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.
FITNESS CENTERS, GYMS, AND REC CENTERS
On Thursday, Gov. Justice announced that fitness centers, gymnasiums, and recreation centers have been added to the list of entities that will be allowed to resume operations, with limitations, in the next phase of the Governor’s reopening plan: West Virginia Strong – The Comeback.These facilities will be permitted to reopen on Monday, May 18, provided that all additional guidelines are being followed to help keep their patrons and all West Virginians as safe as possible.
WHITEWATER RAFTING & ZIPLINING
Gov. Justice also announced that whitewater rafting and ziplining businesses will be allowed to reopen, with limitations, on Thursday, May 21.These businesses will also be required to follow additional guidelines, including limiting group sizes, the cleansing of equipment, and more, to help keep their patrons and all West Virginians as safe as possible:
“We have consulted with these companies and they have given us a tremendous amount of guidelines,” Gov. Justice said. “I’m happy to say that we’re going to reopen and we’re hopeful to have a great rafting season and ziplining as well. But we ask, please, that you use good common sense and help us help keep you safe.”
“We just encourage you, again, to follow these guidelines as strictly as possible to try to keep everyone safe,” Gov. Justice said.
Week 3 of the Gov. Justice reopening plan – West Virginia Strong – The Comeback – is now underway and announcements regarding Week 4 reopenings have been made. The Governor’s new Safer At Home order is also in effect. Click on the links to read more:
TESTING MINORITIES AND THE VULNERABLE
Also today, Gov. Justice announced a plan to increase COVID-19 testing opportunities for minorities and other vulnerable populations across West Virginia.The plan, which was developed with input from the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, and the West Virginia National Guard, will 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.
The following counties have been identified for testing: Berkeley, Cabell, Fayette, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marion, Mercer, Mineral, Monongalia, and Raleigh.
“We are targeting these counties for a significant amount of testing in order to be able to make us one step better,” Gov. Justice said. “If you have any anxiety, or whatever it may be, and you think you ought to be tested, please come in and do so.”
DHHR and local jurisdictions, with support from the WVNG, will be conducting the first of these testing efforts on Friday, May 15 and Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at each of the following locations:
Martinsburg High School (701 S Queen St., Martinsburg, WV)
Asbury United Methodist Church (110 W North St., Charles Town, WV)
Bluefield State College: Harris-Jefferson Student Center Lower Parking Lot (219 Rock St., Bluefield, WV)
Commission on Aging (1614 S Kanawha St., Beckley, WV)
Additional testing for the remaining counties will be announced at a later date.
NEW DHHR METHODOLOGY TO PROTECT AGAINST SURGES
Today, State Health Officer and Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Cathy Slemp unveiled a new methodology that will be used by the DHHR moving forward to more quickly identify areas in West Virginia that may be experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases.“To prevent disease transmission, to reduce illness, and to save lives, Governor Justice has directed DHHR’s Bureau of Public Health to implement and to develop a county alert system,” Dr. Slemp said. “This approach will provide a consistent way to allow West Virginians to return to work, while ensuring that we’re monitoring change and, when necessary, taking aggressive steps to prevent resurgence.
Any potential future rise in cases will trigger rapid assessment and guide action based on a seven-day rolling sum of new, non-outbreak associated cases based on population size. DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health will examine additional data and undertake a rapid joint assessment with the county.
Following the rapid assessment and examination of data that suggest an increase in community transmission, the county may be designated by Gov. Justice with the status of “High Alert.” Depending on the individual county circumstances, action plans will include providing or assigning needed resource supports and/or strongly reinforcing or potentially increasing community mitigation measures.
Once on the heightened alert list, a county will stay on it for a minimum of 14 days and until a consistent decrease in community spread of COVID-19 is seen. Removal from the alert list will be based on data and in collaboration with the local health department.
FLAG ORDER: PEACE OFFICER MEMORIAL DAY
Additionally, Gov. Justice announced that he has issued a proclamation, in accordance with President Trump’s proclamation, ordering that all United States and West Virginia State Flags at the Capitol Complex and all state-owned facilities across West Virginia be displayed at half-staff, from dawn to dusk tomorrow, Friday, May 15, in honor of Peace Officers Memorial Day.“Our police officers give so much and, for some crazy reason, we have gotten in a situation where a lot of people are disrespectful to the first people we call when we have a problem,” Gov. Justice said. “I would encourage all of us to think about how important they are to us.
“Please, in remembrance of those that we’ve lost and in respect of all of those who are giving us so much all the time, please remember to be thankful.”
FLAG ORDER: STATE FORESTRY DIRECTOR BARRY COOK
Gov. Justice also has issued a proclamation ordering that all United States and West Virginia State Flags at the Capitol Complex and all state-owned facilities throughout Raleigh County be displayed at half-staff, from dawn to dusk on Saturday, May 16, in commemoration of the distinguished life and service of West Virginia Forestry Director Barry Cook.On Monday, Gov. Justice announced that Cook had tragically passed away following a recent accident at his home.
Gov. Justice also announced that Exxon donated 2,400 gallons of medical-grade hand sanitizer today to assist West Virginia in its statewide COVID-19 response efforts.The sanitizer was delivered in 480 five-gallon buckets to the West Virginia National Guard facility in Poca.
The donated hand sanitizer will be used by various emergency personnel in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just think that anybody stepping up to do this kind of work should be recognized,” Gov. Justice said. “So we thank Exxon in every way.”
FEDERAL FUNDING FOR TESTING / DATA UPDATE
Gov. Justice relayed that United States Senator Shelley Moore Capito and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin have announced over $57 million from the CARES Act for West Virginia to increase COVID-19 testing across the state.“We salute Senator Capito and Senator Manchin for their help,” Gov. Justice said. “I want to surely thank them and I surely thank President Trump for getting us the additional monies that will allow us to do more and more testing in West Virginia and the more we can do, the better.
“I tell all of you that West Virginia is now testing at a level of 3.86 percent. The national level is 3.01 percent and all of our surrounding states are testing significantly less than us,” Gov. Justice said. “And so this is just going to make us better and better.”
The Governor also went on to report that West Virginia’s cumulative rate of positive test results has dropped yet again over the past 24 hours to 2.08 percent.
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.