CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice concluded his daily press briefings for the week via YouTube Friday afternoon, providing continual updates on the state’s response efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Justice thanked Highmark, a healthcare company, for donating an additional $500,000 in personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies to the Department of Education to ensure the safety of those in the school system. The governor assured West Virginians that with over $90 million in federal funding, he is confident that all 55 counties will have adequate supplies to safely begin school.
Justice announced that the State of West Virginia was approved for $68,269,946 funding from FEMA for unemployed applicants to receive their $300, along with an additional $100 from state funding. He thanked President Trump for signing the Executive Order.
In the wake of Hurricane Laura, Justice declared a State of Preparedness for all 55 counties. The governor shared that he expects Laura to decrease to a tropical depression, stating, “I don’t think we ought to be super alarmed, but at the same time, we know what flooding can do… It only takes six inches of water to flow to start moving a vehicle. Please don’t drive through the water.” He then announced September is National Preparedness Month and that the West Virginia Emergency Management Division is encouraging residents to be prepared now for disasters that may come in the future.
Justice announced bars in Monongalia County are planning to reopen next week, but he warned that they must follow strict guidelines, or they will reconsider keeping them open.
The governor reported on outbreaks in 33 long-term care facilities, naming the largest concerns in Grant, Kanawha, Logan, Mercer, Raleigh, Taylor and Monroe counties. He also discussed outbreaks in correctional facilities throughout the state, announcing a Wood County inmate as the first possible incarcerated COVID death. Mt. Olive Correctional Complex has reported 32 positive inmates and five positive employees. South Central Regional Jail reported seven positive inmates, with 13 inmate tests pending.
Justice asked for more applicants to apply for the CARES Act Small Business Funding, as 2,900 applicants have applied and $10.6 million have been disbursed. The governor announced the deadline for the grant is near the end of September. He reminded local officials to apply and reapply for the CARES Act grant funding, as right under $95 million have been disbursed to 183 cities and counties. He reminded the residents of Monroe, Mason, Webster, Jackson and Logan counties about the free COVID-19 mobile testing lanes available for this week. He mentioned once again the 696 sites available on the Summer Feeding Program map, encouraging residents to donate to food banks. Finally, he reminded West Virginians to fill out the 2020 United States Census before the September 30 deadline. “Above 90? Way to go West Virginia! Idaho is still ahead of us, they’re at 95.4, let’s keep after them and catch them. Washington is right on our tail at 89.6, so stay after it West Virginia,” urged Justice.
The state’s current statistics, as of Friday at 10 a.m.: The County Alert map shows all counties are in the orange, yellow or green. The WV Cumulative Percent of Tests Positive was at 2.34 percent. The Daily Percentage of Positive Cases dropped to 3.14 percent. The state’s 7,859 recovered cases far exceed the number of active cases, which currently stands at 1,763. West Virginia has now tested almost 23.3 percent of the state’s population, once again leading the nation’s average of almost 22.3 percent. Hospitalization dropped to 133 patients on Wednesday, but the state’s Fatality Rate still stands at under 2 percent. West Virginia reports the ninth best Rt value in the nation at 0.89 percent, tied with Tennessee, which can be tracked at https://rt.live/. All of these statistics and more can be found on the dashboard at coronavirus.wv.gov.
State Superintendent Clayton Burch reported that local plans have been turned in and parental choice is a top priority. He reminded viewers of the School Re-entry Hotline for those who need to be connected to local county school systems, DHHR or local health departments. The hotline can be reached at (304) 957-1234 every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. In regard to the County Alert System map, Burch announced that a Frequently Asked Questions section will be posted with the map and Saturday at 9 p.m., the Department of Education will post the first snapshot of the map to determine next week’s sports activity: Green and Yellow are clear for competitions, Orange limits to practices only, and Red is full closure. Finally, he encouraged counties to make adjustments and options as they see necessary. “Right now, I’ve told the superintendents, our focus has to be September 8 and as many children as we get back into the education cycle as possible,” Burch said.
Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s COVID-19 Czar, reported that the country has its first case of reinfection in Nevada, but the American individual seems to be a lot sicker than the individual in Hong Kong he discussed on Monday.
WV DHHR Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch announced that the DHHR will receive $43.7 million from the United States DHHR to continue the battle with the state’s opioid crisis. He then responded to questions and comments on the state’s county alert map. He explained the process of the results that make the map each day, including new cases per day, 4-6,000 tests per day and manually changing to organize the tests.