West Virginia gov tightens virus restrictions for 6 counties

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has tightened restrictions on six counties in an attempt to curb coronavirus hotspots.

In an executive order Friday, the Republican governor restricted people in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties to gatherings of no more than five. Those three counties are in the eastern panhandle, a region close to Washington, D.C.

On Saturday night, Justice expanded the order to Harrison, Monongalia and Kanawha counties, the latter of which includes the state capital of Charleston. Justice said 62% of the state's 282 positive cases are in the six counties.

Justice directed all businesses in the six counties, including those deemed essential under his statewide stay-at-home order, to require employees to work from home or remotely to the maximum extent possible.

The order also tells local health departments to establish the maximum occupancy and proper social distance for essential businesses and enforce them. Additionally, it directs the West Virginia State Police to help enforce county orders and the National Guard to provide logistical support and services to help county agencies.

Statewide totals Saturday showed 49 cases in Berkeley County, 48 in Kanawha, 40 in Monongalia, 19 in Harrison, 17 in Jefferson and one in Morgan.

“To stop the spread of COVID-19 we MUST stay at home,” Justice said in a news release. "I’m going to continue to do everything I can to protect the health and safety of all West Virginians.”

Two people have died from the virus in West Virginia, an 88-year-old Marion County woman and a Jackson County resident with several underlying health issues.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, and the overwhelming majority of people recover. But severe cases can need respirators to survive, and with infections spreading exponentially, hospitals across the country are either bracing for a coming wave of patients, or already struggling to keep up.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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