COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice announces updated County Alert System for school status, nursing home visitation; school re-entry protocols modified

8/21/2020

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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.

 

 

UPDATED “COUNTY ALERT SYSTEM” FOR SCHOOL STATUS & NURSING HOME VISITATION
During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that his nationally-renowned county-by-county color-coding system, recently put in place to communicate the safety status of schools, is being expanded to include the safety status of nursing homes and has been updated with an enhancement to its metric calculation for low-population counties.

The West Virginia COVID-19 Dashboard has been updated to include a live, interactive map that reflects the color status of each county in real time. The map will now be called the County Alert System and will be used for multiple purposes.

 

 

 

Beyond reflecting how schools in each county will operate, nursing homes across the state will begin using the same green-yellow-orange-red color scale to notify the public about the status of visitation at such facilities within each county.

An additional announcement will be made next week regarding an implementation schedule.

For both schools and nursing homes, Gov. Justice and health experts also announced an enhancement to the metric calculation that determines each county’s color. To account for the possibility of outliers in regions with smaller populations, the metric for counties with fewer than 16,000 residents will be based on the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people on a 14-day rolling average. Meanwhile, the metric for counties with more than 16,000 residents will still be based on the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people on a seven-day rolling average.

“This method will allow us to make decisions faster and will be much fairer for our small counties,” West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Clay Marsh said.
 


COUNTY ALERT SYSTEM DRAWS ADDITIONAL PRAISE FROM DR. BIRX
In an email from the White House Friday, sent to all 50 of the nation’s governors offices, Dr. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, specifically highlighted Gov. Justice and West Virginia’s County Alert System as a leading practice for other national leaders to emulate as they make decisions about their own school re-entry plans

In a visit to Charleston on Wednesday this week, Dr. Birx praised Gov. Justice and West Virginia for executing an effective virus response.

“West Virginia got it right and continues to get it right,” Dr. Birx said Wednesday. She went on to speak to reporters about the County Alert System.

“We’re going to put it in our governors report next week and I’m worried that West Virginia is going to get a call from another 49 governors,” Dr. Birx said. “To really lay out the metrics of where every county is, making that visible to every single parent, and linking that to school choice and then very clear guidances of what to do depending on what your category is.”

Click here to read more

 

 

Picture taken Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020

 

 

SCHOOL RE-ENTRY MASK PROTOCOL UPDATE
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice announced that, at his direction and with the approval of state medical experts, the Department of Education has modified its School Re-Entry Protocol.

The new protocol requires face coverings for students in grades 3 and above in various settings:

GREEN: Require face coverings for grades 3 and above on buses and in congregant settings (outside of core groups) where social distancing cannot be maintained.
YELLOW: Require face coverings for grades 3-5 on buses and in congregant settings (outside of core groups) where social distancing cannot be maintained. Require face coverings for grades 6 and above at all times.
ORANGE: Require face coverings for grades 3 and above at all times.
RED: N/a (In-person instruction will be canceled if a county reaches red status).

These requirements are in addition to previously announced protocols for in-person instruction.

 

 

 

 

SCHOOL RE-ENTRY HOTLINE ANNOUNCED
State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch announced Friday that the West Virginia Department of Education has launched a School Re-entry Hotline, specifically dedicated for answering any parent, educator, or citizen’s questions or concerns related to the WVDE’s plan for returning to school.

The School Re-entry Hotline is available at 304-957-1234.

 

 

 

 

KIDS CONNECT EXPANSION ANNOUNCED
Also Friday, Superintendent Burch also reported that Gov. Justice’s Kids Connect initiative – a joint effort between the Governor’s Office of Technology, the WVDE, and the Higher Education Policy Commission to establish over 1,000 free wireless internet access points statewide by Sept. 8 – is ahead of schedule and has plans to expand its reach even further than originally anticipated.

At the suggestion of West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the WVDE will add more Kids Connect hotspots at each of the state’s 20 armories.

