As businesses reopen across WV, the Eastern Panhandle fears influx | Coronavirus – Get your quote now

HARPERS FERRY – The longest service legislator in the East Panhandle just wants the state to deny it. Eighty-eight people died from the coronavirus in Frederick County, Maryland, just a 15-minute drive from three churches on Harpers Ferry, where Senator John Unger II is the chief pastor. Sixty-four Western Virginians had died of COVID-19 since Friday evening. Crossing the Shenandoah River from Harpers Ferry lies Loudoun County, Virginia. Forty-eight people died from COVID-19 and 1,374 tested positive; West Virginia cases amount to 1,447 across the state. The three easternmost counties of West Virginia – Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson – are surrounded by four counties which each have a population of over 150,000 people. The combined totals were 2,040 cases and 73 deaths as of Friday evening. The counties of Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson combine for 318 cases and seven deaths. For weeks, Unger said he urged state health officials to release data showing COVID-19 county cases. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the state on Wednesday requesting the data, fearing that he would not have obtained it otherwise. The state must show the total number of tests conducted in each county, not just the positive cases, to prove that it was done in the region which was the original West Virginia hot spot, Unger said. "I suspect that if we run proper tests, we will find out that we have a real problem. We don't know if there is a peak here. But the peaks occur around us." Sen. John Unger IID-Berkeley In an email, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Resources wrote that the agency received Unger's request "and will check to see if we have this data. I know the dashboard continues to evolve with useful and important information. "Virginia is releasing COVID-19 data via postal code, showing the total number of tests administered, not just positive cases. Unger's biggest concern lies in the sharp increase in cases just Outside the Eastern Panhandle in the past two weeks. 326 new positive cases and 26 deaths were reported in Frederick County for a period of five days this week. In the three panhandle counties, 54 new cases and four deaths were reported in the same five-day period. Twenty-four of these cases were reported Monday in Berkeley County. "I suspect that if we do proper tests, we will find out that c we have a real problem, "said Unger. "We don't know if there is a peak here. But the peaks are occurring all around us." Unger hopes he is wrong and that the tests have been sufficient in the Eastern Panhandle. But as local businesses weigh the risk of reopening and more people are sent back to work, he said, counties must have region-specific data so that the public doesn't operate under a false sense of security. "I want us to move on, but I want us to open with our eyes wide open and not blindfolded." "The city is not open" A mother carrying three small children in an SUV with Maryland plates stopped at the four-foot high sign placed in the middle of the street Tuesday morning. “SAFER AT HOME! by order of the Governor, "he says. He pulled a slow three-point curve and went back to where it had come from. Until further notice, the sign continued, there would be no public parking, toilets or rubbish bins in the city of Harpers Ferry. "National Historic Park is closed. Practice social removal. Leave no trace." A young woman and her dog dragged themselves onto the sidewalk shortly thereafter; she wore a surgical mask around the city because "you never know when these tourists come out from behind a bush, "said Harpers Ferry, the easternmost city in the state, it is a major tourist attraction in West Virginia. The heaviest traffic often comes from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, they say. locals. "All it takes is one person to park illegally," said Cindy Dunn, a longtime entrepreneur in the lower town of Harpers Ferry. The weekend p Rhyme, tourists were a problem, he said. The parking lot has been blocked, but some have found places to detach the road and stretch their legs. A ferry to Harpers has multiple signs positioned in the main stretch of the city, Unger said, "but they are ignoring them. … The city is not open." Unger often reports COVID-19 data in a hot air balloon in Montgomery County, in Maryland and Fairfax County, Virginia, two urban counties bordering Washington, DC The two counties combine for approximately 15,000 positive cases and 722 deaths They are interconnected with the eastern Panhandle of western Virginia like any other county in the region, has said Unger, who has been representing the district since 1998, said he has a hard time making people understand how things work in the Eastern Panhandle. He is often shut down when trying to argue that East West Virginia is a suburb of the capital of the nation. Non-existent borders Ronda Lehman, Jefferson County Teen Court coordinator, lives near the Shenandoah River in Harpers Ferry for 17 years. "I can spit Loudoun County , from my home in Virginia, "said Lehman, who is also a nurse at the Jefferson Day Report Center, said state borders are an afterthought in the panhandle. People can live in West Virginia, but their job is in Washington, DC, their family doctors practice Virginia and attend religious services in Maryland, he said. At the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center, seven deaths and 68 positive cases are linked to COVID-19. It is unclear whether these veterans and employees are resident in West Virginia, Maryland or Virginia. