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Holding Strong: Weathering the COVID-19 Pandemic in Wyoming County

By Derek Tyson, The Independent Herald

PINEVILLE, WV – Wyoming County has held strong at 1 positive case while other counties seem to face new exposures daily during this COVID-19 epidemic. County Commissioner Jason Mullins credits this to all the residents and businesses across the area.

“I have to give a big shout out to all Wyoming County residents,” said Mullins. “We are doing an excellent job in our area.”

According to Mullins, County staff ranging from the Courthouse, the Sheriff’s Office, 911/OES have gone above and beyond during this time as well.

“They’re working extra hours and continuing to do the day-to-day work,” said Mullins. “They’re handling things by appointment during this time and we have drop boxes outside for each office.” Anyone needing assistance is encouraged to call (304) 732-8000.

The County Commission is also still meeting by appointments and hold limited-attendance meetings.

“As a Commission, we’re doing everything we can with our Health Department,” said Mullins. “Those folks have been working day and night, testing in Pineville on certain days of the week.”

Primary care physicians are still caring for their patients, and referring them to the Wyoming County Health Department if symptoms suggest possible exposure.

“Our businesses are doing everything they can to limit the spread of the virus,” said Mullins. “We realize how inconvenient it is to go in stores now, but we cannot commend the store clerks and our doctor’s office staffs enough.”

The impact on small businesses across the area is the central focus at the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority. With the announcement of the Itmann Mine back in the fall, the County seemed to be leveling off, but Executive Orders from Governor Jim Justice have caused layoffs in local mines and closed the other big factor in the local economy, tourism mainly from the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System.

“It’s a stressful time for our small businesses too, the mom and pop shops ran by local people you’ve known and loved your whole life,” said Christy Laxton, Director of the Wyoming County EDA. “But everybody seems to understand the reasoning behind what’s going on, the social distancing, school closures and everyone seems to be very cooperative with Health Department guidelines.”

Working diligently with small businesses in Wyoming County and across the region, the EDA has applications for businesses needing deferred payments during this time.

“We tried to reach out about SBA and the Payroll Protection Program, but unfortunately the SBA isn’t accepting any more applications at this time and the PPP program ran out of funding,” said Laxton. “The EDA doesn’t have the capital available right now, but we can promise our businesses that we’re working hard to find anything we can make happen.”

Laxton said the EDA shifted to sharing grant and loan opportunities that are available, hoping to help some area businesses find security during this troublesome time.

“We know a few here in the county had some success with those opportunities,” said Laxton. “We know everyone can’t but our goal is to help somebody.”

According to Laxton, most Wyoming County businesses are self-employed or partnership based, barring them from some benefits available to others during this pandemic.

“With new funding, we’re hoping to target those businesses that have been tremendously impacted by this,” said Laxton. “Some have completely shut down while others have laid off workers.”

Business impact surveys are currently being accepted, an important piece of securing more funding for businesses impacted during this time.

“We’re not an official partner with the survey groups, but I’m using that information daily to show the impact on businesses and the need for financial assistance,” said Laxton. “We have to have that information to show that there is still a need for these small businesses caught in the cracks.”

Ever an optimist, Laxton hopes for a light at the end of the tunnel.

“The positive side we hope for is that people will start looking at their community in a more positive manner, not taking things for granted,” said Laxton. “Maybe people will shop locally more often, making positive changes in their habits. As things open back up, we won’t take our time with our loved ones or our local businesses for granted.”

Jason Mullins commended all the people of Wyoming County for doing the best they can in dealing with these changes.

“We hope to be on the downside of this slope and get back to life as usual on soon as possible, but just not too quickly,” said Jason Mullins. “We want to make sure we open again at the right time.”

“Our businesses are doing the best of both worlds, trying to stay open while keeping everyone employed and their businesses afloat,” said Christy Laxton.