COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice urges West Virginians to “stay the course, stay strong” in face of pandemic; appoints Dr. Clay Marsh as COVID-19 Czar

3/26/2020

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CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined State health leaders at the Capitol Complex in Charleston today for a virtual press briefing to once again update the public on the many measures being taken in the interest of protecting the public from the spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Gov. Justice continued to urge all West Virginians on Thursday to “stay the course” on practicing social distancing and good hygiene and praised the population for helping to limit exposure to the disease.

“Now is not the time to panic, we need to remain cautious, smart and strong,” Gov. Justice said. “The curve is not spiking and we are making headway, but this is a long way from being over. Every one of us needs to clearly understand that.”

He also made it clear that while many across the country may be looking to West Virginia as a potential “safe haven” from the pandemic, that people coming from out-of-state, especially from Hot Zones like New York, “should self-quarantine for 14 days.”

“It’s my job to protect our citizens and I’m very serious about that,” Gov. Justice said. “We welcome you and will embrace you after those 14 days, but these guidelines and recommendations have got to be followed.”
DR. CLAY MARSH, VICE PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DEAN FOR HEALTH SCIENCES AT WVU, APPOINTED AS STATE COVID-19/CORONAVIRUS CZAR

“I have solicited WVU and they have agreed to loan us the services and expertise of Dr. Clay Marsh, so today I am appointing him as our COVID-19/Coronavirus Czar,” Gov. Justice said. “Dr. Marsh has done an incredible job, as have all the members of our team, to guide us through this challenging time and him coming on board full time adds one more layer of experience and knowledge.”

Calling the appointment a “big job,” Dr. Marsh said the “tremendous team that has been assembled has worked tirelessly” addressing the pandemic and will continue to do so in the days and weeks ahead.

“We have great medical schools, a great hospital system, and great public and community health groups in this state,” Dr. Marsh said. “And we’ve got to make sure those people on the front line are safe and we need to protect them so they can feel safe and protect us and do the great jobs they do.”

Dr. Marsh also noted that while the number of positive test results has stayed stable at 5 percent over the last few days, the state has ”bought ourselves more time” to try and flatten the curve of the spreading virus.

“West Virginians have done a good job of doing the right things, staying home, washing their hands...but we can’t get complacent,” Dr. Marsh added. “We’ve just got to stay together and focus on what we are doing and if we do I sincerely believe we can become a model for the nation.” 
DHHR UNVEILS NEW TEST REPORTING PLAN, PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR UNINSURED, BEHAVIORAL HEALTH, HOMELESS, CHILDREN, AND OTHERS IN NEED

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch and State Public Health Officer Dr. Cathy Slemp issued the following information during the briefing:

Beginning Monday, with the assistance of the National Guard, the coronavirus.wv.gov website will have daily postings of unofficial test numbers at 9 a.m., 12 noon and 4 p.m. Official numbers will then be provided when the DHHR issues its daily COVID-19 report in the evening.

For the uninsured, DHHR’s Bureau for Medical Services (BMS) is allowing all COVID-19 testing and subsequent treatment for COVID-19 diagnosis, as needed, without prior approval from our Utilization Management (UM) vendor.

Testing and treatment for all uninsured individuals will be covered by WV Medicaid during the national state of emergency.

For those seeking behavioral health support, citizens can call or text 844-HELP4WV (844-435-7498). HELP4WV offers a 24/7 call, chat and text line that provides immediate help for any West Virginian struggling with an addiction or mental health issue. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available by calling 800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.

The National Disaster Distress Helpline is accessible by calling 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. The Disaster Distress Helpline is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster.

West Virginia 211 is available by calling 2-1-1 or text your zip code to 898-211. Every day hundreds of people across West Virginia turn to 211 for information and support—whether financial, domestic, health or disaster.

West Virginia’s comprehensive behavioral health centers are open and offer an array of services for children and adults. 
“ALL HANDS ON DECK” AT DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE TO ASSIST WITH UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS, BUSINESS NEEDS
 
Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Commerce Ed Gaunch joined the panel today and provided this update:
 
Under the Governor’s directive, all West Virginia Department of Commerce agencies are operating in an “all hands on deck” manner to assist our fellow West Virginians at this time. 
 
WorkForceWV has processed more than 41,500 initial claims for benefits since the Governor’s Executive Order issued on March 19, 2020. In addition, they have processed more than 10,000 low earnings claims. 
 
 
 
Please keep in mind, if you file late in the week, it is possible the initial benefit may not be delivered the following week due to processing time. However, the benefit you are due will be provided the following week with your second week’s benefit.
 
The West Virginia Development Office is working with federal and state agencies to help navigate the clearest path to connecting resources with our businesses impacted by this situation.
 
The Development Office is also launching a COVID-19 Business Relief Directory at the West Virginia Development Office’s website. To access this resource, go to westvirginia.gov/COVID19.
 
