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Monongalia County delegates oppose separating WVU COVID-19 statistics

MORGANTOWN — A letter  from state lawmakers opposing any plan to separate WVU’s COVID-19 statistics from county data was delivered to Gov. Jim Justice on Friday, the same day the county turned red according to the metric used by the state to track rate of spread. 

Delegates Barbara Evans Fleischauer, Evan Hansen, Rodney Pyles, John Williams and Danielle Walker, all D-Monongalia, signed the letter, which asks Justice to reject any request to carve WVU out of the larger community in terms of COVID-19 data.

“WVU is not a bubble,” Hansen said. “None of us want to see Monongalia County in the red on the state’s color-coded map, but it’s not right to change the rules to get the outcome that some people want to see.”

The sentiment supports remarks  shared Thursday by Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association teacher’s union and comes in opposition to a push to separate surging WVU numbers from the county’s in an effort to allow local schools to convene in person and hold athletic events.

That plan arose out of an emergency work session pulled together by the Monongalia County Commission earlier this week. That session included representatives from WVU, the city of Morgantown, the board of education, the health department and the county prosecutor’s office.

Schools in the county will convene remotely when they begin classes on Tuesday. Justice came out Friday, hours before the high school football season kicked off, and cancelled sporting events for counties in the red, even if, as in Monongalia County’s case, the county turned red on the day of the event.

Monongalia County Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell has made the argument that, one, the spike in cases is being confined to WVU and isn’t reflected in the wider community, and two, if those cases aren’t included, Monongalia County, and it’s schools, wouldn’t be dealing with any of these restrictions.

The lawmakers disagree, explaining, “WVU students live in and around Morgantown. Some live in dorms, and some live off-campus. Some have been responsible and followed public health protocols, and others haven’t. Some are symptomatic, have been tested, and are quarantined, but others may be asymptomatic and still infecting people in Mon County — both inside and outside of the WVU community.”

Further, they said changing the rules now would be bad public policy.

“We urge you to stick with the system that has been in place. Changing it would be bad policy, and it would give the impression that government officials are changing the rules to get the outcome they desire.”