Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Officials in West Virginia, US, to lift additional restrictions on businesses May 18-21. Safer-at-home order in place until further notice.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Charleston, West Virginia
  • Huntington, West Virginia
  • Beckley, West Virginia
  • Parkersburg, West Virginia
  • Clarksburg, West Virginia
  • Morgantown, West Virginia
  • Wheeling, West Virginia

This alert began 15 May 2020 20:26 GMT and is scheduled to expire 25 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): West Virginia (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and movement restrictions, significant transport and business disruptions

Summary
West Virginia Governor James Justice announced additional businesses will be allowed to reopen May 18 and 21, as part of stage 4 of the state's economic reopening. Restrictions have been in place to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). A safer-at-home order remains in place since May 4 until further notice. According to the order, all residents are strongly encouraged to remain home, except to perform essential tasks, such as obtaining basic goods, attending a medical issue, caring for a person in need, performing outdoor recreational activities as long as they maintain a proper distance from others, and going to work at an essential business or service. Gatherings of more than 25 people remain banned.

Authorities will allow gyms, fitness centers, and recreational centers to reopen May 18, while the following businesses and activities are scheduled to resume operations May 21:

  • Indoor dining at restaurants, provided they limit the number of customers to 50 percent of maximum capacity
  • Large retail stores
  • State park campgrounds, for state residents only
  • Outdoor recreational rentals
  • Rafting
  • Tanning businesses


Authorities had previously allowed the following businesses and operations to reopen according to this schedule:

  • April 30: Nonurgent healthcare operations were allowed to resume, including medical procedures, primary care, dentistry, physical therapy, and psychological health.
  • May 4: Businesses with fewer than 10 workers were allowed to reopen, as well as personal care businesses such as hair salons and barbershops. Restaurants may offer outdoor dining services, and churches and funeral homes may allow in-person services while limiting their capacity. Customers at personal care businesses must make an appointment and wait in their cars until the start of their appointment.
  • May 11: Wellness centers and drive-in theaters were allowed to reopen.


All businesses must implement social distancing as much as possible and enhance sanitation. Workers and customers must wear face coverings. Authorities will announce other businesses allowed to reopen in the coming weeks, depending on the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Essential businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, fuel stations, healthcare facilities, security, transport, and energy companies, are allowed to continue operations. Other nonessential businesses must remain closed, although employees are allowed to work from home whenever possible.

Travelers who have been in New York, Louisiana, Connecticut, New Jersey, Italy, or China in the 14 days prior to their entry in West Virginia must self-quarantine for 14 days. The measure will not apply to any commercial activity, including truckers or people who move in and out of the state for work purposes. The requirement for travelers is scheduled to be lifted May 21.

Significant transport and business disruptions are likely. Authorities will almost certainly deploy additional security personnel to assist in enforcing the measure. Officials could amend the order on short notice, depending on the disease activity in the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The relaxation of some measures are likely to accelerate in the coming weeks; however, restrictions may be reimposed or extended further should the number of COVID-19 cases increase. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential operations in areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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