March 27, 2020
Dear Governor Justice,
In light of the COVID-19 national pandemic, we would like to address an extremely important issue facing Monroe County, as well as many other areas of rural WV: the imminent arrival of out-of-state pipeline construction crews.
Unless local, state and/or federal officials act promptly, as early as April 1st, we face an influx of hundreds* of out-of-state workers who, as potential carriers of the corona virus, will place our vulnerable populations** at even greater risk. It will also put pipeline workers themselves at risk as they usually stay grouped on campgrounds or in overcrowded hotels, rental apartments and houses.
Statistics have already shown that the ‘way of life’ of transient workers brings with it an increase in STDs and other communicable diseases which require on site medical attention from local health providers. The living and working conditions transients experience makes adherence to intricate COVID-19 protection protocols nearly impossible. This is a recipe for disaster for rural communities whose health services are already stretched way too thin.
As we now know, in the absence of a vaccine, the only truly effective measure is isolation. The presence of transient workers, therefore, not only puts workers themselves and local populations at greater risk of infection from COVID-19, but would also expose the entire state to the now well-documented ‘exponential spread’ of the virus.
- ISOLATION: At this time, the only known remedy for COVID-19 is isolation.
- INFLUX OF TRANSIENTS: Residents of rural areas need get gas, stop at convenience stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, health centers, etc where they would be exposed to higher levels of air-borne viral and surface contamination from an influx of transient workers.
- LEARNING CURVE: Many people, especially the elderly are confused by new ways of doing things and naturally have more difficulty learning by rote all the new steps required for maximum outdoor protection.
- OUT OF STOCK: Precautionary measures require masks and the use of efficient hand and surface cleaners which are often out of stock or in very short supply.
- HEALTH CENTERS LIMITED CAPACITY: In the face of severe pandemic, the capacity of existing medical facilities in WV is particularly limited. Statistics indicate that states with greater capacity have lower percentages of death rates. Our limited number of local health care centers are hardly equipped to handle a local epidemic of COVID-19, not to mention additional cases presented by an influx of hundreds of transient workers.
- LIMITED MEDICAL SUPPLIES: There is currently a shortage of COVID-19 testing kits in WV, as well as life-saving ventilators and important PPE (Personal Protection Equipment).
- TRULY NEEDED CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE: The critical infrastructure most needed right now in WV is medical infrastructure. We have enough coal, oil, gas and renewables to supply existing domestic and industrial energy needs. Pipeline construction crews can be profitably repurposed toward building, rehabilitating and repairing medical and sanitary infrastructure in their areas.
- IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED: All initiatives must be taken now to ‘flatten the curve’ and prevent spikes that would saturate existing medical capacity and cause more deaths.
At this stage, it is absolutely imperative to eradicate all known conditions that contribute to ‘exponential spread’ of COVID-19. We cannot allow an influx of transient workers to ruin our chances to ‘flatten the curve’ and to expose the entire state to having to decide who lives and who dies.
We therefore implore you to please enact a ‘stay’ on transient worker pipeline infra-structure construction crews to prevent them from entering WV.
In light of the ‘fiduciary responsibility’ of elected officials to take all possible measures to protect the health and welfare of their constituents, we hope you will seriously consider the points we have made and take appropriate action. The old adage ‘better safe than sorry’ has never been more critically apropos than it is now.
THANK YOU for your attention!
Board of Directors: Joe Chasnoff, Maury Johnson, Robin Wright
* Link to FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement) submitted by MVP to FERC: https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/06-23-17-FEIS.asp
** National and state officials recognize that our rural populations are already at heightened risk for severe consequences from this virus due to large percentages of elderly inhabitants and less economically affluent citizens. Rural areas are known to experience generally poorer health including obesity, heart and respiratory conditions, etc.