CHARLESTON, WV – Following his latest daily COVID-19 press briefing, Gov. Jim Justice announced today that wellness facilities (gyms and fitness centers supervised by licensed professionals) and drive-in movie theaters will be among the next wave of businesses permitted to reopen as part of the upcoming Week 3 phase of the Governor’s reopening plan: West Virginia Strong – The Comeback.
Week 3 is scheduled to commence next Monday, May 11, 2020.
Additional guidance documents have been released for these businesses to ensure they are reopening in the safest manner possible for all West Virginians.
Guidelines available for download here:
Wellness centers operated by or with West Virginia Licensed Health Care providers
Drive-in movie theaters
Several additional types of businesses will be permitted to reopen in the weeks ahead. The opening schedule for these businesses will be based upon the recommendations of state medical experts and upon testing data available at that time.
View the latest COVID-19 data at Coronavirus.wv.gov
The Governor’s Office will announce when businesses in Weeks 4-6 will be able to reopen as soon as possible. Additional guidance on reopening will be made available for each of these businesses at that time.
WEEK 2 PHASE OF GOVERNOR’S REOPENING PLAN UNDERWAY
During today’s briefing, Gov. Justice offered a reminder that the Week 2 phase of his reopening plan officially began today.
This phase allows for the reopening of small businesses with 10 or fewer employees, restaurants with takeaway service or outdoor dining options, religious entities and funeral homes, as well as professional service operations such as hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, and pet grooming shops. Reopening businesses must follow all additional guidelines that have been put in place to help keep West Virginians safe.
Businesses included in each phase of this reopening plan are not required to resume operations on any specific date. This plan provides the option for reopening, not a requirement.
“I encourage all businesses that are allowed to open to do so only if they can follow the guidelines to keep West Virginians safe,” Gov. Justice said.
“SAFER AT HOME” ORDER NOW IN EFFECT
Gov. Justice’s “Safer At Home” order also officially took effect today – replacing the original “Stay At Home” order issued last month.
“Safer At Home” still strongly encourages all West Virginians to stay at home when not performing essential tasks, but no longer mandates them to stay at home. It also provides new guidelines for individuals, businesses, public gatherings, and more.
The new order will be modified each week throughout the duration of the Governor’s reopening plan.
THREE MORE COUNTIES REMOVED FROM LIST OF HOTSPOTS
Gov. Justice announced today that he has issued an Executive Order, removing Cabell, Wayne, and Wood counties from the list of COVID-19 community clusters or “hotspots” in West Virginia.
Five counties remain on the hotspot list at this time, including Marion, Berkeley, Harrison, Jefferson, and Monongalia counties.
At one point, West Virginia had 12 counties designated as “COVID-19 hotspots” – areas subject to stricter measures to slow the spread of the disease as deemed necessary by local health officials.
After consulting with local health officials, Gov. Justice ordered the removal of Morgan County from the list on April 24.
The Governor removed Jackson, Kanawha, and Ohio counties from the list yesterday.
Later this week, a new methodology will be released that will give the state additional flexibility to develop and implement more precise response plans that meet the needs of each county if a new hotspot were to develop.
EDUCATION, HEALTH OFFICIALS SECURE FEDERAL FUNDING TO HELP PROVIDE FOOD FOR FAMILIES IN NEED
Also today, Gov. Justice announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved West Virginia’s application for Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) cards to support child nutrition needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the direction of Governor Jim Justice, the joint request was recently submitted by the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
The program is part of the CARES Act and delivers nutrition assistance on an EBT card that can be used to purchase groceries for families with school children who qualify for free or reduced price school meals. The EBT card holds the value of the free school breakfast and lunch reimbursement rates for the days that schools are closed.
More than 231,000 children in the Mountain State are eligible. It is estimated that more than $72 million in federal dollars will be coming to West Virginia households to be used in local grocery stores.
“We are grateful beyond belief to have this federal support to make sure our kids’ needs are being met during this pandemic,” Governor Justice said. “Making sure every single one of our kids in West Virginia has enough to eat is one of my top priorities. The minute we realized we had to shut down our schools, I went to work with our education leaders and put a plan in action that is now providing over 1 million meals a week to children statewide.”
