CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice welcomed Senator Shelly Moore Capito and Congressman Alex Mooney to his daily press briefing Wednesday. The panel provided updates on the state’s ongoing response efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Capito and Mooney joined Justice to report on their meeting with Dr. Deborah Birx, American physician and diplomat serving as the United States Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, who leads the medical side of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “She said she’s thrilled to be coming to West Virginia because it’s a green state and she hasn’t been able to see too many green states,” Capito explained. Capito said Birx came to find the proverbial “key to our [West Virginia’s] relative success” and left with the answer: Governor Justice’s leadership and constant communication.
The three announced the bill proposal for the next CARES package of $105 billion to help schools reopen. “Whether it’s sanitation, whether it’s shields, whether it’s extra staff, whether it’s more nurses, whatever our counties need, we need to fund that from the federal level, because I know it’s going to be a big burden to a lot of our school systems and to you as the Governor,” Capito asserted. She added that she is fighting for this bill to get passed in Congress.
“All the people who work on this, in every way, we’re no better than the players. Absolutely, we are no better than the team. And you’re the team. West Virginia… you still have to do it,” Justice stated.
Justice announced that he and his team are continuing to tweak the back-to-school metric by listening to residents’ concerns and taking into consideration the differences in each county. He hinted at a change to the metric for a more accurate reading of counties with smaller populations that will be announced Friday.
Clayton Burch, State Superintendent of Schools, reported on the results from the statewide survey, to which 60,000 West Virginians responded. Out of 265,000 children, 79 percent have signed up for in-person construction. “I think that sends a message that we are ready for our children to go back to school, but it also now puts our schools in a position to start implementing those plans,” Burch announced. “Each one of those principals, superintendents and county boards have put together a plan that best meets their communities needs and I cannot thank them enough.” He explained that the plans are posted on the website at https://wvde.us/school-reentry-county-plans/.
Secretary Bill Crouch for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced and apologized for the false report of 18 deaths at Trinity Nursing Home in Logan County on Tuesday. He explained that this was a human error in response to the large amount of data coming in, which should have shown zero deaths. The nursing home has since reported one.
During his repeated announcements, the governor reported on outbreaks in 26 long-term care facilities, naming significant concerns in Grant, Kanawha, Logan, Mercer, Raleigh and Taylor counties. There are still three church-related outbreaks in Wood, Cabell and Taylor counties. He also announced that the state’s unemployment rate has dropped to 9.9 percent, recovering 47,000 jobs since the peak 15.9 percent in April. Justice extended the Monongalia County bar closures for another seven days, but he assured they will reopen August 31 and only for customers 21 and over. He explained that no live entertainment will be permitted, dance floors will remain closed and they will expand the ability to go outdoors.
The governor asked for more applicants to apply for the CARES Act Small Business Funding, as $9.5 million has been disbursed to 2,3000 applicants. He then announced they are opening the grants to sole proprietorships and self-employed persons, limiting to $2,000 until they see how many apply. Those who have 1-35 employees will still receive the regular $5,000. More information can be found at grants.wv.gov.
He reminded cities and counties to apply and reapply for the CARES Act grant funding, as over $82.5 million have been disbursed. He reminded the residents of Hancock, Boone, Lincoln and Webster counties about the free COVID-19 mobile testing lanes available for the next week. He mentioned once again the 696 sites on the Summer Feeding Program map, and also asked everyone to take part in the 2020 United States Census.
The state’s current statistics, as of Wednesday at 10 a.m.: The WV Cumulative Percent of Tests Positive was at 2.38 percent. The Daily Percentage of Positive Cases dropped to 2.14 percent. The state’s 6,909 recovered cases far exceed the number of active cases, which currently stands at 1,726. West Virginia has now tested almost 20.3 percent of the state’s population, once again leading the nation’s average of over 20 percent. The state’s Fatality Rate currently stands at just under 1.9 percent. Justice reported that the Rt value is 0.91 percent, the ninth best in the nation and hospitalization has dropped to 133. All of these statistics and more can be found on the dashboard at coronavirus.wv.gov.