COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice visits new regional food distribution center; provides additional updates on response efforts


​​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.

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On Tuesday, Gov. Justice visited a State warehouse facility in Rock Branch near Poca that is currently being established as a regional food distribution center as part of West Virginia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The facility allows multiple organizations to work together in a whole-of-government approach to assist West Virginians. The West Virginia National Guard has helped spearhead the new food distribution program out of the warehouse, which is managed by the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“I went down there to see all the good work they’re doing,” Gov. Justice said. “It is truly amazing. I wish everyone could see the great work that’s going on, because these people are knocking it out of the park.”


The WVNG and DHSEM recently joined forces with several nonprofit organizations, including West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WV VOAD), Mountaineer Food Bank, and Facing Hunger Food Bank to start the effort, which has already provided meals to hundreds of families​ across West Virginia.

The distribution center provides a full range of food supplies to local agencies, including dry goods as well as refrigerated and frozen foods.

Once fully operational, the Rock Branch center will support about eight new jobs and add 1 million pounds of food stocks to the Greater Kanawha Valley each year.

“It is, really, a fabulous facility,” Gov. Justice said. “If you could stand there with these young people and you could see their commitment, their professionalism, and how they attack their mission, it’s easy to see how in-command we’ve been through this whole process.”

Soldiers with the West Virginia National Guard provided a tour for the Governor as well, highlighting other operations they are undertaking in response to the pandemic.

“They’re revolutionizing ways they can make gowns or make masks and they showed me the mobile testing unit that they have there,” Gov. Justice said. “You see smart people, you see people that are craftsmen, you see people who are organized, and you see them knocking it out of the park.”


Gov. Justice also announced in his briefing Tuesday that progress is being made toward setting guidelines and scheduling a date for the reopening of indoor shopping malls in West Virginia. However, the Governor says that these businesses must work with the medical community to establish a system that’s as safe as possible.

“We’re working diligently with our indoor malls to see if we can get some really good guidance from them as to how they’re going to protect the people as they enter the malls and they go into a smaller type of an area,” Gov. Justice said. “As soon as we can get our health experts on board, I’d like us to bring back our indoor malls as soon as we can.

“We have got to go back to work. We know that,” Gov. Justice continued. “But, at the same time, what I’m trying to do is balance this so, when we go back, we’re protecting you in every way we possibly can.”


Also today, Gov. Justice announced that Barry Cook, the director of the West Virginia Division of Forestry, tragically passed away this past weekend after an accident at his home.

“He gave us so much and he gave so much incredible expertise to many. Way beyond forestry, he was a really good man,” Gov. Justice said. “I had the opportunity to get to know him and the great work he’s done.

“This stuff is just sad, that’s all there is to it,” Gov. Justice continued. “His situation, you know, a man with so much life in front of him, and for his family and all of his loved ones, I just hate it. Any life that we lose is a life gone too quickly. But, I’ll tell you, we lost a good, good guy in Barry.

“Cathy and I are just pleading with everyone to keep that family in your thoughts and your prayers.”

West Virginia Secretary of Commerce also offered his condolences Tuesday.

“Barry was a committed, dedicated employee who embraced the mission to protect and preserve our forests and all the value they bring to our state,” Sec. Gaunch said. “He will be missed by his family, the employees of the Division of Forestry and all who knew him. Please respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

Also today, Gov. Justice cautioned West Virginians that although he recently announced a target date of June 8 for the resumption of low-contact, outdoor youth sports in the state, that the timeline is subject to change, depending on how West Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers trend in the weeks ahead.

The Governor highlighted new reports of nearly 100 children in New York City who have experienced multi-system inflammatory symptoms that health experts say are likely linked to COVID-19, with several losing their lives.

“We’re monitoring that and our health experts are on top of that, watching it like crazy,” Gov. Justice said. “We have plenty of time between now and June 8th. I’m trying to give everybody a heads up that if things keep trending the right way, on June 8th I’d love to be sitting at a Little League baseball game and watching those little rascals out there playing.

“But if, in fact, we get more and more information that this thing is taking a twist and a turn that could affect our children, the last of the last people that we’re going to expose in any way are our children.”


During his remarks today, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General with the West Virginia National Guard, offered a reminder that members of the Air National Guard will perform flyovers over regional hospitals tomorrow in honor of the state’s brave medical professionals on the front lines fighting against the spread of COVID-19.


In response to a media question today about calls to continue providing unemployment benefits to individuals whose places of work have resumed operations, Gov. Justice had a simple message: “Stop the politics.”

“There are groups that are saying, ‘Let’s let no one go back to work if they don’t want to go back to work and we’ll just extend our unemployment forever,’” Gov. Justice said. “For crying out loud, I am not a king. There are federal guidelines that we all have to follow. And this is nothing but politics in a situation where we have a pandemic and people and dying and we have economic strain beyond belief.

“Stop the politics,” Gov. Justice continued. “We can’t send $600 million over here and another $600 million over there, unless you want to just do it and be bankrupt tomorrow. Just stop the politics. We’re going to do the smart thing.”


Once again today, Gov. Justice announced that he has been having ongoing discussions with counties and cities across the state, asking them to provide preliminary estimates of their losses related to COVID-19.

“We are doing everything we possibly can to get relief to them as quickly as possible, but we have to do it accurately and legally,” Gov. Justice said. “But it’s my hope that the federal guidelines that we’re waiting on are going to be relaxed so that we’re able to send the counties and the cities, and use for the State, significant more backfilling dollars and we’re going to really be able to help.”


Gov. Justice today 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:


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


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Jordan Damron,


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Charleston, WV 25305

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