CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials today for his latest daily press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.
COLOR-CODED MAP TO CONTINUE DETERMINING STATUS OF ATHLETIC COMPETITIONS
During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice explained that he has recently held several discussions with state health and education experts to determine the best way to approach athletic and other extracurricular competitions involving schools in counties with elevated levels of risk for community spread of COVID-19 – at a time where case numbers continue to reach record highs in West Virginia and across the United States.
“I called our experts and I told them to look at this independent of me, knowing we have teams and kids in the middle of playoffs, and come back to me with a recommendation,” Gov. Justice said. “I want us to make the very best decisions for the people of this great state, knowing these decisions are dog-flat tough. At the end of the day, based on the recommendations of the health professionals, they feel like they have to continue using the existing education map and DHHR County Alert Map to guide us through the decisions on these counties.”
The following is a joint statement from WVDE Superintendent Clayton Burch, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch, State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad, WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan, and West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh:
The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC), the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE), the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) and the State Coronavirus Czar understand the importance of sports and extracurricular activities to our education system. However, during this pandemic, we all agree the health of our students must be the top priority.
While there have been interest and inquiries into changing our metrics and protocols and allowing student athletes to participate in upcoming tournament play, we cannot sideline student health.
Based on the recommendation of health professionals, WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan and WVDE Superintendent Clayton Burch will continue to support the use of the Saturday Education Map and DHHR County Alert System Map to guide decisions on which counties may participate in upcoming tournaments.
These are difficult decisions; however, they are decisions that must be made.
The WVDE School Alert System map, which is updated each Saturday at 5 p.m., determines each county’s official color status for the entire week.
The DHHR County Alert System map (Click “County Alert System” tab), which is updated daily, is used for informational purposes, providing an indication of how each county is trending ahead of the next Saturday School Alert System Map update. The only situation where the DHHR map would affect school status is if a county turns Red in the middle of the week. In that case, the county is deemed Red and all school-related-activities, including athletics and extracurriculars, are suspended immediately and until the county improves from Red status in a subsequent Saturday School Alert System Map update.
Athletic and extracurricular guidance in each of the five color categories is as follows:
RED: All school-related athletic and extracurricular activities are suspended immediately.
ORANGE: Athletic and extracurricular activities limited to conditioning only, as defined by WVSSAC. Marching band activities must be limited to outdoors only. Instruments permitted only when students are stationary and distanced in pods.
GOLD: Schools can only compete in-county or with other gold counties. Athletic and extracurricular activities permit parents/guardians only. According to WVSSAC guidelines, cheerleaders and bands may participate at home games.
YELLOW & GREEN: Athletic and extracurricular activities permit immediate household family members and grandparents. According to WVSSAC guidelines, cheerleaders and bands may participate at home games.
“We have to understand this; we’re dealing with tough stuff,” Gov. Justice said. “We have a real problem, right now, within the state and a bigger problem within this nation. I came in today and read 15 names of people we’ve lost. It’s no fun. I hate it like crazy for these people, their loved ones, and their families. It just makes me sick.
“I also hate it for our kids,” Gov. Justice continued. “When I talked to Clayton Burch, I said if there’s any way to come up with a solution, we have to come up with a solution. But you’ve already heard the solution. We’ve got to stay the course.”
The Governor once again offered a reminder that counties with high case numbers may be able to improve their color status by taking advantage of the abundant free testing opportunities being provided all across the state.
“I have pleaded with people, over and over, to be tested,” Gov. Justice said. “At the end of the day, when you are pleading, and you’ve got people there ready to do the testing, and less than 20 people show up, that’s just not going to cut it.”
Free testing held yesterday by the West Virginia National Guard at several sites throughout Doddridge, Logan, Monroe, and Braxton counties each saw fewer than 20 people be tested, with 13, 14, 16, and 17 individuals participating in each county, respectively. A majority of counties with free testing sites yesterday administered fewer than 50 tests, and Gov. Justice added that one particular free testing site in Wyoming County had zero people show up to be tested.
“When I tell you we’re going to test, and we’re going to pay for it, and it’s absolutely painless, and it will help us in every way, it will help our kids, it will help our schools, and you don’t show up, it’s tough to look back at these health officials and say, ‘We have to come up with another way,’” Gov. Justice said.
“For those kids out there, I hate it really bad. But at the same time, we have much, much bigger problems than playing sports,” Gov. Justice continued. “First and foremost, we need to focus on getting back in school. But we know, if we jam ourselves back in school in an Orange or Red county, we could end up with a colossal problem. We’ve got to protect our kids and we’ve got to protect our teachers and school service personnel as well.”
AGGRESSIVE TESTING CONTINUES ACROSS STATE
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice provided an overview of the 48 counties that have upcoming free testing events scheduled for the near future through the Governor’s Aggressive Testing initiative.
This testing is available to all residents, including asymptomatic individuals. Proof of insurance is not required. Attendees should bring identification, such as a driver’s license or proof of address, to help in returning test results. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Each county reaching Red or Orange status in the DHHR’s County Alert System map (Click “County Alert System” tab) is required to set up at least one free testing site within the same day. Each county reaching Gold status is required to set up at least one free testing site within 48 hours.
Gov. Justice also offered a reminder that, as part of his administration’s efforts to expand free COVID-19 testing throughout West Virginia, the State is now partnering with Walgreens and West Virginia-based company Fruth Pharmacy to offer dozens of new free testing sites at several of their pharmacy drive-thrus.
