CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice continued his daily press briefings via YouTube this week to give updates on the state’s response efforts to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. Friday’s conference was heavily focused on discussing light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel for the Mountain State.
Justice discussed plans of when and how he plans to reopen the state on Friday. Some of the priorities the governor mentioned to first reopen were hospitals and daycare centers. Justice mentioned plans to test all daycare staff throughout the state like he has ordered for nursing homes. He also mentioned reopening outdoor dining throughout West Virginia. Justice was quick to add the possibility of having restaurants reopen. He explained this could be “7 to 14 days away,” if statistics stay low and West Virginia continues to look better. He suggested that restaurants limit capacity to around 50 percent when resuming business with constant cleaning, masks and temperature checks for employees, along with using disposable menus, utensils and drinks.
Justice explained rules have been received on how to use the $1,250,000,000 federal money in his Thursday briefing. As of right now, use of the funds does not allow the state to back bill revenue, but Justice explained that his team is working on fixing this dilemma.
The governor also announced Thursday that the backlog for unemployment claims has been caught up and approximately 150,000 unemployment claims have been filed since March 1. He shared that, in comparison, an average March total for West Virginia was only around 3,400 claims filed. Independent contractors, self-employed and gig economy workers are now eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance as well. Those individuals can apply at WorkForceWV.org or call 1-800-252-JOBS (5627).
Justice suggested another round of money coming in for small businesses. He told businesses to keep applying and the federal government is working to add another $500 million for those not included in the first round of assistance.
Justice announced there were no positive cases in any West Virginia correctional facilities on Thursday, but then Friday reported that one positive case has been confirmed. The employee reportedly started to self-quarantine on April 15, after learning his wife had been exposed. Justice continued to explain that there was no threat to any of the employees or inmates thanks to the officer’s responsible actions.
Justice lifted the standstill executive order for Morgan County during Friday’s briefing, due to their numbers not increasing.
Major General James Hoyer, with the West Virginia National Guard, updated Thursday on the progress of testing nursing home facilities, conducting PPE trainings and food banks that are helping to feed the state.
Dr. Clay Marsh, Coronavirus Czar, updated the state that there are new vaccines currently being tested and reported the state’s ongoing progress with LabCorp.
Bill Crouch, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, shared that 83 facilities have completed testing as of Friday afternoon and 12 more are scheduled to be completed by this weekend.