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County issues Emergency Order to restrict social contact

“Take this seriously,” commissioner says of county order


Morgan County Courthouse

Morgan County Commissioners on Tuesday approved and signed an Emergency Order to locally impose rules meant to help stem the spread of the highly-contagious coronavirus between county residents.

The order passed three days after West Virginia Governor Jim Justice directed tighter rules about gatherings and business operations on the Eastern Panhandle, one of the state’s “hot spots” for COVID-19 cases.

Morgan County has reported four state-confirmed cases of the disease.

As of Wednesday, April 8, there are 66 confirmed COVID-19 cases in neighboring Berkeley County, one in Hampshire County to the west, 57 cases in Washington County, Md. to the north and 46 cases in Frederick County, Va. to the south.

Many Morgan County residents travel to surrounding counties for work.

Order in effect now

Morgan County’s Emergency Order applies to “residents, businesses and public bodies of Morgan County” and went into effect on Tuesday, April 7.

The order says “residents shall shelter-in-place to the greatest extent possible, leaving their homes and places of abode for essential purposes only.”

Those “essential purposes” include buying food or medicine for themselves or others who are at high risk of disease, working at an essential job, caring for livestock or animals or attending medical appointments.

County officials have ordered there are to be no gatherings of more than five people. In small gatherings, individuals should still maintain more than six feet between them.

In essential businesses that continue to operate, employees should work from home or remotely, the order says.

County offices that remain open will operate on normal schedules “with rotating skeleton crews” and all employees are deemed to be “on call.”

No short-term rooms, rentals

Local lodging businesses, from hotels and B&Bs to vacation rental properties, can no longer take guests for daily/nightly/hourly rentals. They can, however, provide rooms or rentals if a customer “agrees to rent such room for a minimum of 14 days.”

That period of time aligns with quarantine recommendations to ensure a person is not ill or is no longer contagious if infected with the virus.

Hotels, motels, rentals and inns can provide rooms or space to health care providers, under the order.

Limit customers

Other Morgan County businesses that remain open to sell food, gas, medicine or offer other essential services must limit the number of people inside their doors to reduce person-to-person contact.

The Berkeley-Morgan County Health Department protocols for operating a public business in the times of COVID-19 dictate that the number of people inside a business is limited by the square footage of that establishment.

Under the order, businesses “whose sales are comprised of 80% grocery food products” can allow 2.5 people per each 1,000 square feet of interior space  “at any one time.”

Other businesses can permit two people per 1,000 square feet of interior space.

Businesses must also limit the number of shopping carts being used by customers and even limit the number of parking spaces to keep customer numbers within the acceptable range, the order says. Businesses must also ensure that employees and customers stay six feet apart.

The county’s order says failure to comply with the restrictions can result in fines or closure of a business while the order is in effect.

The order remains in effect until it is lifted.

Commissioners unanimously approved the order in a special meeting held at the Morgan County Courthouse and live streamed on social media.

The order was signed by Dr. Kevin McLaughlin, the deputy health officer for the Berkeley-Morgan County Health Department. McLaughlin is a local physician.

“It’s very important that each and every business take this seriously,” said Commissioner Sean Forney. “Please do your part to make public safety a priority.”

Morgan County’s Health Department can be reached at 304-258-1513. The Morgan County Commission can be reached at 304-258-8540. The order can also be found on the county’s website





  1. bibi on April 8, 2020 at 10:29 am

    i’d really love to know the definition of an “essential business.” I see some places open that I *never* need to go to…. just saying!

  2. John Dupon on April 8, 2020 at 10:32 am

    I wonder if the number of ppl per square foot for the grocery store should be lower. 40-45% of our local store’s space is comprised of shelving.

  3. george miller on April 8, 2020 at 10:56 am

    Suggestion that may be helpful for all of us with road side mail boxes is to give them a wipe down sanitize the mail box each day so it limits our carriers from possible exposure . This is just one of the little things we can do to help end this nightmare and stay safe. .. Home made face masks do one thing very good in that they stop the possible virus laden droplets from traveling beyond a foot from the wearer. . any of us can be asymptomatic and unknowingly spread this before we could feel ill so let’s not take chance of being a spreader..

    • Wayne Sanderson on April 8, 2020 at 2:07 pm

      When we moved here we bought, along with the house, one of those green plastic mailboxes with front and rear doors and a cubby beneath for newspapers. I never bothered with the rear door- I always just opened it from the front. That rear door has come in handy.

      What I started doing weeks ago is to restrict myself to opening only the rear door on my mailbox to retrieve the mail. That way, the only person touching the front door on the street side of the mailbox is the mail carrier. Now I don’t worry about touching something others outside the home touched, and vice versa. (I clean up the mail with a disinfectant too- Three months ago if I saw myself doing this I would have put myself in for a psych eval- Now, it seems normal…)

  4. Pat F on April 9, 2020 at 7:19 am

    Why cashiers in stores NOT wearing gloves. Money is a haven for all kinds of bacteria If you handle money you should be required to ware gloves along with masks

    • Laura on April 9, 2020 at 9:08 am

      Well first of all you need to learn how to spell and how to form a question. Secondly paper money is hard to with gloves on . Thirdly if people would keep in mind you’re only supposed to be out buying essentials not gift cards or koolaid maybe you wouldnt be freaked out. Lastly why dont you try thanking your cashier and show him or her some respect.

      • lee fairfax on April 10, 2020 at 9:13 am

        Your reply seems a bit harsh. So what if Spell Check changed wear to ware. the point is valid. seems to mee that wearing gloves is a given when touching money all day. We wash our groceries after we get home. just common sense.

  5. Laken on April 9, 2020 at 8:38 am

    We live on route 9. So much traffic has been going by. Lowe’s parking lot was so full you couldn’t find a parking spot. Saturday there were about 35 people waiting for Walmart to open they were standing just like normal shoulder to shoulder. When Walmart opened they let all of the people in line in the store at once. Im afraid this will only get worse.

  6. Donald Polliard on April 9, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    I would like to thank the commission for going the extra mile. Some folks are not taken this seriously especially the younger ones.

  7. lee fairfax on April 10, 2020 at 9:19 am

    Kudos to the Commission. I want even stricter standards. I’m self isolating and have stocked my freezer and shelves but I know a number of people that still drive out, daily, to get one can of something or one burger. This is serious and we need to respect the gravity of the moment. Plan ahead & STAY HOME!

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