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.
GOV. JUSTICE AWARDS $1 MILLION TO WEST VIRGINIA FOOD BANKS
During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice presented a ceremonial check for $1 million, announcing that he will be sending $500,000 each to two West Virginia food banks: the Mountaineer Food Bank, and the Facing Hunger Foodbank.
“I promised this money in my State of the State address this year and included it in my budget,” Gov. Justice said. “The Legislature was kind enough to pass it and I signed it.
“They need the funds and they need them now,” Gov. Justice continued. “Naturally, there’s been a run on our food banks through this tough time and so now we’re dispensing that money out to them.
“I’m really happy to do this. These people are doing phenomenal work. We don’t want anybody in West Virginia going hungry. For crying out loud, it’s the least that we can do, especially in our situation where we have a prosperous economy and a good, positive outlook on our future. So we want to continue to help, and we’re going to get it done.”
UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS IMPROVE FOR FIFTH STRAIGHT MONTH
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has decreased yet again, dropping to 8.6 percent in the month of September.
The number of unemployed state residents decreased by 2,700.
September marked the fifth consecutive month of improving unemployment numbers in West Virginia.
“West Virginia, you continue to do good stuff,” Gov. Justice said. “For those that are still out seeking employment and have lost their job because of this terrible pandemic, we’ll try any and every way we possibly can to continue to try to help.”
MON COUNTY BARS NOW PERMITTED TO REOPEN WITH LIMITATIONS
Additionally, Gov. Justice offered a reminder that his executive order – permitting all Monongalia County bars to reopen, so long as these establishments follow all appropriate guidelines provided by state health experts – went into effect yesterday.
Any Monongalia County bar intending to reopen must implement all additional safety measures described in each of the following guidance documents:
Supplemental Protocols for Reopening Monongalia County Bars
A Guide to Safely Opening Restaurants and Bars
The West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, working with state and local police, will increase their enforcement operations. Failure to adhere to the guidelines and these supplemental protocols will result in suspension of a restaurant’s or bar’s license to operate or its WVABCA license, and other appropriate enforcement measures.
“Please, please, please work with us by following these guidelines, and we’ll work with you,” Gov. Justice said. “We know it can’t be perfect, but we know it can be a whole lot better than it was before.”
WEST VIRGINIA TESTING RATE RANKS 14TH IN NATION
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center website, West Virginia is currently tied for the 14th best state in the nation when it comes to the number of residents tested for COVID-19 per capita.
“I’d love to see us tied for first, but we are on the rise,” Gov. Justice said. “We are higher than Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. Our only bordering state above us right now is Kentucky and they’re just barely ahead.
“We absolutely need to continue to test and test and test,” Gov. Justice continued. “If we do that, we’ll continue to learn so much more about this virus and that will enable us to slow it down.”
AGGRESSIVE TESTING CONTINUES ACROSS STATE
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice offered a reminder that additional free testing events are scheduled in the upcoming weeks for several counties all across West Virginia.
In each of the counties under the Red or Orange color designations, testing sites will be offered throughout this week. According to Wednesday morning’s DHHR County Alert System map, the only Red county was Doddridge County, while Orange counties included Berkeley, Marshall, Mingo, Nicholas, and Randolph counties.
This testing is available to all residents in selected counties, 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.
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 offering free testing at 16 locations statewide, including stores in Boone, Cabell, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, Monongalia, Putnam, and Raleigh counties.
Fruth Pharmacy is offering free testing at 12 of their locations statewide, including stores in Cabell, Jackson, Kanawha, Mason, Putnam, Roane, and Wood counties.
COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS UPDATE
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that the number of active COVID-19 cases across the state is now 4,612, up from 4,578 on Monday. The cumulative percent of positive cases also increased slightly to 2.81 percent, up from 2.78 percent on Monday.
Meanwhile, West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt – rose to 0.95 Wednesday afternoon. Despite the increase, West Virginia’s Rt remained tied for the 7th-best such rate of any state in the country.
West Virginia continues to outperform the national average – as well as the rates of all of its bordering states – in percentage of population tested, percentage of population positive, and percentage of positive test results.