Walgreens is now offering free testing at 54 locations statewide, including several new testing sites. Locations include stores in Berkeley, Boone, Brooke, Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Gilmer, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, McDowell, Mercer, Monongalia, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Randolph, Summers, Taylor, Upshur, Wayne, Wetzel, Wood, and Wyoming counties.
Fruth Pharmacy is also offering free testing at 12 of their locations statewide, including stores in Cabell, Jackson, Kanawha, Mason, Putnam, Roane, and Wood counties.
Pre-registration is required for pharmacy drive-thru testing.
COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS UPDATE
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice reported that the current number of active cases in the state has reached a record high of 6,135. Meanwhile, the cumulative percent of positive cases is 3.01%, up from 2.97% on Wednesday.
The Governor also added that the statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt – increased to 1.13 Friday morning; the 26th-best such rate of any state in the country.
Meanwhile, West Virginia continues to outperform the national average – as well as the rates of all of its bordering states – in lowest percentage of population positive, and lowest percentage of positive test results.
FRIDAY MAP UPDATE
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice provided a look at West Virginia’s latest mid-week County Alert System map update.
Red counties: 3 (Marshall, Mineral, Mingo)
Orange counties: 9 (Berkeley, Hampshire, Jackson, Lincoln, Ohio, Putnam, Tyler, Wood, Wyoming)
Gold counties: 7 (Jefferson, Lewis, Monroe, Pleasants, Randolph, Wetzel, Wirt)
Yellow counties: 11 (Boone, Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, McDowell, Morgan, Preston, Ritchie, Upshur, Wayne)
Green counties: 25 (All others)
The map is updated live on the DHHR’s COVID-19 Dashboard (Click “County Alert System” tab) throughout the week for informational purposes and to provide an indication of how each county is trending ahead of each Saturday at 5 p.m.; the time when each county is assigned its official color designation for the next week, which determines the level of scholastic, athletic, and extracurricular activities permitted in each county for that particular week.
DHHR’s COVID-19 Dashboard (Click “County Alert System” tab)
GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES STAFF TESTING
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice announced that the West Virginia National Guard administered COVID-19 tests on the Governor and several members of his staff in Charleston after learning of a possible exposure in the office.
Later in the day, test results showed that the Governor and all of the staff members who had been tested were negative.
“COVID-19 IN SCHOOL SETTINGS” REPORT
Also on Friday, state Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh took time during his remarks to discuss a recent epidemiology report by the DHHR, which provides detailed data regarding COVID-19 case numbers being seen in school settings across West Virginia.
According to the report, which details the source of spread for each outbreak recorded in school settings to-date, there has been relatively limited transmission in schools in West Virginia. The greatest risk for transmission appears to be among older children, aged 12 to 17.
The report’s conclusion also says that, “As we see increased community transmission, it is crucial that schools continue to layer prevention strategies to reduce COVID-19 disease risk for students, teachers, school staff, and families.”
Click here to view report
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice reported that, per the West Virginia Department of Education, there are 19 active outbreaks in public schools across the state. These outbreaks account for 93 confirmed cases.
West Virginia now has 17 active church-related outbreaks across 12 counties: Cabell, Doddridge, Kanawha, Lewis, Mingo, Monroe, Raleigh, Ritchie, Tyler, Wayne, Wetzel, and Wood counties.
The Governor reported there are now 59 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state, up from 55 on Wednesday.
Finally, the Governor announced that there are now two active cases of COVID-19 among the state’s inmate population; both at the Martinsburg Correctional Center in Berkeley County. Also, according to the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR), there are 34 active cases among DCR employees.
GOVERNOR RECOGNIZES PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL IMAGING AND RADIATION THERAPY TECHNOLOGISTS DAY
In recognition of West Virginia’s professional medical imaging and radiation therapy technologists, who have spent countless hours over the past eight months working on the front lines, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in hospitals and homes across the state, Gov. Justice has issued a proclamation, formally designating Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, as Professional Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Technologists Day in West Virginia.
$25 MILLION IN CARES ACT DOLLARS BEING PROVIDED TO HELP QUALIFYING WEST VIRGINIANS PAY UTILITY BILLS
Once again Friday, Gov. Justice provided a reminder that $25 million of CARES Act relief funds allocated to assist qualifying West Virginians pay their utility bills is being distributed across the state.
The money will go to local Public Service Districts so they can pass it along to customers.
Customers of electric, natural gas, water, and sewer utility companies who have experienced economic hardship and/or uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, causing them to have unpaid utility bills from the period of March 1 – July 31 of this year, may receive financial assistance to pay those bills.
Qualifying customers will receive a letter and application in the mail. Customers must complete and return the application by Thursday, November 12, 2020.
CITIES/COUNTIES GRANT FUNDING: OVER $170 MILLION HAS NOW BEEN AWARDED
Also today, Gov. Justice provided an update on cities and counties throughout West Virginia applying for funds through the federal CARES Act, reporting that more than $170 million has now been awarded all across the state.
A web portal is available for city and county government officials to apply. Interested parties can also call the helpline: 1-833-94-GRANT.
Each of the recipients of CARES Act funding, along with grant amounts, are now available to view through the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office COVID-19 transparency website.
FLU VACCINE REMINDER
Once again today, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks on COVID-19 to remind and encourage all West Virginians to get their flu vaccine.
According to health officials, everyone 6 months and older should receive this vaccine.
Locate a flu vaccine near you through the DHHR website.
Click here to view all Executive Orders and other actions taken by Gov. Justice to combat the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.
For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.