KEYSER - In the wake of Gov. Jim Justice's announcement Tuesday that the first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in West Virginia, and his accompanying directives regarding precautions to be taken, Mineral County officials and municipal leaders are making decisions on the fly as to how they will respond to the situation.
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - In the wake of Gov. Jim Justice’s announcement Tuesday that the first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in West Virginia, and his accompanying directives regarding precautions to be taken, Mineral County officials and municipal leaders are making decisions on the fly as to how they will respond to the situation.
Although for now plans are for the Mineral County Courthouse to remain open and in operation as normal, Judge Jay Courrier said he has been working to reschedule many court proceedings to comply with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals’ Monday directive that court proceedings should be suspended if possible.
“I’ve spent the past two days trying to work through it,” he told the News Tribune, adding that while many proceedings are being postponed, others are being kept on schedule.
“For the people who are in jail, we can do their hearings by video conferencing,” he said, noting that a few are awaiting extradition to other states and he wanted to keep that process moving rather than postpone it.
“A couple are also ready to get out of jail,” he said, noting that he didn’t want to hold up that process either.
And while there are currently no plans to limit hours or shut down the courthouse, Courrier said officials are nevertheless making preparations if that should happen.
The decision to shut down the courthouse would ultimately fall with the county commissioners, while the Supreme Court oversees the court system, including the circuit clerk’s office.
Sheriff Jeremy Taylor said he and his deputies have also been working on training in how to deal with the COVID-19 threat and to keep themselves as well as the public as safe as possible.
“We had a meeting on Monday and a training class on our response and what to be looking for,” he said.
Taylor explained that when Mineral County 911 receives a call for help, they now have a certain screening process to try to help determine if the person in need might be a carrier of the virus.
As for those responding to incidents, Taylor says they have been instructed to follow CDC recommendations.
“We supplied all our first responders with proper PBE’s (protective breathing equipment) and paper suits,” he said. They have been issued hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes and have been instructed to practice proper sanitization after each call.”
Like most other offices, if the deputies can handle issues over the phone they have been instructed to do so in order to limit contact with others, but Taylor emphasized that does not mean they will not be answering calls.
On the city government level, Keyser has closed City Hall to the public, although employees will continue to be on the job.
“We are asking customers to either use the night drop or pay their water bills over the phone,” city administrator Amanda Brafford said.
“Should customers have any questions or issues, we ask that they call during normal business hours. We are here to assist our customers should they need payment plans set up, etc.”
The Keyser City Council has also cancelled its meeting for March 25 “as a precautionary measure.”
As of now, the next meeting will be April 8.
The Town of Ridgeley closed their town hall this week as well aaand also asked that payments be placed in the drop box.
According to a post on their Facebook page,”Any issues that may arise through the week can still be dealt with via telephone at 304-738-9400.