Superintendent Burch added that the WVDE’s interactive map of Kids Connect locations will soon be updated with the extra hotspot sites.

 

 

 

 

FIRST MIS-C CASE IDENTIFIED IN WEST VIRGINIA
Gov. Justice and health leaders also announced that the DHHR yesterday confirmed that a West Virginia child has been diagnosed with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, marking the first ever reported case in West Virginia.

“This is a disease that is recently described related to COVID, in children 21 years old or less, who have fever, who have evidence of COVID infection on average about 25 days after the infection happens,” Dr. Marsh said. “So many people don't have active COVID infection but they had it and they have evidence of inflammation. And this is a syndrome where your body's response to the virus may be the real problem.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19.

“There is very prescriptive treatment, which is treatment designed to reduce the immune system's response against the activation that's happened for the virus,” Dr. Marsh said. “And so, that child is now being treated very aggressively and expertly in West Virginia.”

 

 

GOVERNOR JUSTICE PROVIDING GRANT FUNDING ALL VOLUNTEER EMS AGENCIES STATEWIDE
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice announced that he has authorized $10,000 in grant funding to be distributed among each of the 12 volunteer emergency medical service agencies across the state.

These grants equal the $10,000 in funding sent out this week to each of the state’s volunteer fire departments.

“I know that it’s just a small token of thanks for all that you're doing,” Gov. Justice said. “But we want to absolutely do any and everything we can to help you know your organization and what you're doing, because our EMS volunteers are unbelievable.”

The funds must be used to help pay, specifically, for extraordinary costs incurred by these volunteer EMS agencies during this pandemic.

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS UPDATE
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice reported that West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as R
t – is currently tied for the 4th-best such rate in the country, dropping to 0.89 today. If a given state’s Rt value is above 1.0, it means the virus will spread quickly, while values under 1.0 mean infections are slowing. West Virginia’s Rt has remained under 1.0 every day since July 6, 2020; the same day that the Governor instituted his Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement.

Click here to view the latest COVID-19 data

 

 

PLASMA DONATION OPERATION BEING ESTABLISHED IN WEST VIRGINIA
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice announced that he is working with state leaders to stand up a plasma donation operation in West Virginia.

“We have received some calls regarding plasma donation in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “There are some innovative uses for plasma in treating COVID-19.”

“This involves taking blood products from people that have been infected with COVID-19, who've developed an immune capability against the virus, isolating the plasma a part of their blood, and then being able to give that to other people where the blood types match,” Dr. Marsh said. “It's been shown in research studies that this reduces the severity of illness in people that need to be put on a mechanical ventilator in the ICU.

“That’s still a experimental protocol, a clinical trial which we're a part of here in West Virginia,” Dr. Marsh continued. “And through the National Guard and the Governor's Office, we have been able to secure freezers to be able to have stores of this convalescent plasma here in West Virginia.”

 

 

OFFICIALS WARN AGAINST CONTACT TRACING SCAM
Also on Friday, Maj. Gen. Hoyer of the National Guard warned West Virginians that scammers across the country have been calling individuals, pretending to be COVID-19 contact tracers. 

“They start out by asking you for personal information, potentially your Social Security Number, and, in some cases, have even attempted to get credit card numbers,” General Hoyer said. “So please pay attention to that, if you're being contacted by somebody with the DHHR, local health departments, or the National Guard, they will not be asking for credit card information or other sensitive information.”

Click here for a list of tips from the Federal Trade Commission on how to spot potential COVID contact tracing scammers.

 

 

 

 

GOV. JUSTICE PRAISES WEST VIRGINIANS FOR 2ND-BEST CENSUS RESPONSE RATE IN NATION
Gov. Justice also took time out of his address Friday to praise West Virginians after learning that West Virginia now boasts the 2nd-best U.S. Census response rate in the country.

To date, 84.5 percent of West Virginians have been counted. For perspective, during the last Census in 2010, the state’s final response rate was just 74 percent.

