Officials, residents fear eastern panhandle could be more vulnerable to COVID-19

West Virginia

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — As restrictions are lifted in West Virginia in response to the coronavirus, some in the eastern panhandle feel more vulnerable than the rest of the Mountain State.

Wedged between Maryland and Virginia and a short train ride to the huge federal workforce in the Nation’s Capital, the eastern panhandle is not as isolated as the rest of West Virginia.

Doug Copenhaver, Jr., president of the Berkeley County Council, says he not only presides over the fastest growing county in the state, “we have the metropolitan Baltimore and DC areas close by and Interstate 81 brings lots of traffic into the county.”

State Senator John Unger (D-Berkeley, Jefferson) cites data showing COVID-19 cases are higher just across the border. And he is frustrated by the lack of medical data furnished by West Virginia officials.

“Just what is it that we’re doing in the area of testing?,” Unger asks. “The officials can’t tell me how many tests are being done. So I always question, if you can tell me how many positive cases are here why in the world can’t you tell me how many tests are being conducted?”

On a spring-like Friday afternoon, Martinsburg resident Jill Catlett lives is getting some fresh air in a city park. She lost her job as a chef from the coronavirus. She is certain the infection rates are higher in the eastern panhandle because of the proximity to Washington, D.C.

“Look how many people who live here commute to Washington every day and come back here every evening,” Catlett explains. “It is certain to add to the COVID-19 infection rates, more than more isolated parts of our state.”

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