Milvet knew he needed the churches to close. He had to sound the alarm about an infectious disease that, like so many topics in the country, was viewed across a partisan divide.His hospital sits at the heart of a politically conservative community, even by West Virginia standards, in a county where President Trump won nearly 90 percent of the 2016 vote. For weeks, people here listened as Trump and conservative media dismissed the virus as a hoax.The price of politicizing the pandemic was coming due.Timothy Boddy, center, discusses scripture, while Samuel Pancake, 4, naps during a Bible study gathering at New Creek Gospel Hall, New Creek, W.Va. (Jeff Swensen for The Washington Post) Many residents accused the state’s Republican governor, Jim Justice, of overreacting when he closed the schools. “I think it’s all B.S.,” one local said. Soon the state’s restaurants and bars followed. West Virginia was the last state to report a confirmed coronavirus case, allowing the fear that gripped other parts of the nation to feel far away.It was up to a band of local health officials to protect Grant County, even if many residents remained unconvinced they needed saving.“They know me. They know Bob is a Republican,”


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