Gov. Jim Justice says he has no immediate plans to order more restrictions on West Virginia residents despite the uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
“From the standpoint of pulling the plug and shutting things down, we’re not going to do that,” Justice said last week.
“I do not think we need to move aggressively at this point toward shutdowns,” he added, saying all options are on the table if the pandemic worsens.
That’s probably a good idea. West Virginians aren’t ready for another shutdown similar to the one that was imposed back in March unless they are shown it is necessary. The word “fatigue” has been used a lot to describe people’s reaction to the ongoing pandemic. While many trendy words wear out their welcome, this one hasn’t because it is so accurate, and the governor recognizes this.
As noted by HD Media’s Phil Kabler, as recently as last month, Justice said he was looking at imposing more aggressive restrictions if the cumulative average exceeded 3%. As of Wednesday, the cumulative positivity average had increased to 2.97%.
This week British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a four-week lockdown of that nation to prevent an increase in COVID cases from overwhelming its health care system. Other European nations are experiencing similar flareups.
While the infection numbers are increasing in West Virginia, there has been little or no indication the state’s hospitals are getting close to the point of being overwhelmed. This past spring’s lockdown in West Virginia and most other states was to prevent such a situation.
Right now, West Virginia appears to be in a situation where the disease is here, but judging from how people act in public, most of us see it more as an annoyance than as a threat. Thus, any stringent measures Justice or his advisors consider will need something beyond a seemingly arbitrary metric such as the cumulative positivity average if they want the public to buy into them, partly because much of what people think they know about the virus and how it spreads is wrong.
There’s also the fact the virus long ago moved from the medical realm into the political one. Mountaineers are always free. They can be a contrary lot, and they don’t like elected officials butting into their private lives. They have even less desire for unelected public officials to do so.
So far this year people have lost graduations, weddings, sports tournaments and other familiar rites of passage to the virus. They went without in-classroom schooling and without church services for a while.
Thus, Justice must use caution in planning any more restrictions on public activity when it comes to fighting the coronavirus. For the past few weeks he has walked that line well, but the fight is far from over.