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.
KIDS CONNECT INTERACTIVE MAP UNVEILED
During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that an interactive map, featuring more than 1,000 potential free WiFi access locations through the Governor’s new Kids Connect initiative, is now available on the West Virginia Department of Education’s website.
“These are like 1,000 points of light: the wireless internet that we’re going to have all across the state, in all 55 counties,” Gov. Justice said.
Gov. Justice announced Kids Connect – a joint effort between the Governor’s Office of Technology, the WVDE, and the Higher Education Policy Commission to establish over 1,000 free wireless internet access points statewide by Sept. 8 – during his previous COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, as part of his multifaceted plan to reopen all pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools in West Virginia.
On Wednesday, the Governor announced that he would be committing $6 million to establish access points at all 688 of the state’s Pre-K-12 schools, along with additional access points at 32 higher education institutions, 255 libraries, and 31 of West Virginia’s state parks.
“It’s a big commitment in resources and effort to get it done,” Gov. Justice said Friday. “But we’re going to get it done.”
More information on Gov. Justice’s full reopening plan for West Virginia’s schools – which emphasizes safety for students, teachers, and service personnel, flexibility for local county school systems, and the freedom for parents to choose which learning model is best for their children – is available on the Governor’s website.
WEST VIRGINIA’S RATE OF SPREAD 6TH-LOWEST IN NATION
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt – has improved to the 6th-lowest such rate in the nation.
At one point, before Gov. Justice instituted his Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement, West Virginia’s Rt value was the worst in the country.
“We’re moving it in the right way. But how have we done it?” Gov. Justice said. “Well, the number one way we’ve done it has been wearing our masks and face coverings.
“When I made the wearing of face coverings mandatory, a lot of people pushed back and a lot of people didn’t like it,” Gov. Justice continued. “Still, there’s a lot of people who don’t like it, I’m one of them. But it works. We see it right here: it is working.”
The Governor went on to report modest improvement in some of the state’s other COVID-19 numbers, including a decrease in the number of active cases from the beginning of the week. However, Gov. Justice also pointed out that COVID-19-related hospitalizations have increased slightly over the same time period.
“With some of our numbers, you’re seeing them starting to go exactly the way we want them to go,” Gov. Justice said. “But, in other areas, we still have a long way to go.”
WVNG, DHHR “RUN TO THE FIRE” AFTER SINGLE CASES IN CLARKSBURG VETERANS NURSING FACILITY, WOOD COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice announced that he has directed soldiers with the West Virginia National Guard and health officials with the DHHR to “run to the fire” to test a pair of facilities where single COVID-19 tests came back positive this week.
This week, a nurse at the West Virginia Veterans Nursing Facility in Clarksburg tested positive for COVID-19. However, the nurse has not been in the facility since July 26.
“Still, as soon as we were notified, all of our people ran to the fire,” Gov. Justice said. “I thank the National Guard, I thank the DHHR, and the facility administrator; they’ve all been working together.
“They set an action plan in motion and, on Monday, we will test all of the residents and staff,” Gov. Justice continued. “Two previous tests have been 100 percent negative and that’s really good. But we’ve got to be safe.
“I also want to thank the Department of Veterans Assistance for continuing to serve and protect our veterans. How could there be anybody more important than our veterans? How much have they given and how little do they ask for? We absolutely want to do everything in our power to make sure we keep them safe.”
The Governor added that a separate confirmed case of COVID-19 was identified this week among an individual at the Wood County Courthouse.
“County Officials requested the assistance of our National Guard and they were able to immediately go there and assist with sanitization,” Gov. Justice said. “We will continue to work with the Wood County Commission to give them any support they need.
“This is yet another example of just what we have done, over and over,” Gov. Justice said. “I can’t say it enough: we run to the fire. Our National Guard has done an incredible job.”
SCHOOL CLOTHING ALLOWANCE APPLICATION PERIOD OPENS SEPT. 1
Gov. Justice took time out of his briefing Friday to offer a reminder that the DHHR will begin accepting school clothing allowance applications on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, for eligible children enrolled in West Virginia schools.
