Preston Co. Commission holds special session to discuss coronavirus, voting and enforcing social distancing rules


KINGWOOD, W.Va. – The Preston County Commission had a special session on Wednesday, April 1 to discuss some pressing issues relating to the coronavirus including voting and enforcing the social distancing order.

One of the most pressing issues on the agenda was petitioning Gov. Jim Justice to change the May primaries to absentee ballots only. This topic was brought up in the middle of the meeting and was the last thing discussed by the commission before adjourning.

Commission president Samantha Stone said they want to change the voting format to adhere to the social distancing guidelines put in place by the governor. She said there are many benefits to switching to the absentee ballot.

“Mostly for the safety of our citizens and our employees,” Stone said. “When you come out to do early voting you are in an enclosed space, there are a lot of people, we truly feel this is the only way to keep people safe and in doing so and asking the governor to do this. We are also asking that all the other counties in West Virginia join us. Cry to the governor, so to speak, so that we are standing united to keep everybody safe in a time when business must go on.”

Another key issue on the agenda was enforcing the order to practice social distancing. The Preston Co. Health Department administrator VJ Davis was in attendance and spoke to the commission about his plan to put up signs at stores and businesses that are still open to remind people to not crowd them and limit themselves to essential visits only.

Stone said the signs are necessary because some citizens are taking the stay at home order seriously but many are not. They are seeing entire families comprising of the young and elderly in grocery stores when that is not necessary or safe.

Yes, it is essential to buy groceries, Stone said, but it is not essential to bring the entire family.

“And so what VJ is doing is he’s getting some new signage up, getting onboard with our Walmart and our Shop n Saves in Preston Co. and other businesses that are still open that people can come into and shop at,” Stone said. “The signage is doing no more than asking those folks to practice social distancing and leave the family at home while they go out.”

Stone said before the commission meeting they had a conference call with the State Police, Preston Co. Health Department and others during which the State Police said they were going to start being stricter about enforcing the governor’s stay at home order.

“There is starting to be a repercussion for not following these mandates coming from the governor,” Stone said. “And so there could be people getting arrested and so if you’re just out gallivanting so to speak, I don’t know what else to say. It has to be essential business. If you have to go to work that is one thing but you have to go to work and you need to come home.”

The public needs to practice social distancing because it is putting the lives of employees at these stores at risk. Additionally, she said, it is also putting the lives of those family members who had no reason to be there at risk.

Finally, Stone said, the spread of COVID-19 can be controlled if people simply adhere to the rules.

The commission also recently announced that they would be putting a freeze on any spending, and asked the governor for help. To learn more about the spending freeze, click here.

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