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, said over the phone that her husband is a frontline nurse in the Maryland pandemic. Driving your husband across the border on business every day is not unique. "It's called tri-state [area] for a reason. There's a large percentage of my constituents working in Maryland and Virginia," he said. "Boundaries mean nothing," said Unger. Unger, chairman of the Senate public health committee, called on insurance companies, health administrators and government officials to make COVID-19 tests available, free and voluntary, for all Western Virginians. "When we reopen the state, these tests should be available to all employers and their employees – restaurateurs, shop assistants, coal miners; all of them," he said in a May 5 release. "This is to protect their families, colleagues and customers from the spread of COVID-19." Gov. Jim Justice announced during his free test news briefing Thursday in Berkeley and Jefferson counties and in Raleigh and Mercer counties this weekend. Additional tests are planned for the counties of Cabell, Kanawha, Marion and Monongalia next weekend. By weighing the risks of reopening Dunn's small business in the lower town of Harpers Ferry sells jewelry, beer, wine and other West Virginia collectibles assembled in the Mountain State. Vintage Lady closed on March 16, the day Justice declared a state of emergency for West Virginia. of the United States on the log wall in his shop marks the houses of tourists who stop by The Vintage Lady every month. In just 16 days in March, Dunn greeted visitors from New Orleans, Southern California, Florida and South Dakota, to name a few. Under the map of the United States, Dunn marks the people who have visited internationally. Tourists arrived from China, Germany, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Italy and Mexico in just two weeks and two days. Dunn thought it was time to close the shop after the countries and cities from which the tourists came were devastated by COVID -19 "I have no regrets when we closed, I feel like it's a solid decision," he said. "I think it's the reopening that I'm not really sure what to do." Harpers Ferry National Park remains closed, but may soon change as some national parks across the country have had the go-ahead to reopen. , Virginia and Washington, DC, are not reopening to the rhythm of West Virginia. Dunn fears a massive influx of tired people from those tired places of quarantine life, longing for an escape to the mountains. The protection of his only employee, who has helped run the shop for a decade, is Dunn's primary concern. So for now, the decision to reopen is "day by day". A few miles away in Charles Town, Marjorie Skinner's family is weighing up its reopening. Skinner manages the finances for his stepson's and daughter-in-law's small Italian restaurant, La Mezzaluna Cafe. Clients often come from Maryland and Virginia. He described the region as "dormitory", as residents of every state who travel in and out of their courtyards every day, and even more on weekends. "We believe this area is very different from the rest of the state, and it is really complicated to treat us the same way," he said. Keeping the tables 6 feet away is difficult for a small cafe; the disposable menus are not financially feasible, due to the variety of meals offered by the restaurant; and hand sanitizer vending machines are expensive. These are just some of the obstacles to reopening the restaurant, Skinner said. For now, the takeaway service will continue in La Mezzaluna, Skinner said. Reopening according to state and federal guidelines is "very impractical and very risky to do". Like Dunn and Unger, Skinner said he understood the need to reopen economic activities in the area that are hurting financially as soon as possible. But she worries about asymptomatic carriers and how a case related to La Mezzaluna could mean the end for the family business: "God forbid, if we have a disease because one of our customers came unknowingly and dined when they were sick, "he said. “[Customers] would not forgive us for [that]; that spot would stick. "Unger hopes the East Panhandle counties will have a say in the reopening of their region. Just because things are booming in County Braxton doesn't mean that Jefferson County is flattening the curve As a man of faith, Unger wants to believe that God spared the Mountain State from the devastating effects of the pandemic. But as a civil servant, he wants the data to know what is true. "If we are not careful, it could overtake us; and even before we find out it's here, it may be too late and the mortality rates will start to go up very quickly, "he said." I hope I'm wrong. "