Justice discusses first day back to school

CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice resumed his daily press briefings for the week via YouTube Tuesday afternoon, providing continual updates on the state’s response efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

After 179 days since Governor Justice originally shut down schools statewide, he and State Superintendent Clayton Burch discussed the first day back. Burch could not hide his excitement when talking about the 46 counties that reopened school on Tuesday. Burch reported that county superintendents are reporting great things and keeping him updated on how it is going. He also reported that meals are still being served for kids who are at home learning remotely.

Burch thanked a few county superintendents and Dr. Ayne Amjad whom worked all weekend long to make decisions on opening individual schools, establishing protocol for students who test positive, contract tracing and quarantining. Finally, Burch encouraged everyone to keep checking the County Alert System map to keep track of the numbers before Saturday evenings.

The governor brought up the work to put together the County Alert map Saturday evening in order to plan for the first week. He mentioned 848 wireless internet sites are now up and running throughout the state in the Kids Connect Initiative and they are still working towards getting more. Justice thanked the Office of Technology and the Department of Education on their efforts to make this happen, and for working diligently through Labor Day weekend.

Justice talked about his conversation with WVU President Gordon Gee regarding the Greek Life outbreak and bars in Monongalia County. He said Gee is disciplining over 20 college students and trying as hard as he can to get the county back in the Green and kids back in school. “If we are going to get through this, and especially if we’re going to get our kids back in school, please listen to what all these health experts are saying. They’re not telling you something to penalize you. They’re telling you something to where West Virginians can live as close to normal as we can possibly live in this pandemic,” Justice said.

The governor reported on outbreaks in 34 long-term care facilities. He mentioned the five counties with active church-related outbreaks in Kanawha, Monroe, Cabell, Wyoming and Wayne counties. He also discussed outbreaks in correctional facilities throughout the state, reporting 134 positive cases at Mt. Olive Correctional Complex and one each at both the Western Regional Jail and South Central Regional Jail. He mentioned school-related outbreaks, reporting cases from two schools in Brooke County, six schools in Kanawha County and one each in Lincoln, Mason and Mingo County.

Justice announced that the CARES Act Small Business Funding has awarded a total of $12 million, encouraging all to apply before the September 30 deadline. He reminded local officials to apply and reapply for the CARES Act grant funding, which has awarded over $104 million to 191 cities and counties, before the December 31 deadline. He reminded the residents of Mason, Mingo, Morgan, Cabell, Mercer, Raleigh and Wayne counties about the free COVID-19 mobile testing lanes available for the week. Justice also reported that the mobile lanes have completed 462,547 tests. He mentioned once again the 696 sites available on the Summer Feeding Program map, encouraging those who have questions or need assistance to call United Way at 2-1-1. Finally, he reminded West Virginians to fill out the 2020 United States Census before the September 30 deadline, as the state reports a 97.1 percent response rate. “You can’t fathom how much that will mean to West Virginia as we go forward,” Justice said. “That’s a wonderful, wonderful number. Great job, West Virginia.” West Virginia remains second, behind Idaho’s 98.3 and in front of Washington’s 95.9 response rates.

The state’s current statistics, as of Tuesday at 10 a.m. on the coronavirus.wv.gov dashboard: The County Alert map shows most counties are in the “Yellow” or “Green,” except Putnam, Kanawha, Fayette, Wayne, Logan, Mingo and Monroe in the “Orange” and Monongalia in the “Red.” The WV Cumulative Percent of Tests Positive was at 2.52 percent. The Daily Percentage of Positive Cases jumped to 6.02 percent. The state’s 8,626 recovered cases far exceed the number of active cases, at 2,785. Hospitalization remains at 152 patients on Tuesday, but the state’s Fatality Rate still stands at just over 2.2 percent. West Virginia has now tested almost 25.24 percent of the state’s population, once again leading the nation’s average of just over 24 percent. West Virginia’s Rt value is reportedly the worst in the nation currently at 1.29 percent, almost 0.1 percent higher than any other state, tracked at https://rt.live/.