Kanawha County Commissioners and Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin on Sunday wrote a letter to Gov. Jim Justice asking him order a mandatory "stay-in-place" for state residents as the COVID-19 outbreak grows.
As of Sunday evening, the state had 16 positive test results for the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, including three in Kanawha County.
The letter asks Justice to reconsider his current decision of urging people to stay away from each other and to stay home. In a Saturday evening statewide address, the governor mentioned a shutdown may happen if people don't follow previous recommendations from public health officials to stay away from others as much as possible.
"As you clearly stated in your 7:00 pm address yesterday, our power to fight this pandemic is to stay away from one another and to limit person to person contact as much as possible," the letter states. "To that end, we respectfully ask you to reconsider your current decision and order a mandatory stay-in-place for the state of West Virginia."
Several states, including California, Washington, Illinois, New York and, as of Sunday, Ohio and Louisiana, have ordered residents to stay in their homes unless it is necessary for them to leave.
The letter says the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is of the opinion that a stay-in-place order is necessary to slow the spread of the illness.
“Social distancing and staying home have proven to be critical in stopping the spread of this virus. We are respectfully asking Governor Justice to order a mandatory stay-in-place order as so many other states have done,” Goodwin said in a news release. “Putting this mandate in place would give our first responders and hospitals valuable time to acquire needed equipment before they are potentially overloaded with patients.”
The letter says that COVID-19 poses an even greater threat in West Virginia because of the number of people with pre-existing conditions and the large elderly population in the state.
The letter states that a stay-in-place order could allow for the continued operation of life sustaining services and businesses, including health care, pharmacies, financial institutions, grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants serving take-out, and would provide time for health systems to prepare for what they believe is an inevitable spike in infected patients.
"We currently have 4 positive tests at CAMC Hospital, with 221 pending results, we are now the epicenter of the State of West Virginia," the letter says.
Mackenzie Spencer, a spokeswoman for the City of Charleston, said four positive test results at Charleston Area Medical Center are for a Putnam County resident and three Kanawha County residents. The 221 pending tests are those conducted by CAMC. The hospital is running a count on its website of testing numbers. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is reporting one pending test result through the state testing lab.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke with Charleston and Kanawha County officials and recommended they do "whatever was necessary to keep our citizens safe," according to a news release.
"The expected spike in the COVID-19 virus in our area is occurring and time is running out to flatten the curve," Kanawha Commission President Kent Carper said in the release. "We must take action now to help protect our healthcare professionals and first responders."