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.
EMERGENCY MEETING TO DISCUSS POTENTIAL MAP ADJUSTMENTS
During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that he would convene an emergency meeting Monday afternoon between state health, education, athletics experts, and more to discuss potential changes to the the color-coded School Re-Entry Map system, which determines the level of scholastic, athletic, and extracurricular activities permitted in each county for that particular week.
This past Saturday’s map included eight counties in either orange or red status, which, in its current format, means schools must utilize a fully-virtual instruction model, with no in-person instruction or extracurricular activities.
“It’s plenty tough for everybody,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s tough from a daycare issue. It’s tough from an economic issue. It’s tough for our parents who worry about sickness. It’s tough for our numbers going up. It’s tough for our medical teams. It’s tough in every different way.
“I can tell you this: I am trying with all my soul to continue to change and adapt this system to where it works the very best for all of us, where it keeps us safest, and where it works in a better way for all of us,” Gov. Justice continued.
The Governor discussed the possibility of adding gold as a fifth color to the existing color scale of green, yellow, orange, and red – between yellow and orange – to allow for more options when it comes to protocols depending on each county’s case numbers.
After the briefing, Gov. Justice met with these experts at the Governor’s Mansion to discuss a potential fifth color and numerous other possible adjustments to the current system.
The meeting, which included leaders from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, West Virginia Department of Education, West Virginia National Guard, West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, and other members of the Governor’s staff, went on well into the evening as experts discussed a multitude of possibilities.
To give West Virginians and members of the media adequate notice, Gov. Justice and his panel of experts have decided to provide an update on these discussions tomorrow morning.
COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS UPDATE
Earlier on Monday, during the Governor’s previously scheduled briefing, he reported that the state had once again reached a record high in active COVID-19 cases with 3,184.
Additionally Monday, West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt – remained the highest and worst such rate in the country at 1.27. However, the Governor pointed out that the state’s Rt value has dropped from 1.46 on Friday.
Meanwhile, West Virginia has outperformed 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. West Virginia has also outperformed the national average in case fatality rate.
REVIEW OF LATEST DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION SATURDAY MAP UPDATE
Also on Monday, Gov. Justice reviewed this past Saturday’s 5 p.m West Virginia Department of Education color-coded School Re-Entry Map update. State health leaders who make up the COVID-19 Data Review Panel verified the data to ensure the map was a true indication of the safety level in each county.
As of Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, a total of 23 counties were green, while 24 counties were yellow.
Seven counties were orange: Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, Mingo, Monroe, and Putnam counties.
One county was red: Monongalia County.
GOVERNOR EXPRESSES DISAPPOINTMENT AFTER BIBLE CENTER SCHOOL REOPENING
Additionally Monday, Gov. Justice expressed his disappointment after learning that the Bible Center School in Kanawha County had reopened, despite the county’s orange status.
“They are taking it upon themselves to ignore my executive order and go back to school,” Gov. Justice said. “All I would say is that Kanawha County is having all kinds of issues right now. And, as respectful as I am about our religious beliefs, I know that this exposes us.
“If we start branching out on our own, we’re going to cause a lot of heartache to a lot of different people,” Gov. Justice continued.
UPDATE ON SAFETY KITS FOR SCHOOL NURSES
Also on Monday, Gov. Justice and Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard, provided an update on efforts to deliver safety kits for every school nurse in all public schools across the state.
The kits, which were organized at the direction of Gov. Justice, consist of N-95 masks, gloves, and gowns for each nurse.
Maj. Gen. Hoyer announced that the final such kits were delivered to schools on Monday.
Additionally Monday, Gov. Justice announced that a new church-related outbreak of COVID-19 has been identified in Fayette County. There are now a total of six church-related outbreaks throughout five counties: Fayette, Kanawha, Mingo, Wayne, and Wyoming counties.
Within corrections facilities, Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County now has 25 active cases of COVID-19. No other corrections facilities currently have any known active cases.
Across the entire DCR system, the number of active cases among employees has decreased to 20.
Meanwhile, there are now 35 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state, down from 39 last Friday.
NATIONAL ASSISTED LIVING WEEK PROCLAMATION
Also on Monday, in honor of the West Virginians living and working in assisted living facilities, Gov. Justice announced that he has issued a proclamation, officially designating this week – Sept. 13, 2020 through Sept. 19, 2020 – as National Assisted Living Week.
“The residents in our long-term care facilities are some of our most vulnerable people. They’re also our parents, grandparents, and our loved ones,” Gov. Justice said. “I encourage all West Virginians to reach out to their loved ones or friends who may be residing in any long-term care setting and offer a kind word this week.
“I also encourage all West Virginians to thank the heroes that work in these facilities for all they do,” Gov. Justice continued. “Those that work in our long-term care facilities are frontline responders during this pandemic, and they are absolute heroes.”
SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS: OVER $15 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 3,700 applications have been submitted, with more than $15 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 has also opened up the 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 GRANTS: OVER $109 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 $109 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.
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:
Click here to view dates and additional details
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 currently boasts the 2nd-best U.S. Census response rate in the country.
To date, 99.0 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.
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.