CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice resumed his daily press briefings via YouTube this week, providing West Virginians with updates on the state’s COVID-19 response.
Governor Justice announced Wednesday, the joint decision to move West Virginia’s Primary Election Day to June 9, a 27-day extension from the original May 12 date. Justice said the main reason for delaying the election is because he wants as many people to have the opportunity to vote in person as possible. West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey affirmed the decision, stating they want to uphold voters’ constitutional rights and ensure that as many as possible can safely vote by postponing the date.
Justice also followed President Trump’s nationwide social distancing extension by pushing the return to school date even later to April 30, but said he remains hopeful that the children will return this academic school year.
Justice also announced that just Tuesday, West Virginia jumped to 6.7 percent of people tested being positive, after announcing that overall, the state’s average was 4 percent. Justice clarified that the state is currently only testing people who have a high chance of yielding a positive result.
On Tuesday, Justice further ordered all private campgrounds closed to new arrivals coming from out of state. He clarified that those already living quarantined in private campgrounds are okay to stay, but no new arrivals from out of state are permitted. The Governor also issued an Executive Order directing anyone entering West Virginia from a high-risk area to self-quarantine for 14 days or they could ultimately face obstruction of justice charges. He also signed an Executive Order that suspends several statutory regulations that could prevent medical providers from best responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and assisting the state.
Tuesday, Governor Justice signed another Executive Order to suspend all elective medical procedures in effort to conserve the state’s limited supply of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers who tirelessly try to combat the virus.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the state reportedly had 191 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. “When it falls right down to it, what gives us the ability to break this cycle and gives us safety is our behavior. Our behavior is our power. Our behavior to wash our hands, keep our hands away from our face, absolutely not congregate in crowds, absolutely stay home, it’s working in West Virginia. We’ve got to stay that course,” Justice said.
Governor Justice also pleaded to the audience Tuesday regarding Williamson Hospital, who recently announced plans to close this month. As the only hospital in Mingo County, Justice hopes the Williamson Hospital will stay open during the COVID-19 outbreak to serve patients, workers and the community
Governor Justice again asked viewers to take part in the 2020 Census by responding to the requests that have been sent to every household. He then explained how it is very important for everyone to be counted because the government uses Census data collected to determine the proper amount of federal funding each state will receive, among many other benefits.
Tuesday, Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh shared that metropolitan areas in the country are seeing the same problems that New York has seen, explaining how important it is to keep distance in any area. Wednesday, Marsh said the model from the University of Washington shows the projections look as if in the next several weeks and months, other cities may see outbreaks, potentially resulting in an estimated 100,000 Americans deaths. It is also predicted that West Virginia will see our surge on May 2, with an estimated loss of 500 West Virginians; however, Marsh said the number is going down.
Major General James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard reported Wednesday they started a task force of over 200 retailers, food establishments and convenience stores to provide training on package decontamination as it enters their stores. He also reported that they increased testing support, working with West Virginia University and Marshall University to use National Guard equipment for telemedicine in different areas.
WV DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch reported the Bureau of Children and Families of DHHR granted two waivers from the Federal Government for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), extending the renewal period for those already receiving the benefits and supplemental payments to households prior to April 1. On Wednesday, Crouch also elaborated on the anticipated surge projected to happen, stating we need to be prepared by hospitals increasing their capacity and expanding the healthcare workforce by putting patients over paperwork. They are also working with nursing homes and planning alternatives there as well.