CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice continued his daily press briefings via YouTube Friday afternoon, providing ongoing updates on the state’s response efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) Executive Director Bernie Dolan explained what they have decided so far with regard to fall sports plans. As of now, Dolan reported that golf practices are permitted to start August 17 and their first contests will be August 24. Competitions for volleyball, cheer, cross country and soccer will be permitted after September 2, and football will be permitted to start games on September 3.
Dolan also elaborated on the guidelines for games, meets and other competitions to include masks and social distancing. He also hinted at limiting capacity at the events, as well. “It’s up to the public to decide whether or not we’re going to have athletics come this fall, because you’re the one who will wear the mask, and take the social distancing, and wash your hands,” Dolan said.
Justice explained more CARES Act funding available for small businesses. The graphic on the screen explained $150 million will be available and any WV-based small business that existed on February 29 with 1-35 employees will be eligible for up to $5,000 in grant funding. Guidelines and more information are available at grants.wv.gov.
Justice reported some national level statistics, stating that within a day, there was a new record of 60,000 additional positive cases, of which he specified that 130 were West Virginians. He reported that one in six lawmakers in Mississippi, who decided masks weren’t mandatory or necessary, now have the virus. “It is absolutely imperative that we wear a mask,” Justice said.
Turning back to the state, Justice addressed Monongalia County, stating it is currently a hotspot with 246 active cases. “We need to understand that my Executive Order said mandatory,” Justice stated, as he pleaded for residents of West Virginia to wear a mask. “This is the only bullet I’ve got right now,” he said while holding up a mask. “The next bullet that is available is to shut our state back down.” He then addressed the possibility of closing indoor dining and bars down again.
Justice reminded the residents of Upshur, Mercer, Barbour, Harrison, Monongalia, Marshall, Preston and Wayne counties about the free COVID-19 mobile testing lanes available for the next week. West Virginians were also reminded of the 690 sites on the Summer Feeding Program map and were asked to take part in the 2020 United States Census. Justice reminded cities and counties to apply and reapply for the CARES Act grant funding.
Justice updated on the state’s current statistics, as of Friday at 10 a.m., which have since been updated as of 5 p.m.: The WV Cumulative Percent of Tests Positive was at 1.98 percent. The Daily Percentage of Positive Cases dropped to 4.24 percent. The state’s Fatality Rate currently stands at over 2.4 percent. The state’s 2,756 recovered cases exceed the number of active cases, which spiked above a thousand at 1,132. West Virginia has now tested over 11.2 percent of the state’s population, falling behind the nation’s average of just over 11.3 percent. Justice reported the state has tested 199,383 residents. All of these statistics and more can be found on the dashboard at coronavirus.wv.gov. “We have got to know just how much peril there could be right here in West Virginia,” Justice said.
Governor Justice introduced the “superstar” new State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad, M.D. He also announced the West Virginia Income Tax filing deadline is quickly approaching on Wednesday, July 15.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh reported that the Rt value updated and West Virginia now has the highest value in the country. He also clarified that a mask is not a substitute for physical distancing, particularly inside and around others and make sure masks cover the nose. “Now is the time that all of us are calling on each citizen to make sure we are doubling our efforts to protect ourselves and protect each other. It is a very critical time for our future and for the future of the health of the state,” Marsh said.
Major General James Hoyer, with the West Virginia National Guard, addressed the efforts to prevent another personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage and explained the effectiveness of correctly wearing PPE, plus how physical distancing and aggressive monitoring and testing can control the situation, as they have experienced in the National Guard.