locals haven’t taken the threat seriously

Covid-19 in southern West Virginia

West Virginia was the last state to report a case of the sweeping Coronavirus. Many locals haven’t taken the threat seriously and still aren’t, with many elderly continuing to shop at local grocery stores and teenage youth gathering in groups despite direct warnings from major news sources.  

Chalk it up to lunacy or foolishness, but West Virginia has a long history of not trusting the government and rightly so. We’re still feeling the effects of the chemical c8 that the manufacturing plant Dupont churned out and the disaster of the opioid crisis. Both of which went on with relative silence from state and federal officials for some time. 

West Virginia governor’s statements on the virus

One day ago, 03/20/2020, Governor Jim Justice issued an executive order to deliver unemployment benefits to anyone who has lost hours or been laid off from their jobs due to the pandemic. He has waived many of the requirements, making eligibility immediate. 

The current order to avoid unnecessary in-person contact was slow to come from the state office. Four days ago, the governor was hesitant to close restaurants and bars despite the walls of the virus closing in our state. He stated, “Go to the grocery stores. For crying out loud, go to the grocery stores. If you want to go to Bob Evans and eat, go to Bob Evans and eat,” he said.”

With the seriousness of the pandemic becoming more apparent with each hour, Justice has ordered a complete closure of nonessential business, but the measures are a few days too late and the cases of Covid-19 continue to climb in West Virginia. 

West Virginia, the bottom of the barrel

This morning, 03/21/2020, the state has 8 confirmed cases of Covid-19. However, the number would be much higher if our state was a priority in receiving test kits. There have been numerous reports of citizens presenting with symptoms and local health departments refusing to test them because of the lack of kits. Most of the United States’ kits are being sent to larger populations. 

West Virginia has a median age of 42.8 years old. Many grandparents are sole caregivers for their grandchildren due to the opioid crisis. We are a state ravaged by poor lung health and heart disease. And yet, we cannot get our hands on kits or the necessary medical equipment to treat patients suffering from Coronavirus. 

After requesting a shipment of 160,000 N-95 masks, officials received a letter from West Virginia’s Center for Threat Preparedness letting them know the incoming shipment would only include 2,200 masks. Doctors, nurses, and frontline responders are being told to reuse masks and wear bandanas if need be. 

On Friday, 03/20/2020, the president of Charleston Area Medical Center issued a statement in hopes of catching the eyes of two state senators, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, and U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. He detailed the shortages of medical equipment across the board and stated, “We can’t get the equipment we need, we can’t get the testing we need, it’s as though they’re ignoring the people on the front line who are really taking care of patients.”

West Virginia, a state of independence

In short, West Virginians take care of themselves because we have to. Many U.S. citizens don’t even realize we are a state and the sentiment is often felt by the federal government with our state being of lower priority on most fronts. Independent as we may be, West Virginia is not prepared for what’s coming and what is already here. The number of cases does not reflect our reality in any manner, with the ability to receive testing rarer than striking the lottery in some cases.

Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.

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