(NEW YORK) – West Virginia became the last state in the country to record a positive case of COVID-19, and the percent of positive tests are lower compared to other states. Residents, however, are still expressing concern.
Chris Lawrence is the morning radio host of 580 WCHS radio in Charleston, West Virginia. He tells ABC’s Cheri Preston on ABC Audio’s “Perspective” podcast that the novel coronavirus could have a devastating effect on the state’s population:
“We have that elderly population. We’re not the healthiest state in the country, obviously, a lot of people here smoke, a lot of people here suffer from black lung. Elderly folks that worked in the coal mines are now retired and they already have a lot of respiratory issues. And that is exactly the kind of folks that are most at risk with this COVID-19 virus. And there is a real fear that if it were to get out of control here in West Virginia that we could lose a lot of our population.”
Listen to the full interview and the rest of this past week’s highlights here.
As of Sunday evening, there are less than 350 cases in the state, and reported deaths related to COVID-19 are still in single digits.
Although rural hospitals face challenges in combatting the novel coronavirus, Lawrence says medical equipment and hospital beds have not been an issue so far in the mostly rural state, though he concedes, “That’s not saying it won’t be in the future.”
Right now, West Virginia is hoping its residents just practice good hygiene and social distancing:
“The National Guard has assembled and distributed that across the state to all 55 of our counties. Ventilators have not been a big concern here in West Virginia… I think the biggest concern here has just been keeping people away from one another.”
Lawrence jokes that there is no better place to socially distance than West Virginia: a mountainous region with a plethora of hiking trails. Right now, however, the landscape is mostly just being shared by those living in West Virginia:
“Governor Justice made that clear this week because he closed down all of the state park campgrounds and all private campgrounds, because we were finding that a lot of folks from some of the larger metropolitan areas were coming into West Virginia to ride this out until this is over. Nobody is really invited to come in and enjoy it, but for those of us who are some of the chosen few that get to live here.. . getting out, doing it, taking a hike, walking on our mountains is one of the most enjoyable ways ever to socially isolate from everyone else.”Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.