Coronavirus continues to tighten its stranglehold on American lives.
In the last 48 hours:
• West Virginia has identified its 1st 2 cases of the disease — 1st in Jefferson County and Wednesday afternoon in far-southern Mercer County.
The diagnoses made West Virginia the 50th and final state in the untion to have the disease.
• Four people in Hampshire County have been tested, Hampshire County Health Department Executive Director Stephanie Shoemaker said this morning (Thursday, March 19). Two have come back negative and the other 2 are pending.
• Teachers and aides are supposed to report to school today to create new lessons to send home to students.
• Meanwhile, school buses are rolling today to deliver meals to designated drop-off spots, supplementing the in-school pick-ups that began Monday.
• Gov. Jim Justice has closed all restaurants, bars, casinos, gyms and rec centers in the state.
• The Division of Motor Vehicles has closed all offices to the public, just 2 days after announcing it would stay open, but limit the number of people allowed in at any one time. Any transactions can be completed online or by mail.
• DMV is extending for 3 months the expiration of driver’s licenses and car registrations that expire in March or April.
• Valley Health is closing all hospitals and long-term care facilities to visitors except in extreme emergencies.
• The secretary of state and county clerks held a conference call Wednesday to figure out the best way to proceed with the May 12 election. More generous absentee ballot options are being prepared.
Hampshire schools begin feeding students
Hampshire Schools are serving grab-and-go breakfasts for students this morning (Monday, March 16) until 9 a.m. at all 9 schools.
Lunch will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Superintendent Jeff Pancione noted that all meals are free and open to anyone under age 18. He said the schools are working to expand the program.
“I continue to be amazed at the unbelievable support,” Pancione said in a video released on the school’s Facebook page Sunday night.
All essential school personnel reported to work this morning to get the program up and running after Gov. Jim Justice closed schools at the end of classes Friday.
Pancione said students are to complete packets 3 and 4 by the end of the week. If packets are missing, they can be picked up at the appropriate school.
Teachers will be in their classrooms beginning Thursday to help students via phone or the livegrades program and to prepare additional packets.
Schools will be closed through at least March 27, Gov. Justice clarified over the weekend.
The closing includes all sports and other extra-curricular activities. It also shutters the schools for use by community groups.
• WVU's extensions offices have closed. Employees are working remotely.
• DNR has cancelled in-person hunter education classes. Courses can still be taken online.
Posted Friday night
Schools plan to start feeding students Monday
Hampshire school staff is working through the weekend to prepare to feed students who might go hungry with schools closed because of the coronavirus.
“Will you be ready by Monday?” School Board Vice President Ed Morgan asked Nutrition Director Amy Haines at a special meeting Friday afternoon.
“Not a problem,” Haines replied without hesitation.
She told the board the plan as it stands right now is to prepare packages with both breakfast and lunch for students.
Yet to be determined are where and when parents and students can pick up the meals. For those who can’t come to pick-up sites, plans are for drivers to deliver the meals across the county.
Haines emphasized that containment efforts mean that the meals can only be picked up and taken; they can’t be eaten onsite to avoid social contact.
“Grab and go,” Haines said. “Grab and go.”
Superintendent Jeff Pancione told the board that packets were sent home Friday with students to provide instruction through the coming week.
West Virginia school systems were allowed to develop snow packets this year to provide instruction on days when the schools are closed. Students already had instructional packet 3 in hand, and packets 4 and 5 were sent home Friday.
But when those are complete, more learning materials will have to be delivered to students. Pancione said those plans are still in the works.
He also told the board that plans are not concrete about when and how staff will work. He said he had some information that needed to go to principals and directors and then employees before it is made public.
Schools closing; questions remain
Worries over corona threw the state of West Virginia into preparation overdrive Friday morning when Gov. Jim Justice announced that schools are closing at the end of the day.
“We’ll close the schools as long as we have to close the schools,” he said.
By late afternoon Friday, county school systems still had no idea how long the closure will last, but there was one hint.
Hampshire High Athletic Director Trey Stewart said all spring athletic events were called off until April 10.
During the press conference, Justice said a major concern is finding a way to feed children who count on the schools for breakfast and lunch.
As of Friday afternoon, those plans were still unclear.
“We’re going to make sure we’re serving these children ongoing through this,” Justice said.
He said the state might follow the model Kentucky is using, which could include buses delivering meals or schools being open for get-and-go meals.
“We’ve been preparing for this for weeks,” State Superintendent Clayton Burch said.
The decision came on the heels of Thursday’s announcement to shut down the state basketball tournaments.
Kentucky, Maryland and Ohio have all closed their schools.
At midday Friday, West Virginia still was 1 of only 3 states without identified cases of coronavirus.