West Virginia Week in Review - October 17, 2020

10/17/2020

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Gov. Justice announces completion of West Virginia COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, submission to CDC
During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Jim Justice announced that the State of West Virginia has completed its COVID-19 Vaccination Plan and submitted the plan today to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for their review and approval. 

“We’ve had so many of our great experts collaborate on this plan – from our DHHR, our National Guard, our medical experts, our Office of Minority Affairs, and countless others – and they’ve all done really, really good work,” Gov. Justice said. “They’ve worked on this plan for months so that we are ready when a vaccine becomes available.”

The Governor went on to add that, once a vaccine is ready, West Virginia’s medical experts will be prepared to review data on its safety.
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Gov. Justice: State to save projected $11.5 million with transition to Google Workspace
Gov. Justice announced Thursday that the State of West Virginia has reached a multi-year agreement with Google Cloud to transition 22,000 State employees in the Executive Branch to the digital productivity suite Google Workspace at a projected cost-savings of $11.5 million. Google Workspace is Google Cloud's cloud-based productivity and collaboration solution which, in addition to saving money, will also drive innovation and provide enhanced IT security, while keeping the State at the forefront of technology advancements.
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Gov. Justice awards $1 million to West Virginia food banks
During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice presented a ceremonial check for $1 million, announcing that he will be sending $500,000 each to two West Virginia food banks: the Mountaineer Food Bank, and the Facing Hunger Foodbank.

“I promised this money in my State of the State address this year and included it in my budget,” Gov. Justice said. “The Legislature was kind enough to pass it and I signed it. They need the funds and they need them now. Naturally, there’s been a run on our food banks through this tough time and so now we’re dispensing that money out to them."
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Gov. Justice opens new Veterans Assistance office in Parkersburg
Gov. Justice and leaders of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, showcasing the new location of the WVDVA benefits office in Parkersburg. The new office is located at St. Joseph Landing at 1824 Murdoch Ave., Suite F101, and replaces the previous location in the Wood County Courthouse. The office is equipped with high-speed internet, which allows Veterans service officers to represent Veterans in the increasing number of virtual benefits hearings held by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new office is also more accessible to Veterans than the previous location, with plenty of free parking and close proximity to several bus routes.
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Gov. Justice reviews CARES Act funding allocations
On Friday, Gov. Justice took time to provide a detailed breakdown of the State’s allocation of the $1.25 billion in discretionary funds appropriated to the state by Congress through the CARES Act.

The funds have been allocated as follows:
  • $40 million: West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program
  • $200 million: Local governments
  • $50 million: National Guard – Testing and PPE
  • $50 million: Broadband projects
  • $50 million: Medical access highways
  • $287 million: Unemployment benefits (Prior to July 1, 2020)
  • $300 million: Unemployment benefits (July 1, 2020 through Dec. 30, 2020)
  • $10 million: Fairmont Hospital
  • $25 million: Public service districts
  • $57 million: State expense reimbursement (FY2020: Q4)
  • $96 million: State expense reimbursement (FY2021: Q1 & Q2)
  • $25 million: Emergency fund reimbursement
TOTAL: $1.19 BILLION
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Gov. Justice celebrates innovative broadband expansion to businesses by service-disabled veteran-owned West Virginia company
Tuesday, Gov. Justice congratulated Alpha Technologies, a service-disabled veteran-owned West Virginia company, for crossing the finish line on a major fiber expansion project in the Kanawha Valley, which was completed thanks to support from several of the Governor’s broadband initiatives. The fiber infrastructure has been built to connect the Kanawha Valley area to a data center operated by Alpha Technologies. The project is designed to expand access to broadband for businesses across the region.

