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The year in COVID reviewed

A look back at pivotal moments in the pandemic

In March, just days after the 2020 legislative session ended, Gov. Jim Justice began his regular COVID-19 briefings, featuring his COVID response leadership team.

Justice and his leadership team actually began talks and taking measures in late February. He issued a state of preparedness on March 4. The briefings began March 11.

The briefings began daily each weekday then shifted to three times a week. 

Here are some highlights.

March 11 

Gov. Jim Justice called his second coronavirus press conference in two days on Thursday, and appeared personally at this one. He announced a state employee travel ban and talked about readiness and prevention measures.

Going further, he asks all West Virginians to reconsider all nonessential travel out of state. 

March 12 

Justice asked all nursing homes in the state to restrict visitors to patients, except to those who are experiencing life-ending or very serious illness.

March 13 

Justice announced all schools in the state will close after classes end on Friday. 

March 16 

Justice declared a state of emergency in all 55 counties. While there are no confirmed cases yet, the declaration liberates agencies from certain rules and regulations to allow more flexibility in responding to the crisis.

March 17 

Confirming speculation circulating throughout the day, Justice announced the state’s first confirmed coronavirus case — in the Eastern Panhandle. And he mandated the closure of all restaurants, bars and casinos in the state.

March 18 

Justice extended his business closure order to include gyms, health clubs and recreational facilities.

March 19 

Justice ordered all barber shops, hair salons and nail salons closed.

March 23 

Justice issued a statewide stay-at-home order and closure of all nonessential businesses.

March 25 

Gov. Jim Justice announced three new coronavirus-related directives. Among them, he asked the Tax Department to extend the state income tax filing date to July 15. The statewide schools closure was extended to April 20.

March 26 

Justice announced that WVU had agreed to lend WVU Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences Clay Marsh to his office to operate as COVID-19 Czar.

April 1 

Justice announced that he had moved the primary election date from May 12 to June 9.

April 21 

Justice announced that kids wouldn’t  return to their school buildings for the rest of the school year.  And county school boards would need to figure out a means to hold some form of graduation ceremonies for the seniors this summer.

April 27 

The leaders of the state Senate and House jointly praised Justice’s plan to gradually reopen the state.

April 30 

Justice said Thursday that as Week 2 of his The Comeback plan begins May 4, he will lift his stay-at-home order and replace it with “Safer at Home.”

May 27 

With the positive COVID-19 case count at Huttonsville Correctional Center up to 83, Justice said he wants testing done at all jails and prisons as soon as possible.

June 24 

Hours after complaining that active COVID-19 case numbers have been inaccurately reported, Gov. Jim Justice accepted the resignation of State Health Officer and Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Cathy Slemp.

July 6 

As anticipated, Justice signed an executive order mandating the use of masks or face coverings in any building where physical distancing guidelines can’t be strictly enforced.

July 13 

It’s last call for Monongalia County bars — for the next 10 days at least. 

Aug. 19 

Justice extended the Monongalia County bar closure another 10 days. They’ll reopen on Aug. 31.

Sept. 8 

After 179 days, schools in 46 counties reopened.

Sept. 15 

The color-coded County Alert System and School Alert System maps have a fifth color: Gold. 

Sept. 30 

Monongalia County has been green on the state COVID-19 map for several days, but reopening the bars — which closed the day after they reopened due to patron violations  — remains just a hope. 

Oct. 9 

Monongalia County bars will be permitted to reopen Oct. 13, Gov. Justice announced.

Oct. 16 

The state submitted its COVID-19 vaccine plan to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. 

Nov. 13 

Masks will be required at all times inside public buildings, not just when social distancing isn’t possible. 

Fall sports will be allowed to wrap up their seasons but winter sports  are suspended until Jan. 11. 

Nov. 25 

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is expected to arrive in West Virginia sometime Dec. 10-12 after.

Dec. 30 

An aggressive vaccination program for seniors topped the news. Starting Jan. 19, all elementary and middle schools in the state will return to in-person learning. High schools in orange counties will also be allowed to go in-person. Red-county high schools will remain virtual. 

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