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WVU’s Dr. Clay Marsh provides stats, facts and ‘what to do’ related to COVID-19

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West Virginia University Health Sciences Vice President and Executive Dean Dr. Clay Marsh (WVU Photo)

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West Virginia University Health Sciences Vice President and Executive Dean Dr. Clay Marsh sent the following letter to the campus community Friday, March 6: 

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Stats, Facts and What to Do

There is a lot of anxiety about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), but remember, there's no reason to panic. Here's what we know:

This novel coronavirus shares similarity to other coronaviruses that cause the common cold. COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China, and is thought to have spread from an animal source (bats) to people.

The virus is spreading from person to person by droplets from coughing or sneezing, largely because we do not have immunity to the virus. While experts are working on a vaccine, we do not yet have one.


      • Currently, there are no confirmed cases in West Virginia. We have a talented team creating a response plan for West Virginia if we identify COVID-19 in the state.

      • COVID-19 usually causes a self-limited mild or moderate flu-like illness. Based on the experience in South Korea, a country widely testing their citizens, less than 1% of those infected needed hospitalization and about 0.3% of their citizens died. In China, more than 80% of those infected had a mild or moderate illness that did not require hospitalization, 17% needed hospitalization and 3% died.

      • Older adults (especially those 70 to 90 years old) with other illnesses (diabetes, asthma, COPD) seem to be at the highest risk for more serious complications from the virus.

      • Keep in mind, influenza (flu) has caused five-fold more deaths worldwide than COVID-19.


      • Viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities or racial backgrounds. Neither eating in a Chinese restaurant in the U.S. nor receiving a package from China can give you the virus. Stigma hurts everyone by creating fear and anger, but we can fight stigma and help not hurt others by providing social support.

      • Your pets cannot give you COVID-19.

      • Being infected with COVID-19 is not a death sentence. The death rates reported from those infected vary between 0.3% to 3.2% of patients affected.


We've created a website,, to house the latest information, including more details on the virus, campus actions and more.

We want to be cautious. In accordance with guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the WVU Office of Global Affairs canceled all scheduled University-sponsored spring break trips abroad, affecting 217 students. We're also asking anyone considering travel to review the CDC's travel guidelines.

All across campus and at WVU Medicine, we're working to be as prepared as possible in case the virus spreads to the Mountain State.

Don't forget about best practices to protect yourself from contracting COVID-19, such as:

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick, when possible.
  • If you're sick, stay home.
  • Avoid handshakes and hugs. Instead, just say hi or give an elbow bump.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds (say your ABCs or sing Happy Birthday twice) often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. Make sure to clean between your fingers and around your wrists.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or the bend of your elbow, not your hands. Stay at least 6 feet away from people coughing. Use the nearest waste receptacle to dispose of the tissue after use.

If you believe you've been exposed to COVID-19 or develop symptoms:

  • Call first before seeking medical care. 
  • On the Morgantown campus, students with health questions or concerns should contact WVU Medicine Student Health at 304-285-7200. WVU Faculty and staff should reach out to their primary healthcare provider or call WVU Medicine’s line at 304-598-6000 (Option 4).
  • Call your local health department to report a disease that requires immediate notification.
  • Resources are also available through the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

By working together and avoiding panic, we will make it through this novel coronavirus. We will demonstrate the resilience and grit of West Virginia, and we will be a beacon of hope and community where we help and protect each other.

Clay Marsh, MD
Vice President and Executive Dean
West Virginia University Health Sciences



CONTACT: University Relations/Communications

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