As the coronavirus pandemic headed for West Virginia and the number of confirmed cases began to increase, some Republican senators downplayed the threat of the virus and said the response was “out of proportion.”
West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s request for public registration under the state’s Freedom of Information Act searched for emails related to the coronavirus pandemic to and from members of the Senate of West Virginia and its staff. This request came back more than 400 pages of emails between senators and voters.
Numerous exchanges show state senators trying to help businesses and individuals navigate unemployment and other assistance claims, while other conversations have focused on the economic effects of state closure .
Requests for public documents from the governor’s office and from members and staff of the House of Delegates are pending.
Three Republican Senators Agree That Response To Coronavirus Is “Totally Unapplied”
“I write with passion to say that the response and reaction to this disease is totally out of place. We are completely exaggerating the danger of this virus, “Shaun Borner wrote to senators on March 16.” There is absolutely no reason to be afraid of getting it. No matter if we get sick, we will get better. There is no reason to close the world. Stop the stupidity or we will destroy our economy. “
Senate Speaker Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, responded to Borner with a line, “I agree with you.” As of March 16, West Virginia had not yet announced a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Senator Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, also responded to Borner’s email in agreement with him.
“Shaun. I think you are right. I give him a few weeks to stabilize. Thanks for your thoughts, ”replied Boley.
Senator Mike Azinger, R-Wood, responded to Borner a day later, March 17 – a few hours before West Virginia confirmed a first case of COVID-19 and Governor Jim Justice announced the closure of some businesses.
“It is out of proportion, indeed, Mr. Borner. I couldn’t agree more, ”wrote Azinger.
Weeks later, and after West Virginia documented more than 200 confirmed cases of the virus, Azinger said the state’s response was brutal.
Azinger sent an email to Stacie Redelman, a resident of Morgantown, asking legislators to urge the judge not to close the school for the rest of the school year.
“Our seniors deserve the opportunity to have a ball and graduate, because it’s the very first class who lived their life 100% after September 11 because some were just born or are still in utero”, Redelman wrote to Azinger and other state lawmakers on April 2 “They came into the world in a crisis, let them start as adults with the cherished memories of the coveted events of the senior experience.” “
Redelman also included a link to a petition calling for the schools to be reopened.
“I happen to agree with you on this point – and, frankly, I believe [the] everything is out of proportion, but unfortunately the leaders of both bodies and both parties strongly recommend the cancellation, “Azinger replied on April 2.” You can consider a phone blitz at the government office. “
Senator Roberts received an email regarding immunization laws and concerns regarding fast food
Other legislators in the West Virginia Senate have responded to a wide range of residents’ concerns – touching on concerns about mandatory vaccinations, fast food safety and other matters.
“We need your help in West Virginia to make sure that such government interference in our health does not happen and to reverse the existing mandatory vaccination laws,” Marlene Moss wrote to Senator Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh , March 21th.
Moss also forwarded a note she identified as coming from a friend in Denmark who stated that they were unable to undergo surgery until a COVID-19 vaccine was completed. been developed.
“I’m not surprised. So sad …” Roberts wrote to Moss.
Roberts also expressed concern that fast food restaurants could remain open. Jimmy Young sent an email to Roberts, noting that hundreds of people would go through driver’s service on any given day and that exchanging money increased the chances of spreading the virus.
“No, I am not an expert or a doctor, but many experts have indicated and transmitted this information to other states / countries which immediately closed, stopped or stopped the direct physical exchange of currency or other such than debit or credit cards using any Windows DRIVE-THRU service via restaurants or the like, “Young wrote. “PLEASE take these facts seriously and be ahead of the ball / curve as we are all counting on you to make the most vital decisions that really affect us all in this time of crisis!”
Roberts responded to Young’s concerns by urging residents to take precautions when going through drive-thru service in a fast food restaurant.
“You are [sic] concerns are appropriate. I have a hand sanitizer in my cup holder and I clean my hands and my credit card after each drive-through purchase. When I touch the outside of the bag to throw it away, I disinfect myself again after the driver gave me this vehicle, ”wrote Roberts. “Personal liability is the key to anyone who applies guarantees. BTW, I eat at the wheel service every day. “
Rucker says reopening of economy was “imperative” in early April
In the first week of April, Senator Patricia Rucker informed voters that she was working on the reopening of certain businesses. James Sergeant of Martinsburg wrote to Rucker on April 3, requesting conversations with the governor’s office about the opening of parts of the state’s economy “as soon as possible.”
“I hope some efforts are being discussed. The loss of life due to the current virus situation is tragic and must be properly prioritized, but widespread economic loss can be just as damaging and possibly worse, “wrote Sergeant. “Employing a person is essential to their ability to support a family and our community. Businesses cannot survive without customers and customers cannot exist without jobs. “
Rucker responded on April 6 that she had been in contact with staff from the governor’s office about her plans to reopen the state. She also suggested that Sergent contact local officials at the county and municipal levels to find out what power they might have to exempt businesses deemed “non-essential” under the justice decree.
“It is imperative to revive our economy, while preserving security, of course,” said Rucker. “If you have any suggestions or ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”
Tarr Responds to Concerns About Malpractice Lawsuits, Email Calling State Judgment “Unconstitutional”
Senator Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, received an email from orthopedic surgeon Steven Novotny on March 29 asking legislators to consider a bill that would prevent malpractice lawsuits against doctors working on the front lines of the pandemic.
“As a doctor at Marshall University, I ask if there are any plans to reduce the flow of medical prosecutions due to the coronavirus and the problems it creates in the health care delivery system,” Novotny wrote to Tarr. “As a confirmed pessimist, I expect trail lawyers to have a field day; inability to treat costumes for those who do not need urgent care, abandonment costumes for those who are not seen, pain and suffering, or any other imaginary reason. Please set a course with the legislator to work on it before it is too late. “
Two days later, on March 31, Tarr responded to Novotny with similar concerns. No communication from Tarr with the governor’s office was included in the request for public documents from West Virginia Public Broadcasting to the Senate.
“I agree, I sent an email to the Governor of Justice last week, I copied Senate President Mitch Carmichael and President Roger Hanshaw requesting an order in council to exempt working health care providers to prevent the spread of COVID 19 from any action for linked civil liability claimed as a matter of urgency, ”replied Tarr.
Also on March 31, Daniel Lucas sent an email to Tarr to express his concerns about the Department of Justice decrees that closed businesses and asked residents to stay at home.
“I am deeply concerned about the unconstitutional measures being taken across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Lucas. “I understand that our governor has important powers in the event of a state emergency; however, the governor does not have the power to usurp our inalienable rights listed in the American Constitution. “
Lucas then cited Patrick Henry, one of the founding fathers of the United States. He also asked Tarr to “call the congress again [sic] to respond to the shelter order on site, and to serve as a check on additional future reach. “
The Constitution of West Virginia allows the Governor to convene the Legislative Assembly in session. In addition, legislators can remember to work with a three-fifths majority of the two chambers.
Tarr responded to Lucas’ email stating that he shared these concerns and brought it to the attention of a lawyer who shared a link from The Dispatch, a website with news and comments that is informed by conservative principles.
“I certainly agree with you and Patrick Henry that we are losing freedom for good intentions. He has apparently already been suffered in the United States and challenged without success, given the Supreme Court decision mentioned in the article, “replied Tarr the same day that Lucas contacted him. “I am doing everything I can to express specific concerns to the governor and his cabinet regarding the deleterious effects of his decrees.”