All 50 U.S. states now have confirmed cases of the new coronavirus as West Virginia’s governor announced the first positive test in his state on Tuesday evening.
Gov. Jim Justice said the person with the virus is in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, a region close to Washington, D.C., though he didn’t disclose the county where it was reported.
Justice used a televised address to announce new restrictions, ordering bars, restaurants and casinos to close with the exception of carry-out food services. He did not address delivery services.
“This is real and it’s really concerning,” the governor said.
Moments before he went on camera and while the audio was turned on, Justice loudly cleared his throat, then whispered jokingly, “I’ve got the virus.” The portion of the video before he went on camera was later deleted.
But his tone was serious during his eight-minute speech, telling residents to follow experts’ advice, including staying out of crowds, washing hands and keeping at least 6 feet away from other people.
“Our power to combat this disease is being apart from one another,” he said.
Justice had warned earlier that it was only a matter of time before a confirmed case would be documented in the state. He and state health officials have repeatedly expressed frustration over limited testing nationwide.
Both Justice and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have noted the virus could be especially damaging in West Virginia because of the state’s elderly population and high percentage of people with existing health problems. About 20% of West Virginia residents are 65 and older.
West Virginia health officials said tests have been conducted so far on 137 people. There have been 122 negative cases and 14 were still pending as of Tuesday evening.
Justice is following the lead of governors from surrounding states who have shut down or limited access to businesses, including bars, restaurants, gyms or movie theaters.
Previously, Justice declared a state of emergency, closed schools statewide until at least March 27, requested that nursing homes limit visitors and suspended state high school basketball tournaments. Justice is a coach of one of the participating girls teams.
State hospitals have restricted patient visits, universities have temporarily eliminated face-to-face instruction in favor of online teaching, and the state Supreme Court has suspended all but emergency hearings until April 10.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority recover in several weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe illness, including pneumonia.