Justice: Public schools to remain closed until April 20, state income tax deadline pushed to July 15

CHARLESTON – Students won’t go back to public schools until at least April 20, and state income taxes aren’t due until July 15, Gov. Jim Justice announced in an afternoon press conference Wednesday.

Justice said he’d recommended that the state tax commissioner extend the West Virginia state income tax filing date to coincide with the new federal income tax filing date of July 15, 2020.

“I think, really and truly, the driver has to be the convenience of our people,” Justice said. “There’s been a lot of needed discussion on this thing, but what pushed us over the hump … was we do now have an idea of what the federal stimulus package is going to be and how going to flow, so I’ve recommended to the tax commissioner that we extend that deadline to July 15.”

Justice said he will waive interest and penalties on property taxes, and told residents to keep their eyes peeled to the state tax commissioner’s website, where information relative to those changes will be posted tomorrow, Thursday, March 26.

Justice also said he extended the deadline students will return to public schools until April 20.

“I am very, very hopeful that our kids can go back to school at some point in time,” the governor said. “I am instructing our State Superintendent Clayton Burch to extend our statewide school closure until April 20, a week after Easter, and that takes into consideration all the spring breaks.”

“I’m really hoping that on April 20 we can go back to school,” Justice said.

The governor’s speech, delivered on statewide Prayer Day, came on the heels of sobering news announced earlier in the day Wednesday, when Sundale Nursing Home in Morgantown revealed that 20 people there — 16 residents and four staff members – had tested positive for COVID-19. Another 28 residents and 24 staff members tested negative, with 76 tests still pending.

Not all of those 20 positive cases have not yet been recorded on the W.Va. DHHR website, which still lists the number of positive cases at 39.

“We need your prayers in every way shape form or fashion,” Justice said during his 3 p.m. press conference.

Dr. Clay Marsh, WVU vice president and executive dean for Health Sciences, added a cautionary note following Justice’s address.

“We have seen a significant rise in the number of positive cases, and that’s relative to the number of people that have been tested,” Marsh said. “We’ve gone from 3.3 percent to 5.1 percent positive, and this is the time in which we would expect it. It does really support the steps that we’ve taken related to [the stay-at-home order], stay socially distant six feet away, wash your hands and avoid touching your face.”

Marsh also said COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than the flu.

“It has an infectivity ration that is much higher,” Marsh said. “With the flu, you saw 1.2 people would infect 1.6 people. This (COVID-19) seems to be able to infect more people … 2.6 people can infect 3.1 people.”

Young people should not feel immune or as if they’re not at-risk, Marsh said.

“Thirty-eight percent of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the U.S. are under 55 years old,” he said. “It’s really important for younger people also to pay attention to same social distancing.”

Marsh noted that for some reason, men appear to be more severely affected by the novel virus than women.

As of Wednesday, Johns Hopkins University’s tracker had recorded 454,398 cases globally with 113,045 people having recovered and 20,550 having died from the virus or its complications.

The U.S. remains third behind China (81,661 cases) and Italy (74,386 cases) in the number of cases with 61,167.

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