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Coronavirus In West Virginia: Schools Closed For Rest Of Academic Year Amid Virus Threat

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice closed schools for the rest of the academic year Tuesday over concerns about the coronavirus.

The Republican governor had previously canceled in-person classes through the end of April but said he now has no choice but to extend the statewide closures. Online classes and other remote learning will continue.

"The last thing on the planet I would do is put our kids in harm's way," he said.

Justice had previously resisted calls to close schools for the remainder of the year, saying it would be good for kids to return to classrooms even if for a few weeks.

The governor "really was optimistic that our children would have some time together at the end of the school year and just really came to the realization that it was going to be really tough," state Superintendent Clayton Burch said.

Fred Albert, president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, praised Justice's decision.

"It's just too risky and we've got to make sure that we're keeping our kids safe above all," he said.

The announcement came a day after Justice moved to ease virus restrictions on hospitals if they can prove they have enough protective equipment and could handle an unexpected surge in cases.

As he shifted his attention toward restarting the economy, Justice and his administration said the state has dramatically increased its testing capacity though a partnership with LabCorp, a major lab testing company.

More than 925 people have the virus after more than 25,400 tests, state health officials said Tuesday. Twenty-six people have died.

Later Tuesday, the state's governing body for high school sports, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, canceled the boys and girls state basketball tournaments, as well as the spring sports of tennis, track, softball and baseball.

The girls basketball tournament was suspended March 12, hours before Justice was supposed to take to the sidelines to coach his Greenbrier East High team in a quarterfinal game.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can bring about more severe illness, including pneumonia, and even death.

(Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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