CHARLESTON – All residents and employees of every nursing home in the state of West Virginia will be tested for COVID-19, following an executive order handed down by Gov. Jim Justice late Friday morning.
The move comes following several outbreaks of the coronavirus at facilities around the state.
“In order to get this under control, I am ordering the DHHR to order every nursing home in the state to test or retest every resident as well as all the staff,” Justice said during his 11 a.m. press conference. “I am asking them to get this done immediately so we can have real-time negative or positive test results so that we can log this information in our system.”
The DHHR order will require all state laboratories to provide immediate real-time electronic positive or negative test results to the DHHR and local health departments.
Justice said the state must do the testing immediately because West Virginians owe a debt of gratitude to elderly residents “so we can better serve the people that have given us wisdom for decades and decades.”
During his Thursday and Friday briefings, the governor expressed frustration and anger about a situation involving testing – or possibly lack thereof – at a nursing home in Jackson County, the Eldercare Facility in Ripley.
“If my people find out anything that has been done wrong, you can believe that we’ll react, and we’ll react in an extremely strong way. We are still investigating that situation [in Jackson County],” he said.
On Friday, the governor said despite “a lot of good work” going on at nursing homes, “the entire situation isn’t as good as it needs to be.”
“[Staff and healthcare workers on the front line] just doing good stuff is not good enough because there’s people that depend on us beyond believe, and to put it quite frankly, some of those people are dying,” Justice said. “So just ‘good enough’ is not good enough; it needs to be perfect.”
“The testing numbers (when a case is discovered at a nursing home) keep coming back to me with some level of discrepancies, and to be perfectly honest, I’m sick and tired of listening to there being discrepancies,” he added.
The governor also touched on the federal government’s phased plan to reopen states, saying there must be 14 days of a downward trend in the number of COVID-19 positive tests prior to the state even entering Phase 1.
“We have to have 14 days of a good curve, and then we can move into Phase 1, and one of those things in Phase 1 is not going back to school,” he said. “In Phase 2, you would go back to school and start opening up different types of travel and non-essentials.”
Justice emphasized reopening schools and businesses is a “balancing act” between protecting public health and looking out for economic interests.
“We need to sometime transition out of this disease, and everyone is going to be trying to do that, but I am not going to back away in any way from protecting you and listening to our medical experts. But I also eventually want you to be able to get back to doing the things you would like to do with your life.”
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