Mercer County Sheriff

PRINCETON — As COVID-19 continues to appear in the area, the Mercer County Commission is seeking for county law enforcement to intervene when it comes to social gatherings.

After an emergency meeting on Sunday evening, the commission extended the power of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department. Now, deputies with the department will work to disperse crowds over 10 people.

“While I understand that there are issues many people in the community have questioned what is essential. I would say that if it is not life-sustaining then it is not essential,” Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett said.

According to Puckett, essentials include grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals and doctor offices. Being that these are essential, these are not areas where deputies will intervene.

“Certainly grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals and doctor offices are essential to life as we know it,” Puckett said.

Areas that deputies will be working to disperse crowds include areas such as golf courses and basketball courts, Puckett said.

“There are voluntary places of gathering that are not essential. If it is not essential you need to be home,” Puckett said. “We need people to understand the severity of the situation that is not a time for congregating in a crowd, playing golf, basketball, anything.”

Families will not be impacted by this new declaration, according to Puckett. Those quarantining with their families in their homes will not be affected.

“Family members, if quarantining themselves in their homes for the CDC requested timeline, will not be impacted. These recommendations are to help stop the senseless gatherings that are not life essential,” Puckett said.

Regarding the declaration, Commission President Gene Buckner said “The thing that we’re trying to instill is that this is a very serious manner.”

According to Buckner, he believes that young people are the ones not taking the virus as seriously as they should. With older residents being the ones at a higher risk, Buckner is hoping that the younger generation acts proactively for the elderly’s sake.

“We need to put forth the effort before it gets out of hand. The longer we wait the longer we will be quarantined. It all happened so fast,” Buckner said. “People just need to be thoughtful of others.”

This declaration will not close any business’ doors, Puckett said. The commission cannot vote to close any business that the governor has not instructed to close.

“Businesses that have not been named by the Governor previously will still operate by their own guidelines. We have no authority over that,” Puckett said.

After Mercer County’s second case of the virus was found on Saturday, the commissioners are looking to reduce social congregations as much as possible. The commission is currently following guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) which advises people to stay at least six feet apart from each other.

“We have to address this as quickly as possible to keep a potential problem from becoming a much more expansive one,” Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett said. There are way too many people that are not taking this seriously and we should be much more diligent.”

At this time, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources, W. Va. has 16 positive cases, 444 negative cases, zero deaths and four pending. The Va. Department of Health, at this time, is reporting 3,337 people tested, 219 positive cases, 32 hospitalized and 3 deaths.

At this time, the only local cases reported are in Mercer County, with two cases. Though no cases have been reported in Tazewell, a Bluefield College student, that does not live in Tazewell, tested positive for the virus.

This student returned to her home on March 12. Both the college and the Tazewell Department of Health is working to contact those that the student could have been in contact with.

West Virginia counties will positive cases include Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marshall, Mercer, Monongalia, Putnam and Tucker.

 — Contact Emily D. Coppola at ecoppola@bdtonline.com

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