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Gee: WVU Medicine a frontline in COVID-19 battle

(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories detailing West Virginia University President Gordon Gee’s discussion with members of the Ogden Newspapers editorial staff last week, during which he talked about the university’s role in the Mountain State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WVU Medicine, the future of higher education and football as we approach a “new normal.”)

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MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University President Gordon Gee says he believes the university’s WVU Medicine network of hospitals has helped West Virginia more quickly address the threat of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Gee spoke online with the Ogden News editorial board about West Virginia University’s medical facilities that have helped address the threat of coronavirus.

West Virginia University has 16 hospitals throughout the state under the WVU Medicine banner.

“If you take a look at the heat map of the state (where COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring), the university’s health system now is really the net significant provider of healthcare for the state,” Gee said. “Because of that we were able to immediately make a lot of choices, I think, in terms of what we are doing with the virus and how we dealt with it. That’s very important.”

Gee also said the university has put its resources toward coronavirus research and one of the university’s top experts has taken on a statewide role in battling the disease.

Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for health sciences at WVU, was appointed “Coronavirus Czar” for West Virginia by Gov. Jim Justice. Marsh has been a key voice in daily public briefings on coronavirus and has helped steer much of the state’s medical response to the disease.

Marsh “is one of the bright lights in medical education,” Gee said. West Virginia has “been much more fortunate than others. I don’t think that fortune comes from chance, I think it comes from planning. We’re happy about the role the university has played in that regard.”

Gee said if West Virginia University had not had the opportunity to use all of the WVU Medicine facilities in a concentrated effort, the immediate and future impact of coronavirus in West Virginia would have been and will be more severe.

“Take a look at the evidence. The evidence is powerful,” Gee said. “The very fact that we have been much more successful as a state is a great example. I am absolutely convinced it made an enormous difference.”

Michael Erb can be reached at merb@newsandsentinel.com.

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