WEDNESDAY MAP UPDATE
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice provided a look at West Virginia’s latest mid-week County Alert System map update, which continues to show significant improvement with Aggressive Testing efforts underway in several regions.
Red counties: 1 (Doddridge)
Orange counties: 5 (Berkeley, Marshall, Mingo, Nicholas, Randolph)
Gold counties: 7 (Barbour, Harrison, Jackson, Morgan, Putnam, Upshur, Wirt)
Yellow counties: 14 (Boone, Brooke, Clay, Hancock, Jefferson, Kanawha, Mercer, Pendleton, Roane, Tyler, Wayne, Webster, Wood, Wyoming)
Green counties: 28 (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.
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that, per the West Virginia Department of Education, there are 18 active outbreaks in public schools across the state. These outbreaks account for 50 confirmed cases.
The West Virginia Department of Education announced Tuesday that, one month into the new school year, approximately 0.02 percent of students and 0.3 percent of teachers and staff members have been infected with a confirmed case of COVID-19. According to the DHHR, most of these cases originated outside of the school building, and, due to proper protocols, were mitigated to prevent more wide-spread infections.
West Virginia now has 14 active church-related outbreaks across 11 counties: Doddridge, Fayette, Harrison, Logan, Mason, Nicholas, Putnam, Tucker, Upshur, Wayne, and Wood counties. Another recent church-related outbreak in Kanawha County is no longer considered active at this time.
There are now 43 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state, down from 47 on Monday.
Gov. Justice also reported that across the entire Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) system, there are four active cases of COVID-19 among inmates: one within Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County, one within North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County, one within Lorrie Yeager Jr. Juvenile Center in Wood County, and one within Martinsburg Correctional Center in Berkeley County.
There are now 14 active cases among DCR employees across West Virginia.
GOVERNOR CALLS ON STATE LEADERS TO REDOUBLE RESPONSE TO HOSPITAL OUTBREAK
Additionally Wednesday, after state health experts confirmed a recent outbreak within Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington, Gov. Justice announced that he would be calling on state leaders to redouble their efforts to make sure the facility is as safe as possible.
“We’re doing everything that we can and we’re doing everything properly,” Gov. Justice said. “However, I will give you my assurance that I’m going to consult again with the National Guard and the DHHR and amp up our response, to be absolutely positive that we’re doing everything we possibly can there.”
DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch announced that the facility has implemented a unit for only COVID-positive patients to ensure those individuals are protected and isolated from other patients. The facility has also implemented a unit for patients who may have had possible exposure, so they are properly isolated as well.
Additionally, all positive staff members are quarantining at home. Secretary Crouch added that the DHHR is monitoring the situation closely and is remaining in contact with the facility and local health officials in the area on a daily basis.
“Even though we believe we’re doing everything we possibly can do, my gut tells me we should double-check just to make sure,” Gov. Justice said. “Because, if there’s any possibility that we could do more, we’re gonna go try to do it.”
DHHR officials updated that, as of Wednesday afternoon, the updated number of cases at the facility are 35 staff and 24 patients. State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad is en route to Bateman now. DHHR’s epidemiologists are and have been monitoring the situation.
CLARKSBURG VETERANS NURSING HOME
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that the latest round of COVID-19 testing at the Veterans Nursing Facility in Clarksburg came back, yielding zero positive results.
There are four positive tests among staff members, including two nurses. Another round of testing at the facility begins tomorrow.
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.
CITIES/COUNTIES GRANT FUNDING: OVER $147 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 $147 million has now been awarded all across the state. To date, 191 cities and counties have applied for this grant funding.
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.
WEST VIRGINIA REMAINS AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS IN CENSUS RESPONSE RATE; ALL URGED TO PARTICIPATE
Once more today, Gov. Justice asked all West Virginians to participate in the 2020 United States Census.
West Virginia remains tied atop the national standings with the #1 best Census response rate in the country: 99.9 percent.
For perspective, during the last Census in 2010, the state’s final response rate was just 74 percent.
Every West Virginian who does not respond to the Census represents a loss of $20,000 in federal funds over the next 10 years for the state and its local communities. The funds can go toward things like healthcare, education, infrastructure, school lunch programs, and more.
Be counted in minutes: 2020census.gov.
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.