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Photo: Walmart limits number of customers inside stores

Customers wait in line to enter Walmart in Wayne on April 4 after the company announced store policy changes that limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once.

HUNTINGTON — Though other states are beginning to relax COVID-19 guidelines, West Virginia officials last week asked residents to not “fall asleep at the switch” when it comes to virus prevention.

“If the president of the United States can end up with COVID, and if the leader of Great Britain ends up with COVID, we can all end up with it, can we not?” Gov. Jim Justice said Friday during his press briefing.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently lifted all of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, including for restaurants and a fine for not wearing a mask. On Tuesday, Florida health officials reported a spike in new cases of the virus.

Businesses and gatherings in 89 Tennessee counties had no restrictions beginning Friday. Gov. Bill Lee said he thinks the move will stimulate the economy, and he urged the remaining counties to remove their local restrictions.

In West Virginia, guidelines remain in place restricting capacity in businesses including restaurants, and the mask mandate remains in place.

Dr. Clay Marsh, state coronavirus czar, said the restrictions need to remain in place but they may shift as more is learned about the virus.

“We are constantly learning about this,” Marsh said. “I think the governor made a good point — the president and his circle get tested on a daily basis, as I understand it. This is a ubiquitous virus, and when we let our guard down we have more problems with COVID-19.”

“In anything, the novelty of something, the alertness goes high,” Justice said. “The more we have to deal with anything, we begin to ease off and drop our guard. Well, this thing can kill you.”

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 remain high in West Virginia, with 164 patients as of Thursday, according to the state’s dashboard. Of those, 54 are in intensive care and 32 are on ventilators. Deaths related to the virus topped 350 this past week.

“It’s really important we continue those measures so we can make sure West Virginia is a safe place to be, all the counties reduce spread of COVID, protect our elderly, protect each other and keep that spread down, which is a critical factor in our position nationally and getting us back to doing all the things we want to do,” Marsh said.

Complaints of businesses not following the state’s COVID-19 guidelines can be reported to the local health department. In Cabell County, call 304-523-6483 or visit cabellhealth.org.

Reporter Taylor Stuck can be reached at tstuck@hdmediallc.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.