UPDATE: COVID-19 model predicts fewer deaths in W.Va., earlier surge in cases

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - UPDATE: 4/6/20 6:30 P.M.

West Virginia's coronavirus czar said Monday afternoon that one model being used to track the spread of the virus shows viewer deaths in the Mountain State and a surge that’s likely to happen around the middle of April.

Dr. Clay Marsh, speaking during state officials' daily update on the virus, said the University of Washington model predicts between 150 and 170 deaths in the state. That’s compared with the previous prediction of nearly 500 deaths.

In addition, the anticipated surge is now expected about April 15, which is a couple of weeks sooner than previously expected, he said.

However, Gov. Jim Justice said that even though efforts to slow the spread of the virus seem to be working, it's important to “stay the course" by maintaining social-distancing policies and being vigilant with other efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

“We are on top of this, and overreaction never hurt anyone,” Justice said. “It may be inconvenient, but if it gives us the ability to save just one life, it’s worth it.”

State officials announced on Monday announced the death of a COVID-19 patient from Harrison County, the state’s fourth death related to the virus, prompting Justice to plead with state residents and businesses to abide by his state-at-home order.

"We're the most elderly state, we're the most critical illness state,” Justice said. “We're the highest risk state of all, and we're within a rock's throw of all these people are dying like flies. Now, you've got to listen, and we've got to stay the course.”

Justice also discussed his executive order issued late Saturday that is aimed at helping fight several COVID-19 hot spots in Kanawha, Monongalia, Harrison, Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties.

The order limits gatherings in those areas to no more than five people and directs local health departments to set maximum-occupancy and social-distancing rules for essential businesses.

Justice also said the West Virginia State Police and the West Virginia National Guard are taking on expanded roles.

The State Police has been directed to enforce local county orders, he said, while the National Guard has been ordered to provide logistical support to county agencies.

The National Guard has been helping out with COVID-19 testing a nursing home in Kanawha County and at the Workforce West Virginia office in Charleston, where an employee tested positive for the virus.

Guard members could even be called on to help deliver groceries in the future, he said.


ORIGINAL STORY: 4/5/20

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has tightened restrictions on six counties in an attempt to curb coronavirus hotspot.

In an executive order Friday, the Republican governor restricted people in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties to gatherings of no more than five.

On Saturday night, Justice expanded the order to Harrison, Monongalia and Kanawha counties. Justice says 62 percent of the state's 282 positive cases are in the six counties.

Justice directed all businesses in the six counties, including those deemed essential under his statewide stay-at-home order, to require employees to work from home or remotely to the maximum extent possible.