For the past five years, Alpha has worked to install 35 miles of fiber optic cable, connecting a state-of-the-art, 80,000-square-foot data center designed to provide cloud computing and data center services to the business community of Charleston and South Charleston. Typically, these are services that are only available in markets like Charlotte, Atlanta, Columbus, and Pittsburgh.​
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Gov. Justice announces state's 2nd Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy opens in southern West Virginia
Gov. Justice announced Sunday that the West Virginia National Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy South, located in Montgomery, has officially opened for its inaugural class of 72 cadets, representing 30 counties across the state. MCA South is the second National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program to open in the West Virginia. It provides educational opportunities for at-risk youth, ages 16-18, in a 22-week quasi-military residential program focused on eight core components. In addition, the Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program is available on the campus for cadets or recent graduates who want to earn industry-recognized certifications in fields such as manufacturing, medical technician, pre-apprenticeship, energy sector, and more. 
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Monongalia County bars reopen with limitations after Gov. Justice Executive Order
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice offered a reminder that his executive order – permitting all Monongalia County bars to reopen, so long as these establishments follow all appropriate guidelines provided by state health experts – went into effect Tuesday. Any Monongalia County bar intending to reopen must implement all additional safety measures. The West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, working with state and local police, will increase their enforcement operations. Failure to adhere to the guidelines and supplemental protocols will result in suspension of a restaurant’s or bar’s license to operate or its WVABCA license, and other appropriate enforcement measures.
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Gov. Justice announces unemployment numbers improve for fifth straight month
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has decreased yet again, dropping to 8.6 percent in the month of September. The number of unemployed state residents decreased by 2,700. September marked the fifth consecutive month of improving unemployment numbers in West Virginia.
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Gov. Justice announces Aggressive Testing efforts continue to expand, WV testing rate ranks 14th in the nation
Gov. Justice offered a reminder Friday that additional free testing events are scheduled in the upcoming weeks for several counties all across West Virginia. This testing is available to all residents in selected counties, including asymptomatic individuals. Proof of insurance is not required. Attendees should bring identification, such as a driver’s license or proof of address, to help in returning test results. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Each county reaching Red or Orange status is required to set up free testing sites within the same day. Each county reaching Gold status is required to set up free testing sites within 48 hours. According to Friday's DHHR County Alert System map, the only Red county was Doddridge County. Orange counties included Berkeley, Mingo, Morgan, Randolph, Wirt, and Wyoming counties. Gold counties included Clay, Jefferson, Gilmer, Marshall, Pendleton, Upshur, and Wood counties.

On Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center website, West Virginia was tied for the 14th best state in the nation when it comes to the number of residents tested for COVID-19 per capita.
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West Virginia schools pass one-month mark of new school year
West Virginia schools have put theory to practice during the first month of the new school year to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. After six months of preparation, county education leaders have worked with the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and their local health departments and implemented re-entry plans for more than 252,000 school-aged children. As a result, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), public schools, while having to respond to outbreaks brought into their buildings from community spread, are not the hub of disease spread.
 
On September 8, 2020, the public school year opened in the state. Each county gave families an option to return to some level of in-person instruction after the extended break that began on March 16th when Governor Jim Justice moved all schools to remote learning. With many unknowns, county school systems worked with their local leadership, county health departments and the WVDE to develop plans and processes to meet the needs of their students during the pandemic. More than 70 percent of families opted for the in-person or blended instruction model.
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Christiansen named Director of DHHR’s Office of Drug Control Policy
Gov. Justice announced Friday the appointment of Dr. Matthew Christiansen as director of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ (DHHR) Office of Drug Control Policy.  Christiansen replaces Bob Hansen who has announced his retirement. Dr. Christiansen practices primary care and addiction medicine at Marshall Health and PROACT and is an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Health, Division of Addiction Sciences, at Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Additionally, he is the medical director and board president of Ebenezer Medical Outreach, a free clinic in Huntington.
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Gov. Justice announces additional improvements to fall trout stocking method; directs WVDNR to add lakes to stocking list
Gov. Justice has directed the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) to implement additional improvements to its fall trout stocking method. Anglers will have more opportunities than ever to enjoy West Virginia fishing trips this year, with the addition of two lakes to the stocking schedule, and with trout being stocked in state parks and forests so families and children have more opportunities to get outside and fish for trout. Traditional trout stocking will begin in streams across West Virginia on Monday, Oct. 19. Then, on Saturday, Oct. 24, the WVDNR will stock additional trout in lakes at state parks and forests.
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West Virginia Tourism Office releases third fall foliage report
Fall colors are spreading from the eastern mountains to the north-central regions of the state this weekend as the West Virginia Tourism Office releases its autumn forecast to help travelers enjoy peak leaf season. For the best views this weekend, seek out areas in north-central and eastern West Virginia, where color is between 75% and 100%, with some of the highest elevations just past peak. Warm hues are saturating the hills of Randolph County along Cheat Mountain west toward Kumbrabow State Forest and the Swiss mountain village of Helvetia, and in Webster County from Williams River in the south to Holly River State Park in the north.
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WVDE honors 2020 National Distinguished Principals
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Gov. Justice encourages all West Virginians to get a flu shot
Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks on COVID-19 this week to remind and encourage all West Virginians to get their flu vaccine. According to health officials, everyone 6 months and older should receive this vaccine.
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Also this week:

Gov. Justice issues Executive Order 76-20, relating to the suspension of CSR § 143-1-14.3a as it applies to employees of the West Virginia Military Authority

Keeping ConnectED: Superintendent Burch talks collaboration with WVHEPC for substitute teachers

West Virginia Department of Education celebrates National School Lunch Week

Environment Matters: Volunteers remove trash and tires from New River (WVDEP)
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Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

Contact

Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

Governor's Mansion:
304.558.3588

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