The site will be updated as additional resources and information are released. 
GOVERNOR JUSTICE SPOKE DIRECTLY WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP TODAY ABOUT MEDICAL SUPPLIES, FEDERAL ASSISTANCE
 
“I spoke directly to President Trump earlier today on a teleconference and I just told him simply this ‘We have to have the additional supplies for our front line workers’” Gov. Justice said. “In short, I trust that we will receive our fair share of those supplies.
 
“We’ve got to keep our hospitals operational and our doctors, nurses, and others healthy and safe so they can help those who need it.”
 
Gov. Justice also talked with President Trump about making sure the businesses closed or scaled back, and those forced into unemployment by the pandemic, are made whole.
 
“We don’t have all the specifics yet but there is an incredible amount of money coming to help make people and businesses whole. I can’t promise it will make everyone whole but the goal is to get the funds so people can survive.”
NATIONAL GUARD CONTINUING TO ASSIST MULTIPLE AGENCIES WITH TESTING, ACQUISITION, AND DISTRIBUTION OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES, FOOD DISTRIBUTION

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard, delivered the following update during today’s briefing:

The WV National Guard currently has more than 160 members on duty and we have increased our LNOs to 19 personnel assisting agencies across the state including local health departments, DHHR, Dept. of Education, Bureau of Senior Services, VOAD and Threat Preparedness.

We are reaching out to Health Departments across the state to anticipate needs for drive-thru testing and have personnel identified to assist in testing.

We have additional training opportunities coming up for area first responders on proper PPE use in Cabell and Putnam counties.

Over the last 24 hours, WVNG members assisted in the preparation of 1,073 30-day family of 4 meals in Gassaway and 1,800 meals and delivery in Greenbrier County.

We continue our work with Clayton Burch, State Superintendent of Schools and the West Virginia Tourism Office on feeding plans to ensure no child or family is without a need in the state.

Within the last 24 hours, we brought on Fire Marshals in the state to assist in supply chain delivery of critical PPE; they were able to deliver 30 PAPRs to WVU and 30 additional PAPRs were delivered to CAMC for distribution among the 4 hospitals in their system.

Today we are picking up an addition 100 PAPRs and filters from Maryland for any surge capacity needs in the state and we are utilizing our force’s expertise to ensure proper handling of cargo and are working with the Retailers Association to provide training and assistance that will minimize any potential spread of contaminants while these essential workers are providing critical functions for West Virginia.
GOV. JUSTICE EXTENDS FREE FISHING DAYS
 
Governor Jim Justice today announced today that West Virginia residents can enjoy a month of free fishing. Beginning today through Friday, April 24th, the requirement to possess a fishing license to fish in state-regulated waters has been waived for state residents. Anglers must practice safe social distancing.
 
 
 
DNR Law Enforcement will continue to patrol all state waterways. Officers may require proof of West Virginia residency, a valid driver’s license, or a state-issued ID. Existing license and stamp requirements for non-residents will remain in place. All fishing regulations remain in effect both for residents and nonresidents; these include bag limits, slot limits, catch-and-release areas, and fly-fishing-only areas.
 
This waiver of the license requirement applies only to fishing licenses. It also includes a waiver for trout and conservation stamps. All requirements for hunting licenses remain in effect. 
 
The DNR announced earlier this week all regular trout stockings will continue in frequency as set forth in the 2020 Fishing Regulations, but the DNR will no longer provide updates to its trout stocking hotline or online trout stocking report. Gold Rush stockings, originally scheduled to begin March 27, have been postponed. To make sure no crowds interfere with trout stocking personnel and that anglers maintain a safe distance from hatchery staff, a DNR Law Enforcement officer will join each stocking run.
 
To learn more about fishing in West Virginia, visit wvdnr.gov. 

WEST VIRGINIA TAX DEPT. RELEASES ADMINISTRATIVE NOTICE REGARDING ANNUAL INCOME TAX RETURNS

The West Virginia State Tax Department today released Administrative Notice 2020-16, Extension of April 15, 2020, Due Date for Filing 2019 Annual Income Tax Returns Due to the COVID-19 Outbreak.

It is available on the Tax Department website here.

The Administrative Order officially extends the deadline to file 2019 annual income tax returns for individuals, trusts or estates, and corporations from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.

The Order also covers estimated tax payments, relief limited to income tax, "no filing of extension request needed," payment deadline, and penalties and interest.

This follows Gov. Jim Justice's announcement yesterday that he asked West Virginia Tax Commissioner Dale Steager to extend the West Virginia income tax filing and payment deadline until Wednesday, July 15, 2020, to correspond with the federal government's recent tax filing extension to the same date.

In conjunction with the Administrative Notice, Gov. Justice also signed an Executive Order today which suspends certain statutory provisions regulating the dates by which taxes must be paid and filed.

View the Governor's Executive Order here. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Gov. Justice continues to encourage all West Virginians to follow the guidelines presented last week by President Donald J. Trump to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.

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.
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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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