this crisis,” said Brett White, executive director of the United Way. “We’re giving aid to organizations and agencies and then they can give it out to individuals.”
According to White, the fund will collect donations to be specifically distributed to organizations that can supply aid to those in need of supplies or other aid.
“It’s really open to any organization that’s working on the relief efforts,” White said. “We will be informing first responders, the EMS service, the school system; really anybody that is working on COVID-19 response or recovery will be eligible to use this fund.”
According to White, all the money donated to this fund will go toward the cause, because there are no operating costs coming from the donations. He also said he has seen the need grow just over the past month.
“We certainly have been seeing a big uptick in individuals looking for financial assistance,” White said. “We’ll be providing money to the agencies just like we do with the normal allocation dollars.”
Bus and public transit services have not been identified as essential, but the Fairmont-Marion County Transit Authority released a statement after Justice’s Monday stating it will continue operating during the “stay at home” order to serve those who need to travel to work in an essential field.
“We’re going to man the phones to keep transporting people to their essential services,” said George Levitsky, general manager at the Fairmont-Marion County Transit Authority. “We’re going to continue our work and keep the buses running and sanitized.”
Levitsky said transit buses have remained in service during social distancing and have experienced a consistent number of riders, which in part, led to his decision to keep the service operating. However, he said he will see how the ridership numbers change in the coming days, to see if the service is still necessary to carry on.
“Our ridership stayed steady during this time,” Levitsky said. “After today we’ll see who all remains open. We do feel that we are essential and we offer essential services and we want to do our part.”
Levitsky said the buses will not be operating on their normal schedules this week, but those in need of transit can call the Fairmont-Marion County Transit Authority at (304)366-8177 to schedule a ride.
White said the upcoming weeks will involve further developing the need for aid in Marion and Taylor Counties, whether it be for health resources or for financial aid. He said the fund is aimed at providing for the needs that arise from COVID-19, and this need alone.
“The needs are just going to continue to grow,” White said. “As people are longer away from their paychecks and kids are out of school for longer and individuals are starting to get bills for financial obligations, the needs are going to continue to grow.”
To donate money to the United Way’s coronavirus relief fund, visit its website at www.unitedwaymtc.org.