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WVa students idled by virus threat getting free meals

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — County public school districts throughout West Virginia are set to provide free meals to students who are on an extended break in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting Monday, counties are making food pickups available to schoolchildren at schools or designated locations. The state Department of Education said in a news release that more than 500 sites are being used for meal distribution. Some counties also are using school buses to deliver the meals at stops along regular bus routes.

Last week Gov. Jim Justice ordered schools statewide to be closed through at least March 27. West Virginia is the only U.S. state without a positive coronavirus case.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin announced Friday that a U.S. Department of Agriculture waiver will allow the state to continue a free food program for students during the shutdown. More than 120,000 students in West Virginia receive the free meals.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority recover in several weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe illness, including pneumonia.