COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice urges churchgoers to follow safety guidelines; announces unemployment better than national average

6/17/2020

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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.

UPDATE ON COVID-19 IN WEST VIRGINIA CHURCHES
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has now identified the sixth church-related outbreak of COVID-19 in the state since the beginning of the pandemic.

Three of the outbreaks remain active at this time. They are associated with churches located in Greenbrier, Ohio, and Boone counties.

“The reality is really simple: when we don’t adhere to the guidelines, as far as wearing masks, participating in social distancing, and sitting in every other pew, we’re asking for trouble,” Gov. Justice said. “We’ve got to all know that, while church is the most holy and sacred ground, it is the spot where we’re singing, we’re projecting our voices, we’re closer together, and all the things that make it ripe for an outbreak or a potential problem.”

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department is currently investigating one of the active church-related outbreaks. Currently, there are four cases identified, with additional cases anticipated to be identified in the days to come.

After discussing one of the other active outbreaks in Greenbrier County on Monday, Gov. Justice added today that the total number of positive cases associated with this outbreak is now up to 32.

Due to the outbreak, Gov. Justice announced that free community COVID-19 testing in Greenbrier County – which had already been underway over the weekend – had been extended for an additional day to encourage more community members to be tested. Out of a total 839 individuals who were tested, eight positive cases have been identified among 815 results. Twenty-four test results remain pending.

“We’ve got to protect ourselves,” Gov. Justice said. “We have to wear our masks, we have to stay with just our family units, and we have to continue to practice social distancing.

“If we’re going to continue to go to church, we have got to realize that church is one of the biggest targets that this evil virus can target,” Gov. Justice continued. “So we have got to be on special caution when we go to church.”

 

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UNEMPLOYMENT BETTER THAN NATIONAL AVERAGE
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that Workforce West Virginia is reporting that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the month of May dropped three percentage points to 12.9 percent.

The national unemployment rate decreased to 13.3 percent in May, meaning West Virginia’s jobs rate is currently better than the national average.

“It’s not a whole lot to be terribly in the mood to celebrate at this time because we are still looking at an outrageous unemployment rate,” Gov. Justice said. “But, think about this for a second, only a few months ago, in September, the national media was calling us like crazy and we were reporting an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent.

“The whole world turned upside down,” Gov. Justice continued. “We’re on our way back. We’re battling in every way, we’re saying prayer after prayer to God above to help us and He’s helping us every day.

“We’re going to get back, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”

 

UPDATE ON HIGH SCHOOL PROMS
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice provided clarification that, due to the extreme difficulty of being able to maintain social distancing indoors with close dancing and singing, high school proms remain prohibited at this time.

“Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about this,” Gov. Justice said. “I hope that, like graduations, we can get back to holding these events, but now is not the time.”

THE COMEBACK | GUIDANCE DOCS | SAFER AT HOME ORDER
Week 8 of the Gov. Justice reopening plan – West Virginia Strong – The Comeback – is now underway and announcements regarding future reopenings have been made. Guidance documents for all businesses and other entities permitted to reopen can be found online.

The Governor's Safer At Home order remains in effect.

FREE COMMUNITY TESTING: OHIO, PUTNAM, AND SUMMERS COUNTIES
Gov. Justice also offered a reminder that free community COVID-19 testing will be provided this Friday, June 19, and this Saturday, June 20, in Ohio, Putnam, and Summers counties.

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 is scheduled as follows:

Ohio County (Two locations)
Friday, June 19

9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Exley Center at Hil-Dar: 2155 Angle Avenue, Wheeling, WV 26003
Saturday, June 20
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
North Wheeling Dream Center: 407 Main Street, Wheeling, WV 26003
 
Putnam County
Friday, June 19  & Saturday, June 20

9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Teays Valley Baptist Church: 3926 Teays Valley Road, Hurricane, WV 25526
 
Summers County
Friday, June 19  & Saturday, June 20

9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Freight Depot: 508 Commercial Street, Hinton, WV 25951 

Identification, such as a driver’s license or proof of address, is required to be tested. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Click here to read more

 

GRANT FUNDING TO CITIES AND COUNTIES NOW UP TO $9.5 MILLION; RECIPIENTS NOW LISTED ON TRANSPARENCY SITE
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice provided an update on cities and counties throughout West Virginia applying for funds through the federal CARES Act, reporting that $9.5 million has now been distributed all across the state.

“I underline, again, we can't get it out the door any faster than we have, because we have to abide by the federal guidelines,” Gov. Justice said. “But they've been relaxed, and now we can get a lot of dollars out.”

Additionally, 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 John B. "JB" McCuskey.

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

 

WEST VIRGINIA STRONG SUMMER FOOD ASSISTANCE MAP
Also on Wednesday, 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 now available online.

Click here to view the map

More than 670 free-feeding locations have 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.

 

STATEWIDE CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES TESTING UPDATE
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice provided another update on his initiative to test all inmates and employees within the State’s network of correctional facilities for COVID-19.

The most recent testing results showed there were a total of nine active COVID-19 cases among inmates and residents at one jail and one prison across West Virginia and five active COVID-19 cases among corrections employees and contract staff. More than 10,000 inmates and 4,000 employees were tested in total.

Last Friday, Gov. Justice announced that the full testing of all facilities had been completed. However, many test results remain pending at this time.

 

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.

Be counted in minutes: 2020census.gov.

 

DATA UPDATE
Gov. Justice provided another overview of statewide data on COVID-19, highlighting that West Virginia’s cumulative percentage of positive test results had dropped to 1.68 percent.

West Virginia continues to excel in several metrics compared to its surrounding states and the national average. View the latest COVID-19 data at Coronavirus.wv.gov.

 

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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