COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice reports first community cluster of COVID-19, encourages residents to stay calm, keep practicing social distancing


CHARLESTON, WV — Gov. Jim Justice joined State health leaders and officials from his administration at the Capitol Complex in Charleston today for a virtual press briefing to once again update the public on the many measures being taken in the interest of protecting the public from the spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Gov. Jim Justice reported Friday that West Virginia’s first community cluster outbreak of COVID-19 has been identified in the Eastern Panhandle. 

“The reality is that we anticipated this with the Martinsburg area being so close to a major city, right at the backdoor to Washington, D.C.,” Gov. Justice said. “Be assured that we are dealing with this issue and we are working to do the things necessary to take care of addressing any hot spots in our state. People don’t need to be alarmed or scared, we just need to remember the power each one of us holds by staying home.” 

Gov. Justice said that 60 positive cases have been confirmed in Berkeley and Jefferson counties and additional measures are being evaluated right now as it pertains to defining essential businesses operating in that region, as well as the rest of the state, and that changes and stricter enforcement could be forthcoming.

“It’s kind of been like the honor system out there so far and while we’ve been doing a good job and making progress, maybe we haven’t done it to the level that we need to,” Gov. Justice said. “Now we just got this information right before we started this briefing so we are working it and as we get more information we’ll get it out to you.”

State Health Officer Cathy Slemp said that the surge of cases in that area are not tied to “one facility or one entity” and said the spread of the coronavirus is throughout various parts of the community. 

COVID Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said officials are “not surprised” by the news from the Eastern Panhandle because “we knew we’d have clusters” and noted that while residents need to remain vigilant, they should just continue staying separated and practicing good hygiene. 

“This is not the time to panic, it’s the time to stay separated so the virus can’t spread rapidly,” Dr. Marsh said. “We are ready to support any care needs in the Eastern Panhandle as well as the rest of the state.”

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch urged West Virginians to “stay the course” while “more cases and more clusters” develop.

“We continue to work on plans for a surge,” Sec. Crouch said.

FEEDING PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN HITS MILESTONE

During the media briefing today, Gov. Justice announced that through the West Virginia Dept. of Education, over one million meals have been provided to West Virginia children during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

When Governor Jim Justice announced the school closure last month, he directed that children who depend on school meals must continue to be fed. To that end, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) began working with counties to support their efforts to distribute meals. As the pandemic evolved, so have WVDE and county efforts to support children. Efforts have transitioned from a triage model to a sustainable approach to provide for children’s nutritional and academic needs.

“Over a million meals have now been served to our children during this crisis and that’s incredible,” Gov. Jim Justice said. “For those at the Department of Education, National Guard, the county school offices and individual schools, our restaurants, and retailers – everyone that has made this happen, I thank you so much and I know that you are still at it every day. Keeping our children fed and cared for during this pandemic is vitally important.”

“We will continue to feed children during the school closure and also to ensure that our schools remain engaged with students and families,” said Superintendent Burch. “Teaching and caring for children is at the very core of what we do as educators, and our counties and schools continue to step up in amazing ways to meet the needs of children.”

The WVDE has worked with the state National Guard, Department of Agriculture and Division of Tourism to provide nutritional stability for children throughout the state. “The one-million-meal milestone illustrates that even in the face of unprecedented events in the state and around the world, West Virginians will always take care of West Virginians,” said Superintendent Burch.

To continue to meet the nutritional needs of West Virginia’s children, most counties are transitioning to multi-day meal packs that are distributed one or two days each week. For the latest information regarding local food distribution for children, visit https://wvde.us/covid19/feeding-site-information/ or call your local county school office.

For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the state’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.

For more information about WVDE COVID-19 resources and support, visit wvde.us/COVID19.

For more information, contact Christy Day at the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at 304-558-2699 or [email protected].wv.us.

SQUELCHING RUMORS

  • Our West Virginia State Police are not stopping traffic at our borders.
  • The State Police are not pulling over vehicles just because they have out-of-state plates.
  • The West Virginia National Guard is not being used to enforce a lockdown.
  • There is no curfew. There is no national quarantine.

"It is extremely important that you continue to follow the guidelines and stay at home as much as possible, but these lies are targeting the very people who are trying to help: our first responders, our National Guard, our health care workers," Gov. Justice said.

COVID-19 DASHBOARD

The WV DHHR has released a new data dashboard on the COVID-19 website. The website can be found at https://dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19/Pages/default.aspx.

This dashboard will have the most accurate and up-to-date information for the public about COVID-19 in WV. 

PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM

The US Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program launched today.

"I encourage all West Virginia Banks to participate to help our West Virginia Small Businesses get access to these Federal Funds," Gov. Justice said. "However, if your bank is not participating, seek out the services from another"

"This will deliver much needed financial relief to small businesses across WV during the COVID-19 pandemic. We should all remember that this is an unprecedented expansion of SBA lending that will take some time before it’s fully functioning. I want to thank our West Virginia banks for supporting our small businesses and for providing significant borrower assistance since day one of this pandemic."

NATIONAL GUARD CONTINUES TO PUT MORE SOLDIERS ON DUTY IN SUPPORT OF MULTIPLE AGENCIES AND PROGRAMS

West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. James Hoyer reported that 440 National Guard personnel are now on duty with that number expected to be approximately 500 by Monday.

A rundown of the programs and projects the National Guard are supporting are available in the following detailed information at https://governor.us15.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d525ab9ade4d860d2b5772468&id=d4774c55ea&e=00c21ef70d. 

WIFI HOTSPOTS

  • The Prodigy company in Preston County is also providing FREE wifi at several locations in Preston County.
  • These free parking lot wifi hotspots are extremely beneficial at this time so that students have a place for high-speed internet and those that work from home can use them too.
  • Prodigy is actively working to install more Drive-up FREE Wifi locations.

Gov. Justice also announced that he has asked the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council to set up a website with a map of all public WIFI hotspots.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.

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