“You have done a great job and I couldn’t be prouder,” Gov. Justice said. “What you’ve done will make a positive impact on West Virginia for the next decade. But let’s not stop now. Let’s get it above 90 percent, let’s all be counted, let’s be #1 in the nation.”

West Virginians are able to complete the Census until Sept. 30, 2020.

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.

Be counted in minutes: 2020census.gov.

 

 

 

 

UPDATE ON CHURCHES, LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES
Also Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that church-related outbreaks remain active in three counties across West Virginia: Cabell, Taylor, and Wood counties. These outbreaks account for about 44 total cases combined.

The Governor added that there are now 30 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state. There are new outbreaks at the Springfield Center in Monroe County (25 residents and 20 staff positive) and at the Marmet Nursing Home in Kanawha County (23 residents and 7 staff). 

 

 

FREE COVID-19 TESTING
Gov. Justice also updated the schedule of upcoming free community COVID-19 testing events taking place over the next several weeks at various dates and times in multiple counties across the state.

The effort is part of a plan to 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.

Testing details listed below in chronological order:

Hancock County
Saturday, August 22
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Weir High School: 100 Red Rider Road, Weirton, WV

Boone County
Tuesday, August 25
10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Madison Civic Center: 261 Washington Avenue, Madison, WV

Lincoln County
Wednesday, August 26
10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Alum Creek Church of Christ: 2368 Childress Road, Alum Creek, WV

Mason County
Friday, August 28 & Saturday, August 29
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM 
Point Pleasant Jr./Sr. High School: 280 Scenic Drvie, Point Pleasant, WV​

Webster County
Saturday, August 29

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Webster County High School: 1 Highlander Drive, Cowen, WV

Nicholas County
Thursday, September 17

12:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Nazarene Camp: 6461 Webster Road, Summersville, WV

 

 

 

 

SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS: $10.4 MILLION HAS NOW BEEN AWARDED
Also today, Gov. Justice provided an update on small businesses that have applied for funding through the Governor’s West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program, reporting that over 2,500 applications have been submitted, with more than $10.4 million being awarded to date.

The initiative is providing $150 million of West Virginia’s CARES Act funding to qualifying businesses across the state. Any West Virginia-based small business, in existence on March 1, 2020, with 1-35 employees, is able to apply for up to $5,000 in grant funding.

On Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that he is opening up his West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program to sole proprietorships and self-employed individuals in West Virginia.

Any sole proprietor or self-employed person, in operation on or before March 1, 2020, is now able to apply for up to $2,000 in grant funding.

Businesses planning to apply must first be registered as a vendor with the State to be eligible. Guidelines for the grants and instructions on how to apply are available at Grants.wv.gov.

The application will remain open until Sept. 30, 2020.

 

 

 

 

CITIES/COUNTIES GRANT FUNDING: $86.4 MILLION HAS NOW BEEN AWARDED
Also today, Gov. Justice provided an update on cities and counties throughout West Virginia applying for funds through the federal CARES Act, reporting that more than $86.4 million has now been awarded all across the state.

A new web portal is now available for city and county government officials to apply for this grant funding, at grants.wv.gov. Interested parties can also call the helpline: 1-833-94-GRANT.

Each of the recipients of CARES Act funding, along with grant amounts, are now available to view through the COVID-19 transparency web portal provided by West Virginia State Auditor’s Office.

 

 

 

 

WEST VIRGINIA STRONG SUMMER FOOD ASSISTANCE MAP
Also, Gov. Justice reminded West Virginians that an interactive free-feeding location map, designed to help connect citizens in need to food resources across the state, is available online.

Click here to view the map

More than 696 free-feeding locations have now been made available through a multi-agency effort between the West Virginia National Guard, the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, the West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WV VOAD), and the United Way.

If food distribution locations aren't available in some communities, individuals are encouraged to call 211 for further assistance.

 

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Click here to view all Executive Orders and other actions taken by Gov. Justice to combat the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.

For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.

 

 


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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