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West Virginia Public Service Commission Chairman Charlotte Lane sent a note to all public utilities in the state Friday “urging” them to suspend service terminations starting immediately, with exceptions for safety and customer requests.

While the state does not yet have a confirmed case of COVID-19, state health leaders have said infection is inevitable. Lane’s message Friday made note of the “rapidly unfolding events surrounding the coronavirus” and emphasized that utility services are necessary in “maintaining communications and safe, clean, sanitary conditions.”

The statement also acknowledged the impending virus could cause economic suffering for some residents; if people are sick and forced to miss work, they could potentially lose their jobs.

Also Friday, West Virginia American Water, the state’s largest water provider, released a statement saying it will implement a moratorium on water shutoffs for residents until further notice.

“West Virginia American Water has been focused on two high priorities as the spread of the coronavirus has evolved — the health and safety of our employees and the health and safety of our customers,” the statement read.

Per the news release, the company will restart service for people whose water was shut off before March 13. If a customer’s wastewater provider requests or schedules water service to be terminated, however, that may still occur while the company negotiates with wastewater providers to adopt a similar moratorium.

In another attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus, WVAW is also suspending all “non-essential” field appointments and limiting person-to-person contact with customers during emergency field appointments.

Reach Caity Coyne at, 304-348-7939 or follow @CaityCoyne on Twitter.