“Since the start of this pandemic, the WVDE has worked with county school systems to ensure no child is forgotten and no family has the added stress of food insecurity,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, W. Clayton Burch. “We are hopeful the addition of the P-EBT cards will be an added support for families, and are grateful for the continued combined efforts of our counties and partners.”
Superintendent Burch added that while the P-EBT card program will provide an additional resource to families impacted the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, the State’s ongoing multi-agency effort currently providing 1.4 million meals a week to students across West Virginia will continue through the end of the scheduled school year in each respective county.
WEST VIRGINIA REACHES LOWEST TRANSMISSION RATE IN NATION
Gov. Justice also mentioned that, over the weekend, West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as R0 – was the lowest such figure of any state in the country.
The Governor added that West Virginia’s statewide cumulative rate of positive COVID-19 tests dropped once again to 2.27 percent.
“The national average is 16 percent,” Gov. Justice said. “Virginia is at 17 percent, Pennsylvania is at 20 percent, Ohio is at 13 percent, Maryland is at 19 percent, and Kentucky is at 8.5 percent.
“You really have done an amazing, amazing job.”
NURSING HOME REIMBURSEMENT TO INCREASE $13.6 MILLION
Today, Gov. Justice and DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch announced a $20-per-day increase for all nursing homes across the state.
West Virginia Medicaid, under the DHHR, will submit an Emergency State Plan Amendment to increase the daily rates by $20, retroactive to February 1, 2020.
This will increase nursing home reimbursement by $13.6 million.
GOVERNOR, DHHR RECOGNIZE CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS DAY
Also today, Gov. Justice issued a proclamation, formally designating May 4, 2020 as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in West Virginia.
“This is to increase public awareness about the needs of children with serious mental illness and severe emotional disturbance, and their families, and encourage those who need help to seek treatment,” Sec. Crouch said.
If you need mental health support, please consider calling or texting HELP4WV (844-435-7498). Additional mental health resources are also available on the BEHAVIORAL HEALTH page on Coronavirus.wv.gov.
PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE PAYMENTS TO BEGIN THIS WEEK
Additionally today, Gov. Justice announced that WorkForce West Virginia will begin paying Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits this Friday, May 8.
These benefits are for individuals who normally aren’t eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits under state or federal law like self-employed workers.
As of today, WorkForce West Virginia has received more than 15,000 applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.
“West Virginia was the first state to provide the additional $600 benefit from the CARES Act,” Gov. Justice said. “Your Governor has pushed our people with WorkForce beyond belief. But your Governor also recognizes the good work that they’ve done.”
WEST VIRGINIANS URGED TO TAKE CENSUS
Once again today, Gov. Justice asked all West Virginians to participate in the 2020 United States Census.
“You’ve got to take the Census seriously,” Gov. Justice said. “You’ve got to call one another and make sure that you’re counted.
I mean, it means so much to West Virginia’s future. The last go-around we didn’t all get counted, we didn’t get the money we should have gotten and it hurt us for the last 10 years.”
Be counted in minutes at 2020census.gov.
WEST VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD SUSTAINING SUPPORT FOR FOOD BANK OPERATIONS
Since beginning operations in support of the state’s COVID-19 response 52 days ago, the WVNG has completed 821 missions through our six lines of effort of operationalizing of the event, stabilizing the population, providing logistical movement of critical supplies, innovation, state surge capacity and capability, and conducting data analysis to combat the virus. Currently, 701 members of the WVNG are on duty serving the citizens of the State of West Virginia.
“As the state moves into reopening over the coming weeks, our mission to take care of the most vulnerable populations – including our seniors, children and those facing food insecurities – has not diminished,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the WVNG. “Numerous resources are available for those in need, including the 211 resource hotline. We continue to work collaboratively with our volunteer organizations such as VOAD and our food banks to meet the growing demand, which has nearly tripled since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In the last 24 hours, West Virginia Guardsmen and women assisted in delivering 2,205 meals to Pleasants, Ritchie, Barbour and Gilmer counties via refrigerated trailers. At both the Mountaineer Food Bank and the Facing Hunger Food Bank in Huntington, Guard personnel assisted in inventory and sanitizing the facilities to prepare for operations this week. At the Mountaineer Food Bank alone, the WVNG has provided support for the packaging and delivery of more than 1.7 million meals for families in 48 of West Virginia’s counties for the month of April.
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.