Justice pleads for more testing


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

Justice took time out of his regular reports to address the outbreaks in Kanawha County, as students have yet to start in-person classes this year. He announced that he is working to provide the “Orange” counties—Kanawha and Barbour—additional testing sites to encourage everyone to get tested, in order to track, monitor and handle the outbreaks. “We’ve got to stop just testing people that are sick and the most vulnerable people,” Justice said. “If that’s the only people that are showing up wanting to be tested, then we’re not getting a true cross section of the whole county.” He announced the three additional sites and times for Kanawha County residents and reported that he is working on details for Barbour County as well. “I feel, in my gut, that we have an opportunity here to go and get this thing, to put a stranglehold around this terrible killer, and that’s what I want to do,” Justice emphasized.

Justice then reminded residents to stay concerned, even as the map turns closer to “Green” statewide. “Continue to do everything in your power, everything you can possibly do, to be as safe as you possibly can be. Protect yourself, protect your loved ones. Especially look after the elderly, but absolutely, don’t drop your guard. Just because your color code dropped and all of the sudden, you’re now in the green, it doesn’t mean that now we can just run through the streets with your mask off and it all be good,” he said. “Now is the time to be cautious… It’s a time to be smart, now is not the time to be weak. It’s a time to be West Virginia Strong.”

The governor continued his regular announcements by mentioning outbreaks in 37 long-term care facilities and five active church-related outbreaks, as well as 21 active staff cases and eight active inmate cases in correctional facilities throughout the state.

Justice announced that the CARES Act Small Business Funding has received 8,000 applications and distributed over $21 million as he continued to encourage all to apply for the last week, ending Wednesday, September 30. Local officials were reminded to apply and reapply for the CARES Act grant funding, which has already awarded over $121 million to 191 cities and counties, before the December 31 deadline. He reminded the residents of Marshall, Monongalia, Marion, Taylor, Jefferson, Putnam, Kanawha, Fayette, Cabell, Wayne, Boone and Logan counties about the free COVID-19 mobile testing lanes available for the next week, pleading for all who can to get tested. He also encouraged everyone over six months old to get their flu shot vaccines, as flu season approaches. Finally, Justice continued to remind West Virginians to fill out the 2020 United States Census. Residents have reported at 99.9 percent, in front of Idaho and Hawaii’s 99.8 percent, as the deadline ends tomorrow.

The state’s current statistics, as of Monday at 10 a.m. on the coronavirus.wv.gov dashboard: Different from the School Alert map, the County Alert map shows most counties in the “Green,” 14 counties in the “Yellow,” Upshur, Wayne, Boone, Logan, Wyoming and Summers counties in the “Gold,” with Barbour and Kanawha in the “Orange,” and no counties in the “Red.” The WV Cumulative Percent of Tests Positive was at 2.75 percent. The Daily Percentage of Positive Cases rose to 4.01 percent. The state’s 11,188 recovered cases far exceed the number of active cases, at 3,987. Hospitalization is at 168 patients, but the state’s Fatality Rate still stands at just over 2.2 percent with 337 deaths attributed to COVID-19. West Virginia has now tested over 30 percent of its population, leading the nation’s average of 29.4 percent. West Virginia’s Rt value finally dropped back down lower than 1 percent, at 0.98 percent, as tracked at https://rt.live/.

“We’ve come a long way, West Virginia, and you’re getting better,” Justice said.

Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch, with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, reported that all local health departments have successfully completed the transition to a new contact tracing platform. He further explained that although some cases are still active on the old platform, once they are moved over, the new platform will be the only one used for contact tracing. This new platform modernizes the process, allows contact tracers to work remotely, and even allows for an additional 150 volunteers to be trained and start working.

WV National Guard Major Adjutant General James Hoyer reported that since day 199 of the pandemic, the United States Military has experienced a 20 percent increase in suicide rates among military personnel. He asks the public, as well as families and loved ones of those who have served, to pay attention and help where they can. He provided the 24/7 WVARNG Crisis Hotline number, (304) 561-6640 for anyone experiencing anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts.

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