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.
Justice opened up his briefing by getting serious, pleading with West Virginians to take the pandemic seriously. “West Virginia, we are absolutely getting worse by the day and this situation is very critical. You need to all know that, and you need to know that everyone is trying their hardest to do the very best they possibly can for you. But West Virginians, you’re going to have to buckle down,” Justice emphasized. “I call on all West Virginians at this moment, not only for your prayers, but just know that we are reaching a very, very critical time. A time that we have got to do better.”
The governor told his constituents they should not feel comfortable in the current numbers, as 254 deaths is 254 too many. “As we all know, compared to the other states that are around us or the states across this country, that number  looks pretty good if you look at that. But to these people, these families, those numbers don’t mean anything. Please keep these great people in your thoughts and prayers,” Justice requested.
Justice also announced the states of New York and Connecticut are asking West Virginians to quarantine for 14 days before entering their state. “The places that this was the worst of the worst? And they’re looking at West Virginia as a place to be concerned about? It’s not good, so we’ve got to turn the tide,” Justice said.
The governor reported that next week, the Lost Wages Assistance Funding, made up of FEMA’s $300 and the state’s $100 contribution, will begin disbursing to the unemployed. WorkForce West Virginia Acting Commissioner Scott Adkins explained that this funding is for those eligible for the weeks ending August 1 through August 29. The beneficiaries must be eligible for at least $100 in weekly unemployment benefits and certify they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19. Those who have returned to work or have exhausted their benefits before August 1 will not be eligible, but those who do not meet FEMA’s requirements will be paid the state’s $100 share with their weekly unemployment benefits. He then explained that once the FEMA money is exhausted, the benefits will cease.
Governor Justice explained that he will be moving up the time that the County Alert System map is posted Saturday evenings, to help out with sports preparations and assist parents. State Superintendent Clayton Burch explained this would help with preventing another crash, as the system experienced 1,300 people logging on per minute last Saturday evening. Burch then explained that the first day of school was a success and the School Re-entry Hotline is still available for any questions at (304) 957-1234.
The West Virginia National Guard was thanked for their efforts in battling the COVID-19 pandemic on the 180-day mark. Major Adjutant General James Hoyer added that he is proud of everyone in the National Guard, and thanked the healthcare workers, frontline workers, DHHR and other state agencies for their efforts as well.
Justice said that he is pleading with landlords not to evict their tenants during this pandemic, but he explained to residents that he cannot make them refrain.
The governor reported on outbreaks in 32 long-term care facilities. He mentioned the four counties with active church-related outbreaks in Kanawha, Monroe, Wyoming and Wayne counties. He also discussed outbreaks in correctional facilities throughout the state, reporting 31 positive cases amongst correctional staff. Several positive cases at Mt. Olive Correctional Complex were reported, as well as seven positive employees at Beckley Correctional Center and one positive inmate at each of the Western Regional and South Central Regional Jails. He declared no new school-related outbreaks have been reported since yesterday.
Justice announced that the CARES Act Small Business Funding has received 3,500 applications and has awarded over $13 million. He continued to encourage all to apply before the September 30 deadline. Local officials were reminded to apply and reapply for the CARES Act grant funding, which has already awarded over $105 million to 191 cities and counties, before the December 31 deadline. He reminded the residents of Putnam, Cabell, Mercer, Raleigh, Wayne and Monongalia counties about the free COVID-19 mobile testing lanes available for the week, pleading for all who can to get tested. Finally, he asked West Virginians to fill out the 2020 United States Census before the September 30 deadline, as the state currently reports a 97.3 percent response rate. West Virginia remains second, behind Idaho’s 98.4 and in front of Washington’s 96.2 percent response rates.
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 Pocahontas, Putnam, Kanawha, Fayette, Wayne, Mingo, Logan and Monroe in the “Orange” and Monongalia in the “Red.” The WV Cumulative Percent of Tests Positive was at 2.55 percent. The Daily Percentage of Positive Cases continued to rise at 7.78 percent. The state’s 8,748 recovered cases far exceed the number of active cases, at 2,806. Hospitalization dropped to 147 patients on Tuesday, but the state’s Fatality Rate still stands at 2.15 percent. West Virginia has now tested over 26 percent of the population, once again leading the nation’s average of almost 25 percent. West Virginia’s Rt value is reportedly the worst in the nation at 1.35 percent and continuing to climb, as tracked at https://rt.live/.