CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice continued his daily press briefings for the week via YouTube Wednesday afternoon, providing continual updates on the state’s response efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor took time out of his briefing to recognize the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. “Today is a really important day. Today is when the formal surrender came. Just imagine this. West Virginia has had 218,665 West Virginians serving in the armed forces, the fifth highest percentage in the nation. Now just think about this, 2,000 of them were women. A total of 11 West Virginians were awarded Medals of Honor for their service. A total of 5,830 West Virginians were killed in World War II.” He asked everyone to take a moment at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening to remember all who served in WWII while churches ring their bells. “Remember all the brave men and women, especially those from West Virginia, that ensured us and gave us our continued freedom… We owe everything to our great military people.”
Justice announced he is sending $92,000 to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC) to fully fund this year’s West Virginia Nursing Scholarship Program. This will support nearly 100 nursing students to become future “heroes” this fall, with $800 to $4,000 scholarships.
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture extended the waivers for the Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option through December 31. He thanked Sonny Perdue, United States Secretary of Agriculture, and President Donald Trump. “Together, through the Department of Education, DHHR, National Guard, West Virginia School Nutrition Association and the county nutrition programs, we have provided so far, over 16 million since March when schools began remote learning… Congratulations guys, you’re doing really good.”
Justice closed Monongalia bars for a third time, effective 4 p.m. Wednesday after he found that they did not adhere to strict guidelines in order to reduce the spread of the pandemic. “We tried. We met with the people representing the bars in Monongalia County. We talked to them, we told them what they had to do—social distancing, wear masks and not getting overcrowded, all of that. In addition, we even talked to them about blocking off a street and doing outside stuff. They didn’t wanna do that and everything else. Lo and behold, what did they do? Boom, right off the get-go. We’ve got people standing on top of people. We’ve got no masks. We’ve got servers without masks on and everything else. Bars are closed in Mon. County, indefinitely,” Justice said.
The governor stressed how important it is to take the pandemic seriously. “We’ve got 230 total deaths now in West Virginia. I know we’re interested in football, and going back to school, and I know we’re interested in how we’re progressing in all the wireless sites that are going to give our kids the ability to get online… but I want you to dial in and think, and think in prayer, for these 230 people,” Justice said. He compared the progress of the state to other states, focusing that with West Virginia being “within a rock’s throw” of two thirds of the percentage of the nation’s population, “You have just slightly over one thousandth of the deaths that this nation has… We lost, in World War II, I think, 405,000 plus soldiers. We have almost lost half as many in this country with this pandemic as we did in World War II. Just think about that just a second. We’ve lost three and a half times as many as we lost, I think, in 13 years of war in Vietnam. Three and a half times as many people. We’ve lost 60 times as many people as we lost in 9/11 in this country. So absolutely, anybody who’s sitting out there on the sidelines who’s saying ‘Oh, this thing is not real, it’s just like the flu,’ and everything else, they’ve been wrong.”
Dr. Clay Marsh, COVID-19 Czar, added some encouraging words for West Virginians to push and get through this pandemic together. He shared that even if people are really tired of actively working to prevent the spread, West Virginians have a service mentality and one of the highest numbers of veterans. “We’re a place of great community, of kind and good people. We love each other and we care for each other. It is time, West Virginia, for us to recommit to doing that,” Marsh emphasized.
West Virginia National Guard’s Adjutant General James Hoyer stated that on Memorial Day, less than 325,000 of the 16 million men and women who served in the United States military during World War II were still alive, including the last remaining Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams, 96, who is from West Virginia and served in Hiroshima. “Because of the sacrifices that that generation made, we coin them ‘The Greatest Generation’... It is time for us to step up and show The Greatest Generation that, we too, can make the sacrifices that we need to get through this worldwide pandemic and get West Virginia back to where it needs to be,” Hoyer stated.
State Superintendent Clayton Burch thanked those in the armed forces on the 75th WWII anniversary. He also thanked the local health departments for helping tackle the outbreaks the Governor announced and getting them under control to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. Burch addressed criticism on social media, stating the schools are not prepared. He addressed that through communication from the survey, to multiple conversations with both local superintendents and teachers, he believes they are ready and have what they need to begin on September 8. He stated custodial staff is the number one shortage throughout the state. He then commented on posts that claim they do not know plans and protocols by stating they are publicly online and available for all to view. Finally, he addressed that 1,500 computers were delayed last week, but he assured that people are working day and night to get the computers to the students before September 8.
The governor reported on outbreaks in 34 long-term care facilities. He mentioned the four counties with active church-related outbreaks in Monroe, Cabell, Wyoming and Wayne counties. He also discussed outbreaks in correctional facilities throughout the state. Mt. Olive Correctional Complex has reported 142 positive cases, with 124 inmates and 18 positive employees. South Central Regional Jail reported eight positive inmates, with two employees’ tests pending. He added school outbreaks to his briefing, announcing two cases at a Mason County school, postponing their school levy, five cases at a Mingo County school, and 29 cases from Monongalia County, reported in 12 fraternities and sororities on West Virginia University campus.
Justice announced that the CARES Act Small Business Funding has awarded 3,100 applicants a total of $12 million He mentioned trying to tweak the application to include farmers, before the September 30 deadline. He reminded local officials to apply and reapply for the CARES Act grant funding, which has awarded $100 million to 189 cities and counties, before the December 31 deadline. He reminded the residents of Jackson, Logan, Morgan, Cabell and Raleigh counties about the free COVID-19 mobile testing lanes available for the next week. 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 94.2 percent response rate. “West Virginia, you amaze me at how good you are,” Justice said, comparing the new report to the state’s 2010 Census at 62 percent. “That’s going to pay monstrous dividends for 10 consecutive years. That is going to be a gigantic thing for West Virginia, so way to go.”
The state’s current statistics, as of Wednesday at 10 a.m. on the coronavirus.wv.gov dashboard: The County Alert map shows most counties are in the “Yellow” or “Green,” except Monongalia, Kanawha, Fayette, Logan and Mingo in the “Orange” and Monroe in the “Red.” Justice also noted that Cabell, Hardy, Putnam and Mercer were close to going into the “Orange.” The WV Cumulative Percent of Tests Positive was at 2.41 percent. The Daily Percentage of Positive Cases rose to 4.93 percent. The state’s 8,266 recovered cases far exceed the number of active cases, which reached a record high of 2,146. West Virginia has now tested over 24.5 percent of the state’s population, once again leading the nation’s average of almost 23.4 percent. Hospitalization decreased to 146 patients on Wednesday, but the state’s Fatality Rate still stands at over 2.1 percent. West Virginia’s Rt value continued to climb to 1.22 percent, tied with Iowa as third worst in the country, tracked at https://rt.live/.