Justice explains COVID relief bill

CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice resumed his series of coronavirus press briefings on YouTube Monday, providing continual updates on the state’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justice began by reading off the 17 additional deaths attributed to the virus that occurred since Christmas, which, despite being low compared to previous counts, he described as “still too many.” In total, West Virginia’s death toll from COVID-19 now sits at 1,263. The governor also took a moment to honor a fallen member of the WV National Guard, Senior Airman Logan Young, who died fighting a fire over the holiday weekend.

The governor went on to talk about President Trump signing the COVID relief bill and what effects it has in store for West Virginians. With the extension of the CARES Act deadline, Justice says that $600 direct payments will be made to individuals making less than $75,000 per year, and $1,200 for couples making less than $150,000 per year, plus an additional $600 per child. “That’s just a subsidy payment directly to the people.” Justice explained. “There’s going to be enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 a week that’s going to be extended for 11 more weeks, and that is in addition to what you receive in your unemployment check.” The stimulus package also allots $319 billion for small businesses, including $284 billion that will go back into the Payroll Protection Program. There will be $25 billion in rental assistance with an extension of the eviction moratorium, $82 billion for schools and universities with $10 billion dedicated to childcare, $7 billion for increased access to broadband internet and additional funding to facilitate vaccine distribution, an amount which Justice did not specify.

Justice once again reiterated the importance of mask-wearing and vaccinations, saying that every person who gets vaccinated and every person who practices social distancing gets us one step closer to ending the pandemic. Regarding the Executive Order for face-coverings, Justice said, “Across West Virginia… 97% of people that are going in public buildings are going in with a mask. But if we can get 97, why can’t we get 100? Some people are probably still hung up on it for whatever reason… but what does it hurt to do it? It doesn’t have anything to do, really, with your rights, or taking away with your guns or taking away something… if you think it doesn’t do any good, you’re thinking wrong. You don’t have a right to drive drunk just because that’s what you want to do. We are a nation of laws; we’re not taking away your rights.”

The state’s current statistics, as of 10 a.m. Monday on the coronavirus.wv.gov dashboard are as follows: There were 24,273 active cases, with 726 new cases reported in the past 24 hours. The Cumulative Positivity Percentage was at 4.66% and the Daily Positivity Percentage was at 16.39%. The state’s Rt rate was at 1.13%, the second-worst ranking in the entire country. 60,875 total vaccine doses had been received, with 30,737 of them administered. There were 720 daily confirmed hospitalizations, with 200 daily ICU cases, and a total of 52 out of 55 counties were in either “Red” or “Orange” status, according to the County Alert Map. The number of outbreaks in public schools had dropped to nine active outbreaks with 35 total cases. There were 113 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities, 16 outbreaks in churches across 14 counties, and 488 active cases among inmates in correctional facilities, with 49 cases among staff at those facilities.


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