Healthcare, Latest News, State Government

Gov. Justice closes barber shops, hair salons; tests negative for COVID-19

Gov. Jim Justice on Thursday ordered all barber shops, hair salons and nail salons closed as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday evening. He also revealed he tested negative for coronavirus after learning he was exposed in February to the person who has the state’s first-announced case.

The decision came, he said, because barbers approached him with their concerns of working at close quarters. They were hesitant to take action on their own and looked to him for guidance.

Justice made his announcement during his daily COVID-19 press briefing. The briefing took a new form: No reporters were in the room. Respecting social distancing, Justice had his coronavirus leadership team with him and a few invited observers; but the reporters tuned in and asked questions via teleconference

The barber shop and hair salon closures follows previous closures first of bars, restaurants and casinos, and then gyms, health clubs and recreational facilities in previous days.

The press conference, minus the press, which tuned in remotely.

Justice said he learned of his exposure to the state’s first coronavirus case earlier Thursday. He came into his office to see testing supplies on his desk. He was shown a photograph of himself and the man taken at a grant presentation in Martinsburg in February.

He’d known he’d been in the company of the man’s wife, he said, but wasn’t aware he’d been with the man.

He was swabbed and, as it happened, a set of tests was going off to the lab at that time. So he self-quarantined at the mansion for about four hours and then learned the test was negative.

The conference ranged across a variety of topics.

He raised the issue of close quarters at funerals and said that’s not an area he should be issuing orders, it’s a family matter. But he urged those paying their final respects to be careful and keep their distance from others in attendance. “Try to do it in this time in a really, really safe manner.”

He again pressed his message of social distancing. West Virginia with its population of seniors and people with serious health issues is the highest risk in the nation. But, “We’re trying to be in every way we possibly can to be the state that leads the way. … We will be the shining light, the place everybody wants to come to after this thing passes.”

Justice said he spoke with President Trump on Wednesday. Trump had been under the impression West Viringia didn’t need federal help because there were no cases at the time.

 Justice said he told Trump that the primary thing West Virginia needs is more testing supplies to ramp up testing capability. And 45 minutes later he got confirmation supplies are on the way. And, meanwhile, commercial labs are stepping up testing.

Justice aid he’s tapped into contingency funding to buy protective gear. They’ve spent $570,000 to buy 100,000 N95 surgical masks. They’ll send 70,000 masks to the Department of Health and Human Resources for medical providers and 30,000 to first responders, law enforcement and corrections officers. They’ve also spent $600,000 on 275 protective suits for providers.

West Virginia has been declared and economic injury disaster zone, he said. That opens the door for small businesses to secure loans and get immediate cash to tide them over during the pandemic.

Bureau of Public Health Commissioner Cathy Slemp talked about what happens if a person tests positive (as of Thursday evening there were still just two). They immediately begin an investigation, she said, to determine risk factors and who the person has contacted. Those who’ve been in contact will also be tested. In cases of a large public exposure the community will be informed.

There’s been some frustration that DHR has only been reporting results of tests processed through the state lab, and not all results from the commercial labs. HHR Secretary Bill Crouch said that will change soon. Some labs have been reporting on paper but they are working to get it all electronic.

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