CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice resumed his daily press briefings for the week via YouTube Monday afternoon, providing continual updates on the state’s response efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a pandemic and there is no playbook. It would be plain stupid to be stubborn and not change and adapt as we go forward,” Justice said. “I absolutely do not want us to be stubborn in any way.” The governor explained that, despite the health panel wanting to follow the Harvard Model, he was proposing an idea Monday evening to add “Gold” into the County Alert System Map between the “Yellow” and “Orange” categories. He explained that the 10-25 positive case range for “Orange” is too wide and a new “Gold” category would represent counties with 10 to around 15 positive cases. “Gold” counties would be able to resume in-person classes and compete in athletics under Justice’s proposal. He stated that he would continue remote learning for “Orange” and “Red” counties.
The governor expressed more concerns about Monongalia County, which he described as “off the chart Red,” with WVU contributing to the high numbers. He shared that in his Monday evening meeting, he would also be working on figuring out a way to decrease the county’s numbers by counting WVU students differently. He proposed an idea for isolating positive students to a dorm and counting them as a “congregate setting,” meaning labeling them all as a one for the County Alert System. “We have to come to a solution immediately,” Justice said. “I’m not sure that that is a solution, but at least it’s an idea.”
Justice also expressed his concern with the Bible Center School in Kanawha County, who chose to disregard his Executive Order and returned to school, despite all other public schools in the “Orange” being closed last week. Justice described that Kanawha is experiencing a “colossal issue” with COVID-19 and he stated it’s a “crying pitiful shame” for schools to choose to return to in-person classes anyway.
The governor proclaimed this week as “Assisted Living Week” in West Virginia, encouraging those in nursing homes to reach out to their loved ones. He also commended those who live and work in the communities during this challenging time.
Outbreaks in 35 long-term care facilities were mentioned, as well as the five counties with active church-related outbreaks in Fayette, Kanawha, Mingo, Wyoming and Wayne counties. He also discussed outbreaks in correctional facilities throughout the state, reporting 25 positive cases.
Justice announced that the CARES Act Small Business Funding has received 3,700 applications and has awarded $15 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 almost $110 million, before the December 31 deadline. He reminded the residents of Fayette, Calhoun, Boone, Doddridge, Nicholas, Harrison and Kanawha 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 99 percent response rate. West Virginia remains second, right behind Idaho’s 99.2 and in front of Hawaii’s 97.8 percent response rates.
The state’s current statistics, as of Monday at 10 a.m. on the coronavirus.wv.gov dashboard: The County Alert map shows only 18 counties in the “Green,” most counties in the “Yellow,” with Ohio, Calhoun, Pocahontas, Putnam, Kanawha, Fayette, Lincoln, Boone, Mingo, Logan and Monroe in the “Orange” and Monongalia in the “Red.” The WV Cumulative Percent of Tests Positive was at 2.63 percent. The Daily Percentage of Positive Cases dropped to 2.69 percent. The state’s 9,361 recovered cases far exceed the number of active cases, at 3,184. Hospitalization rose to 151 patients, but the state’s Fatality Rate still stands at 2.16 percent with 275 deaths attributed to COVID-19. West Virginia has now tested over 26.5 percent of the population, leading the nation’s average of over 25.4 percent. West Virginia’s Rt value is still reportedly the worst in the nation at 1.34 percent, down from the 1.46 percent peak, as tracked at https://rt.live/.
WV State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad reminded West Virginians to plan to get a flu vaccine as flu season is quickly approaching, especially for those older than 16 months and over age 65. She then recommended getting the shot around the end of October, as the body takes around 2 weeks to build the antibodies for the vaccine.