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.
HIGH SCHOOL PERFORMING GROUPS UPDATE
During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice discussed high school marching bands and their auxiliary groups, as well as cheerleaders, announcing that all of these students will be permitted to perform at high school football games this fall.
“Earlier this week there was a big misunderstanding about our marching bands and these other performing groups,” Gov. Justice said.
At first, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) announced that marching bands would not be able to perform at extracurricular activities this fall.
“That information did not flow to me, but as soon as I got the information, I said ‘For crying out loud, what are we doing? I mean really and truly can we not find a way for these kids to be able to perform?’” Gov. Justice said.
Yesterday, Gov. Justice issued a statement, announcing that he had directed state medical experts to immediately begin working with the WVSSAC and the West Virginia Department of Education to find a safe way for marching bands to be able to perform.
“I am now proud to announce that the WVSSAC and our medical experts have developed new guidelines for our marching bands to be able to perform on our football fields this fall,” Gov. Justice said in yesterday’s statement. “Our medical experts evaluated guidelines from the National Federation of High School Sports, and the West Virginia Bandmasters Association and put a plan together that keeps our band members socially distanced and as safe as possible, while allowing them to perform in the stadium on game days and allowing their families to watch their performances.”
During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice offered additional clarification, announcing that all students that participate in auxiliary extracurricular activities through their respective school’s marching band – such as majorettes, color guard, and, for some schools, dance teams – will all also be allowed to perform at high school football games this fall, provided that they are part of their school’s marching band and that all applicable safety guidelines are followed.
The Governor provided further clarification that, as an official WVSSAC sport, cheerleading squads will also be permitted to perform, provided that they follow all safety guidelines from the WVSSAC.
“All of these students, no matter what extracurricular activity they do, I know as a coach myself how hard they work and how dedicated they are to what they do,” Gov. Justice said. “Many work just as hard as the hardest-working student athletes. They are just as devoted. To those students, I’m proud to say that we’re going to be able to enjoy you performing this fall.”
RT DATA HIGHLIGHTS SUCCESS OF STATEWIDE INDOOR FACE COVERING REQUIREMENT
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt – is currently tied for the 4th-best such rate in the country, dropping to 0.86 today.
If a state’s Rt value is above 1.0, it means the virus will spread quickly, while values under 1.0 mean infections are slowing. West Virginia’s Rt has remained under 1.0 every day since July 6, 2020; the same day that the Governor announced his Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement.
Today, the Governor spotlighted the steep decline in West Virginia’s Rt value. In mid-June, West Virginia had the worst Rt in the nation. However, in the time since, the state has seen a drastic improvement in this metric.
“What has happened is we dropped, dropped, dropped, we were approaching the 1.00 mark, and we put our mandatory face covering requirement in place,” Gov. Justice said. “And now look what’s happened. We’ve continued to drop to where we are today.
“We see, with no question whatsoever, that wearing our masks works,” Gov. Justice continued. “But we still have problems with people going out of state and bringing this terrible killer back to our nursing homes or our hospitals. We have got to remain concerned every day.”
The Governor also provided an overview of the latest County Alert System Map, reporting that Logan County had moved from red status to orange status, while Kanawha County moved from yellow status to orange status. Monroe County is the only other county in orange status. All others are green or yellow.
LOCAL DOCTOR RECOGNIZED FOR HEROISM
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice sent a special thank you message to Dr. Bridgette Morrison, health officer for the Greenbrier County and Monroe County health departments, after she recently displayed an act of heroism in responding to an outbreak at a nursing home in Monroe County.
“You talk about someone who has run to the fire,” Gov. Justice said. “Dr. Morrison, we can never thank you enough. You and your team of nurses, our West Virginia National Guard, and all those that have been at this nursing home have saved lives.
“You truly are a hero.”
UPDATE ON CHURCHES, LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that church-related outbreaks remain active in four counties across West Virginia: Cabell, Monroe, Wood, and Wyoming counties. These outbreaks account for about 29 total cases combined.
