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Justice issues ‘stay-at-home’ order

CHARLESTON — With most of West Virginia’s surrounding states ordering non-essential businesses to close or ordering residents to shelter in place, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday that he would order residents to stay home and close non-essential businesses starting tonight due to the coronavirus.

“This disease is really serious stuff,” Justice said. “Please stay at home, please listen to our orders, and please in every way, shape, form, and fashion keep consulting your God above and every single one of us will get through this.”

Justice held a virtual briefing with reporters Monday from the Governor’s Reception Room at the State Capitol Building in Charleston.

Citing state code, Justice’s executive order requires all West Virginians to stay home starting at 8 p.m. tonight. Residents are allowed to leave their homes to obtain food, medicine, and supplies; obtain medical care and treatment; travel to work if the business is considered essential; go to or from a family member’s home; and engage in outdoor activity while abiding by health guidelines to maintain 6 feet of distance from others and avoiding groups of 10 or more.

“A stay-home order is not martial law,” Justice said. “It’s not going to be somebody going to lock you in your home. It’s not that we’re shutting down the state borders. It’s not that we’re closing any bridges or roads. We can do all this and shut down this terrible virus even more.”

Only essential businesses will be allowed to continue operations past 8 p.m. today unless a business already has employees working from home. Despite the limitations, the list of essential businesses in Justice’s executive order is broad.

Essential businesses include healthcare, public health, and health insurance; grocery stores and pharmacies; food/beverage manufacturing and agriculture; essential government functions (first-responders, emergency management); human services organizations and childcare facilities/providers; infrastructure and utilities; and coal mining and coal-fired electric generation.

Additional essential businesses include manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain for critical products; gas stations and travel-related businesses such as hotels; banks and financial institutions; hardware and supply stores; critical trades; mail, shipping, delivery, and pick-up services; religious entities; education institutions that provide distance learning or food preparation; laundry services; office supplies; home-based care; residential facilities and shelters; professional services, media outlets; and funeral services.

Justice’s executive order comes after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that all non-essential businesses must close. These orders follow similar orders in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Ohio ordered all residents to shelter-in-place. Virginia has not issued any similar orders, though was expected to close schools for the rest of the semester Monday.

According to officials with the state Department of Health and Human Resources, the catalyst for Justice’s executive order was the first in-state person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. The transmission occurred at a nursing home in Morgantown.

According to DHHR, there are 20 positive cases of the coronavirus in West Virginia as of Monday evening, with 630 total tests results in and 610 negative tests. According to Johns Hopkins University, there are 41,708 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. as of Monday with 573 deaths.

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