Each eligible child will receive a $200 benefit that may be used toward the purchase of appropriate school clothing or piece goods for families who sew clothing for their children.
“In this complicated time we are in, the last thing any family should be worried about is whether or not their children will have clothing that fits. That’s why our wonderful school clothing allowance program is more important now than ever,” Gov. Jim Justice said. “I’ve said over and over how much I love our kids. And this program gives so many of our kids a chance to be comfortable and to feel good about themselves so they can focus on being their best in every way.”
The following will automatically receive school clothing allowance benefits for each school-age child in the home by the end of August:
Families with school-aged children currently receiving WV WORKS cash assistance
Those in foster care
Children ages 4-18 that receive SNAP, are enrolled in school and under 100% of the Federal Poverty Level
Click here to read more about others who may be eligible for school clothing allowance benefits and to learn more about how to apply.
DHHR SECRETARY PROVIDES UPDATE ON ST. FRANCIS SURGE FACILITY
During his remarks Friday, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch announced that, after working alongside Thomas Health this week, St. Francis Hospital in Charleston has been stood up as a COVID-19 surge facility as a precautionary measure, per the Governor’s directive on Monday.
“We want to thank Thomas Health for moving so quickly to get that implemented and ready to accept patients,” Sec. Crouch said. “We actually anticipated a transfer yesterday. That has not taken place. But there will be transfers in the future that will be coordinated through the DHHR and Thomas Health.”
In April, St. Francis Hospital reconfigured two floors and added beds and equipment to serve up to 75 coronavirus patients.
The COVID-19 surge hospital is designed to treat coronavirus patients, diagnosed at medical facilities across the state, who are primarily in need of active short-term care or rehabilitation services.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 59-20
At the request of the West Virginia Department of Education, Gov. Justice has issued an executive order, giving the WVDE flexibility to maintain currently anticipated pay schedules and periods for teachers and school service personnel.
SEVEN ACTIVE CHURCH OUTBREAKS IN FIVE COUNTIES
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice announced that a total of seven church-related outbreaks remain active within five counties across West Virginia, including Cabell, Grant, Logan, Mason, and Taylor counties.
These outbreaks account for about 89 total cases combined.
“I can’t urge you enough, I can’t tell you enough times: social distance, use good personal hygiene, wash your hands, keep a pew of distance in between you and the other people, and absolutely everybody needs to be wearing a face covering in church,” Gov. Justice said.
“I get it: church is the foundation of every last one of us,” Gov. Justice continued. “With that being said, we can go to church. But you’ve got to be safe and you’ve got to follow the guidelines.”
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 Boone, Brooke, Jackson, Lewis, McDowell, and Taylor counties.
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.
Testing details listed below in chronological order:
12:00 PM – 6:00 PM
River Front Park: 220 Riverfront Park, Ravenswood, WV
12:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Cedar Lakes Conference Center: 82 FFA Drive, Ripley, WV
8:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Southside Middle School: 13509 Rocket Boys Drive, War, WV
8:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Tug Lot: 198 Tug Tower Addition Road, Welch, WV
8:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Grafton High School: 400 Yates Avenue, Grafton, WV
August 14 & 15
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Hummel Field House: 6268 Main Street, Bethany, WV
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Lewis County High School: 205 Minute Man Drive, Weston, WV
10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Madison Civic Center: 261 Washington Avenue, Madison, WV
SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS: $7.6 MILLION HAS 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 2,000 applications have been submitted, with more than $7.6 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.
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: $72 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 $72 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.
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.
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.
Over 10,000 West Virginians have used the map so far.
If food distribution locations aren’t available in some communities, individuals are encouraged to call 211 for further assistance.
WEST VIRGINIANS URGED TO PARTICIPATE IN CENSUS
Once more today, Gov. Justice asked all West Virginians to participate in the 2020 United States Census.
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.