The Governor added that there are now 29 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state. The largest of these outbreaks are at Grant Rehab and Care Center in Grant County, Cedar Ridge Center and the Marmet Nursing Home in Kanawha County, Trinity Healthcare in Logan County, Princeton Healthcare Center in Mercer County, Springfield Center in Monroe County, Pine Lodge Nursing Home in Raleigh County, and Rosewood Nursing Home in Taylor County.
CORRECTIONS FACILITIES UPDATE
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that weekend testing of inmates at Mount Olive Correctional Complex and Jail has resulted in 130 negative results and 24 positive results.
The full testing of all facility employees was also completed today. Results from this round of tests are pending.
Corrections is now coordinating with both local and state health officials regarding expanding testing to other housing units at the facility.
At South Central Regional Jail, all but six of the positive inmate cases have recovered. Three staff cases remain active at this facility.
At both facilities, inmates are medically isolated or quarantined as needed, and positive employees are self-quarantining at home.
HURRICANE LAURA PREPARATIONS
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks about COVID-19 to provide an update about Hurricane Laura.
The current forecast indicates that West Virginia could see effects from tropical weather systems beginning tomorrow and continuing through the weekend. As a result, the Governor announced he has directed the West Virginia National Guard to closely monitor Hurricane Laura and to begin preparing for any potential impact it may have on West Virginia.
“We know, in West Virginia, what significant rainfall can do with our mountains,” Gov. Justice said. “And you should know, this year, we have had an abundance of rainfall this spring and summer and so our soil may not be able to take much more rain.
“We’ve got to stay on guard, we need our National Guard to be ready in case these storms were to come over West Virginia,” Gov. Justice continued.
The preparedness is precautionary. At this time, significant issues are not anticipated.
WEST VIRGINIANS URGED TO PARTICIPATE IN CENSUS
Once more today, Gov. Justice asked all West Virginians to participate in the 2020 United States Census.
West Virginia currently boasts the 2nd-best U.S. Census response rate in the country.
To date, 88.9 percent of West Virginians have been counted. For perspective, during the last Census in 2010, the state’s final response rate was just 74 percent.
West Virginians are able to complete the Census until Sept. 30, 2020.
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.
SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS: $10.4 MILLION HAS NOW BEEN AWARDED
Also today, Gov. Justice provided an update on small businesses that have applied for funding through the Governor’s West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program, reporting that over 2,600 applications have been submitted, with more than $10.4 million being awarded to date.
The initiative is providing $150 million of West Virginia’s CARES Act funding to qualifying businesses across the state. Any West Virginia-based small business, in existence on March 1, 2020, with 1-35 employees, is able to apply for up to $5,000 in grant funding.
Gov. Justice also recently announced that he is opening up his West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program to sole proprietorships and self-employed individuals in West Virginia.
Any sole proprietor or self-employed person, in operation on or before March 1, 2020, is now able to apply for up to $2,000 in grant funding.
Businesses planning to apply must first be registered as a vendor with the State to be eligible. Guidelines for the grants and instructions on how to apply are available at Grants.wv.gov.
The application will remain open until Sept. 30, 2020.
CITIES/COUNTIES GRANT FUNDING: $92.5 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 $92.5 million has now been awarded all across the state.
A new web portal is now available for city and county government officials to apply for this grant funding, at grants.wv.gov. 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 COVID-19 transparency web portal provided by West Virginia State Auditor’s Office.
FREE COVID-19 TESTING
Gov. Justice also updated the schedule of upcoming free community COVID-19 testing events taking place over the next several weeks at various dates and times in multiple counties across the state.
The effort is part of a plan to provide free optional testing to all residents in several counties that are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission. It targets residents who have struggled to be seen by a physician or do not have insurance to pay for testing. However, other residents, including those who are asymptomatic are welcome to be tested.
Counties with upcoming free testing events include:
WEST VIRGINIA STRONG SUMMER FOOD ASSISTANCE MAP
Also, Gov. Justice reminded West Virginians that an interactive free-feeding location map, designed to help connect citizens in need to food resources across the state, is available online.
Click here to view the map
More than 696 free-feeding locations have now been made available through a multi-agency effort between the West Virginia National Guard, the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, the West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WV VOAD), and the United Way.
If food distribution locations aren’t available in some communities, individuals are encouraged to call 211 for further assistance.
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.