MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The impacts of social distancing and isolation due to COVID-19 continue to ripple through the West Virginia economy and society.
Governor Jim Justice has waived the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits. In one day, 1,200 residents applied for unemployment benefits compared to 5,300 for the month of February.
“We don’t want to be fearful, we want to be smart right now,”Justice said,”We absolutely don’t want to be weak, we want to be Mountaineer strong.”
Justice says the key to prevailing over this pandemic is to follow the guidance from the President, CDC and state health officials-avoid large crowds, social distancing and if you are sick stay at home.
“We have got to just do this voluntarily because our power is simply one thing,”Justice said,”If we stay apart, we destroy this virus, and if we don’t we’ll make it the biggest problem we’ve ever had and we’ll lose a lot of lives.”
At an emergency meeting of the WVU Board of Governors Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for health sciences told members the advice from health officials will likely work, but people have to follow it. Marsh explained the virus is so contagious because it originated in an animal, humans have never been exposed so they have no natural immunity.
After the presentation the board voted unanimously to complete the spring semester online.
University President Gordon Gee told the board this is a disappointment, and an opportunity.
“This is a Black Swan moment that we need to get through by building community and doing the right thing and that means social distancing,” Gee said.
On Talkline Gee says the Maymester has been cancelled and hope remains for a commencement in May.
“If we’re successful now in flattening the curve and flattening the spread maybe we can have a celebration for our students,”Gee said,”It really depends on where this thing goes.”
Gee says West Virginians are not strangers to struggles and now is the time to pull together.
“The resiliency is part of DNA and in many ways this may prove to be a West Virginia moment, and we want to make it that,” Gee said.