CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice continued his daily press briefings via YouTube Friday afternoon, providing ongoing updates on the state’s response efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor signed an Executive Order allowing public and private colleges to reopen this fall, expressing his confidence that they are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff. The order also permits public and private K-12 schools to reopen on September 8.
Justice reported on a meeting with the Advisory Council and WV Legislature on the distribution of money. He said they discussed last year’s tax season, this year’s tax season, income tax deadlines, CARES Act money distribution, distribution of funds to first responders and various grants. “The grants total, and get this number, $1,147,000,000 that are available to us as West Virginians,” Justice emphasized. He said the Legislature is working to figure out how to appropriately distribute the money. Justice explained that he set aside $678 million for unemployment backfilling to prevent increasing taxes on small businesses. He then shared that the Department of Highways has freed up an additional $130 million.
Governor Justice also shared that deployed West Virginia National Guard soldiers will be coming home over the next two months and that 33 individuals of the 150th Cavalry Regiment and 201 Field Artillery were to return Friday. Justice asked that we celebrate and keep those currently deployed in thoughts and prayers until they return home safely.
West Virginians were also asked to keep the family of Jason Cuffee in their thoughts and prayers. The 27-year-old Kanawha County firefighter reportedly died from a medical emergency while on duty Monday.
Justice announced that the Toronto Blue Jays have decided not to travel and play at Charleston’s Power Park, but will instead travel to play in Buffalo, New York.
During his announcements, the governor announced that Monongalia County has dropped to 231 cases, but Kanawha County has reached the highest number of active cases in the state with 253. He reported there are currently 125 cases in church-related outbreaks throughout eight counties: Mason, Boone, Grant, Logan, Kanawha, Raleigh, Taylor and Wood.
Justice mentioned the 696 sites on the Summer Feeding Program map during his briefing and reported that the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDOE) has received $36 million of CARES Act funding to be used from March to September 2020 for meal claim reimbursement. As of July, the WVDOE has spent $40.5 million in meal reimbursements and over 11,562,577 meals have been served during the pandemic.
Justice reminded small business owners about the CARES Act Small Business Funding. He reminded the residents of Brooke, Logan, Gilmer and Marion counties about the free COVID-19 mobile testing lanes available for the next week. He once again asked everyone to take part in the 2020 United States Census. Justice reminded cities and counties to apply and reapply for the CARES Act grant funding, as $55 million have been disbursed.
Justice updated on the state’s current statistics, as of Friday at 10 a.m.: The WV Cumulative Percent of Tests Positive was at 2.21 percent. The Daily Percentage of Positive Cases rose to 2.14 percent. The state’s 3,913 recovered cases exceed the number of active cases, which stands at 1,534. West Virginia has now tested 13.9 percent of the state’s population, falling behind the nation’s average of 14.28 percent. The state’s Fatality Rate currently stands at 1.86 percent. All of these statistics and more can be found on the dashboard at coronavirus.wv.gov.