Surge in new COVID-19 cases continues Friday as West Virginia businesses, schools and sports hang in the balance

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in West Virginia has more than doubled in just one week, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

In his virtual press briefing Friday, Gov. Jim Justice implored all West Virginians to take steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 and said that continued inaction could have consequences that will be felt everywhere from local small businesses to school sports.

Active COVID-19 cases statewide are at their highest levels ever, hospitalizations are up and the rate of spread – known as the R-Naught – is the highest in the nation, according to Justice.

The DHHR said 157 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in the Mountain State on Friday. Exactly one month ago, on June 10, the state reported just 14 new cases.

Holding a mask, Justice said, “This is the only bullet I have right now. The next bullet that is available is to shut our state back down. Do you think I want to do that? It is the last thing on earth I want to do.”

Since the beginning of June, Justice has been reluctant to issue new executive orders, instead asking that West Virginians act responsibly and follow the voluntary guidelines laid out by state and local health officials.

But many have ignored his pleas, and the average number of new daily cases is up more than 500% since mid-June. On Friday, the governor indicated restrictions could be returning, particularly in hot spots like Monongalia County.

“We’re looking at closing bars and indoor dining in Mon County unless we get some real movement there,” Justice said.

The maximum size of gatherings might also be reduced statewide, he said, and penalties could be added to the mandatory mask order.

“Someone has to convince cousin Eddie to wear a mask,” Justice said.

And with August inching closer, WVSSAC executive director Bernie Dolan said the fall sports season is now on the line.

“It’s up to the public to decide whether or not we’re going to have athletics come this fall, because you are the ones who have to wear the masks, socially distance, wash your hands,” Dolan said. “So if you’re the one who is not socially distancing, not wearing a mask … then that hurts all of our chances of participating.”

With the start of school pushed back until Sept. 8, Dolan said the first day of fall practice has been moved from Aug. 3 to Aug. 17 and the high school football season will kick off Sept. 3. Dolan hopes that will be a time to unify communities across the Mountain State.

“We ask you, as the community, if you want this, you have easy things to do,” Dolan said. “Be a good role model. Put your mask on in public. I know it’s annoying, I know it’s uncomfortable. But everyone felt what happened in the spring. Nobody liked no athletics. Everybody was frustrated. So to me, it’s a small ask to say, ‘Be a good role model. Wear your mask in public. Socially distance.’”

Both Justice and Dolan said if fall sports were to start today, the season would likely have to be scrapped. Pushing the date back to mid-August gives West Virginia more time to try to get the spread of the virus under control.

Justice also announced that small business with between 1-35 employees as of Feb. 29, 2020 will be eligible for up to a $5,000 grant as part of the federal CARES Act funding the state received. Details on how to apply should be available Monday, he added.

The governor also named Dr. Ayne Amjad as the state’s new top health officer, replacing Dr. Cathy Slemp.

As a reminder, free COVID-19 testing will be offered Saturday in Upshur County:

  • Buckhannon-Upshur High School on Saturday, July 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (two lanes will be open for testing)
  • Tri-County Health Clinic in Rock Cave on Saturday, July 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (one lane will be open for testing)

“You need to have a valid form of ID, with current contact information and phone number if possible, so you can be notified of results,” according to the health department. “All test results should be in by Wednesday, July 15. You will be notified of test results. We hope to have a great turn out.”

Anyone with questions about the free testing can call the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department at 304-472-2810.

About 1,132 West Virginia cases remain active, according DHHR data. Of the cases that are no longer active, 2,756 people have recovered and 95 have died.

New cases were reported Friday in Barbour, Berkeley, Boone, Braxton, Brooke, Cabell, Grant, Greenbrier, Hancock, Harrison, Jefferson, Kanawha, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mercer, Mineral, Mingo, Monongalia, Ohio, Pendleton, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Randolph, Taylor, Tyler, Wayne, Wetzel and Wood counties.

CASES PER COUNTY (Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (18/0), Berkeley (504/19), Boone (31/0), Braxton (4/0), Brooke (24/1), Cabell (188/6), Calhoun (4/0), Clay (11/0), Fayette (79/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (18/1), Greenbrier (69/0), Hampshire (42/0), Hancock (35/3), Hardy (45/1), Harrison (109/0), Jackson (148/0), Jefferson (248/5), Kanawha (381/12), Lewis (19/1), Lincoln (10/0), Logan (35/0), Marion (95/3), Marshall (57/1), Mason (23/0), McDowell (8/0), Mercer (62/0), Mineral (62/2), Mingo (27/2), Monongalia (454/14), Monroe (14/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (15/1), Ohio (138/0), Pendleton (15/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (36/1), Preston (79/16), Putnam (78/1), Raleigh (68/3), Randolph (184/2), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (12/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (22/1), Tucker (6/0), Tyler (9/0), Upshur (22/1), Wayne (121/1), Webster (1/0), Wetzel (30/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (159/9), Wyoming (7/0).

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