West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday expanded his coronavirus hot spot restrictions to Marion County after the area reported a jump in cases this week.
The governor had previously strengthened existing virus protocols in Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan, Harrison, Monongalia and Kanawha counties after they emerged as virus clusters that make up most of the state’s growing caseload.
“We need to watch very carefully in Marion County and observe all the things that we're already doing in the other six counties,” Justice said.
In those counties, the governor has directed local health departments to establish maximum occupancy rules for stores, urged businesses to have employees work from home and limited gatherings to no more than five people. State police will help the counties enforce the rules.
State health officials on Wednesday said Marion County reported 29 cases, up from 17 positives on Monday. Statewide, four people have died and at least 483 people have tested positive for the virus.
Justice has issued a statewide stay-home order, directed nonessential businesses to close, shuttered schools until at least April 30 and pushed back the primary election from May 12 to June 9.
In Kanawha County, which has one of the state's highest counts at 70 positives and cases in at least two nursing homes, local officials have approved a $4 per hour “hero pay” increase for first responders and other county staffers.
The order from the Kanawha County Commission includes “deputy sheriffs, prosecuting attorneys, emergency managers, custodians, maintenance workers, circuit clerks, county clerks, sheriff’s tax, and all others who are risking personal health and safety during this unprecedented pandemic.”
The temporary pay raises will stop when the state of emergency ends or the county commission cancels the program.
The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department on Tuesday said at least five people at Eastbrook Center have tested positive, with dozens of results pending. A spokeswoman for Eastbrook's owner, Stonerise Healthcare, said four residents with the virus had been hospitalized.
The Brookdale Charleston Gardens facility also had a resident infected, though others tested negative, health officials said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, and the overwhelming majority of people recover. But severe cases can need respirators to survive, and with infections spreading exponentially, many hospitals are bracing for coming waves of patients.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.