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Thursday COVID-19 update: Free testing, mask mandate and more as surge continues in West Virginia

As West Virginia heads into the Independence Day holiday weekend, the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow at record levels, with 74 new cases Thursday taking the total number reported since the pandemic began to 3,053.

Locally, Upshur County remains at 20 total cases, 10 of which are currently active, according to the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department.

The health department also announced that free drive-through COVID-19 testing will be available to all residents — including those without symptoms — on July 10-11.

Here are the dates, times and locations:

  • Buckhannon-Upshur High School on Friday, July 10 from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and 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 Friday and Saturday, July 10-11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days (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.

After weeks of positive messaging, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice struck a more muted tone on Thursday, saying he is “very concerned of what’s coming” one day after the state reported a record-high number of new COVID-19 cases.

For weeks, the governor has delayed action on new health restrictions – such as a mandate to wear masks – as he rolled out his reopening plan, dubbed “The Comeback.” But with new cases now being reported at a record rate, Justice hinted a change in policy could be coming – soon.

In his daily briefing, Justice said West Virginians who don’t own masks should get some over the weekend, as he is “very, very seriously considering” an order that would require masks to be worn in indoor public areas starting next week.

“West Virginia, prepare yourself for the fact that you may have to wear a mask in buildings,” Justice said.

A growing number of states are requiring face coverings to help blunt the surge in cases sweeping the nation. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered masks to be worn in public.

Officials are trying to avoid another round of large-scale business closures, and a mask mandate is seen as one way to limit the spread of the virus while keeping businesses open. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday urging the White House to work with governors to develop mandatory mask policies.

“I know that this is an inconvenience, but please just think of what it will do to save us and keep us to be able to do all the things we are doing today,” Justice said. “Think that we have one of the highest-risk populations in the country and we are a rock’s throw from people that are logging all kinds of issues right now. At the end of the day, it’s my job to protect you.”

Overall, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced Thursday that 74 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the Mountain State for the second straight day.

“The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reports as of 5 p.m. on July 2, 2020, there have been 178,238 total confirmatory laboratory results received for COVID-19, with 3,053 total cases and 93 deaths,” according to a press release.

New cases were reported Thursday in Berkeley, Cabell, Fayette, Greenbrier, Hardy, Harrison, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lewis, Logan, Marion, Mercer, Monongalia, Monroe, Nicholas, Ohio, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Wayne and Wood counties.

About 580 West Virginia cases remain active, according DHHR data. Of the cases that are no longer active, 2,380 people have recovered and 93 have died.

CASES PER COUNTY (Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (15/0), Berkeley (443/18), Boone (20/0), Braxton (3/0), Brooke (8/1), Cabell (136/6), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (10/0), Fayette (67/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (15/1), Greenbrier (60/0), Hampshire (42/0), Hancock (20/3), Hardy (44/1), Harrison (66/0), Jackson (143/0), Jefferson (229/5), Kanawha (324/9), Lewis (19/1), Lincoln (8/0), Logan (25/0), Marion (60/3), Marshall (40/1), Mason (19/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (45/0), Mineral (55/2), Mingo (19/3), Monongalia (179/14), Monroe (13/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (11/1), Ohio (99/1), Pendleton (12/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (27/1), Preston (67/15), Putnam (59/1), Raleigh (53/1), Randolph (161/1), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (11/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (15/1), Tucker (6/0), Tyler (4/0), Upshur (20/1), Wayne (114/1), Wetzel (10/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (94/8), Wyoming (7/0).

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