Ongoing Construction at Rockwool-Ranson During COVID-19 Crisis Puts Communities at Risk

RANSON, W.Va. (April 8, 2020) — Concerned citizens in Jefferson County are calling on state and local officials to investigate the Rockwool-Ranson construction site in the face of mounting evidence of questionable working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Jefferson County insulation factory is not currently producing material supplies, nor expected to be fully operational until 2021, construction has continued during the pandemic. First-person observations of the construction site have noted large groups, inadequate sanitation stations and a heavy amount of out-of-state vehicle traffic leaving and entering the site.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice recently reported the first community cluster of the novel coronavirus has been identified in the Eastern Panhandle, prompting a new executive order last week that implemented additional protective measures to disrupt the spread of the virus. What is currently occurring at the Rockwool construction site contradicts the actions Gov. Justice and public health experts recommend to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“It is unreasonable to put the health of our community—and other communities across state lines—at risk in order to continue work on a factory that is not expected to open for another year,” said Anastasya Tabb, president of Jefferson County Vision, a nonprofit dedicated to clean and transparent government in Jefferson County. “Jefferson County Vision urges the Jefferson County Health Department, among others, to do everything they can to enforce protocols at this worksite until the COVID-19 pandemic passes.”

Jefferson County Vision believes the reasons to limit activity or halt construction at the Rockwool-Ranson site are many:

● Photographic evidence gathered and obtained in early April shows Rockwool was not enforcing social distancing guidelines as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

● With no sewer service to the construction site, portable toilets are the only sanitary services present. Confidential reports indicate there is a lack of hot water and other sanitary supplies.

● Over a 24-hour period in early April, nearly 600 vehicles were observed exiting and entering the construction site. These vehicles represented 18 states other than West Virginia, and because these workers travel between states daily or on weekends, there is a risk of spreading COVID-19 to multiple communities, including our own.

Gov. Justice’s Executive Order No. 20-20 gives broad authority to local health departments, and Jefferson County Vision is calling on those empowered by the order to ensure proper protocols are being followed at the Rockwool construction site so that all contractors and associated workers, along with community members, are protected from COVID-19 exposure.