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Gov. Justice closes state park lodges, Hatfield-McCoy Trails; makes plea for blood donations

MORGANTOWN – Gov. Jim Justice on Friday announced additional closures related to containing the coronavirus.

This time, it’s lodges at the state parks.

Justice said 69% of all guests at the lodges come from out of state. And given that all seven positive cases in West Virginia acquired the virus while traveling, this seemed prudent. The parks themselves will remain open.

Also, effective at midnight Friday, the Hatfield-McCoy Trails system will be closed, for the same reason: 85% of trail users come from out of state.

Justice made the announcements during his Friday press briefing.

He added one plea: “We need people to give blood. We’re in a national meltdown at far as needing blood. And we’re in a West Virginia semi-meltdown.”

Erica Mani, American Red Cross regional CEO, said that across the nation 5,000 blood drives have been canceled, stopping 170,000 planned donations. So donors are needed to keep the supply available for hospital patients.

Mani said that donation and blood drive sites are following all health and safety protocols, and are not crowded. Donations are needed to save lives and avert worsening the health crisis.

As of Friday afternoon, there were eight positive cases in the state, 219 who tested negative and 13 tests pending. One case is in Monongalia County, two in Jefferson, two in Tucker, and one each in Kanawha, Mercer and Jackson.

The socially distanced press conference panelists.

Justice repeated his daily message: Practice social distancing and good hygiene. “We’re better today than we were yesterday, but it’s going to get worse and that’s what we’re concerned about. … Every day that goes by we have a better and better chance of getting better. … All we’ve got to do is stay apart and the engine that’s tuning this thing dies. … West Virginia can be the beacon of the world right now if we just do everything in our power to stay apart.”

He said the parks will remain open because they offer an opportunity for residents to get out into wide open spaces and fresh air and enjoy themselves. He spurned a suggestion from Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, who is running for the attorney general’s office, to halt trout stocking.

“We want people to get out into the outdoors,” he said. “That’s silly in my book.”

Justice and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey touched on some executive orders planned for issue later Friday to lift some regulations and deadlines. Those were to include extending deadlines for driver’s licenses renewals, vehicles inspections and business fees and licenses.

While the IRS has extended the federal tax filing deadline to July 15, Justice said he and the state Tax Department still haven’t decided, but “it’s in the pipeline.”

Morrisey said his office has received more than 50 price-gouging complaints and they planned to send out some cease-and-desist on Friday to retailers violating gouging laws.

Justice commented on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to include coal mining among the “non-life sustaining” businesses that he’s ordered closed. “Coal is so essential it is unbelievable,” Justice said. “You just have to be way out there in my book to say such things as that.”

Wolf is allowing oil and gas extraction to continue.

Justice also offered a few kind words for Alecto Healthcare, the company that owns and closed Fairmont Regional Medical Center and Ohio Valley Medical Center.

Alecto did something good on Thursday, he said. It has some $25,000 apiece ventilators at FRMC and donated 16 of them to the state. Justice said he doesn’t know what condition they’re in, but, “It was a nice gesture and I thank them for it.”

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