CHARLESTON, WV – At the direction of Gov. Jim Justice, key members of his administration and other government officials gathered at the Capitol Complex in Charleston today, holding a press conference to update members of the media and the public on the State’s ongoing efforts to monitor novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and to prepare for its potential future spread.
There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia. As of March 11, 2020, West Virginia has tested eight residents for COVID-19, with seven results coming back negative and one test still pending.
Visit coronavirus.wv.gov for current COVID-19 alerts and updates
Among those in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting were: Bill Crouch, Secretary for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources; Dr. Cathy Slemp, West Virginia State Health Officer and Commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health; Clayton Burch, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools; and Jeff Sandy, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. Sarah Tucker, Interim Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and Chancellor of the West Virginia Community and Technical College System joined via videoconferencing technology.
“Our monitoring of coronavirus remains the absolute top priority for myself and my entire administration,” Gov. Justice said in a statement. “While we are fortunate to still have no confirmed cases in West Virginia, it is absolutely critical that we stay in front of this emerging health threat and work to keep the public informed about the ways we are preparing as a State and continuing to use every precaution at our disposal to keep the public as safe as possible.”
Statement from WVDHHR Secretary Bill Crouch
“The DHHR continues to closely monitor this outbreak and maintains communication and outreach with federal, state and local public health partners. Governor Justice and I recently met and participated in a national briefing phone call with Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Trump Administration. The state’s public health lab under DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health is now able to test for this disease which will ensure a quicker turnaround. An information hotline to address concerns regarding COVID-19 has been established, and operators are available 24/7, toll-free at 1-800-887-4304 to provide accurate information about COVID-19. Information is also available at www.coronavirus.wv.gov.”
Statement from WV DMAPS Secretary Jeff Sandy
“Working with Gov. Justice and the Department of Health and Human Resources, the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety is carrying out its core mission: to provide for a safe and secure West Virginia. Our State Emergency Operations Center is standing by on enhanced watch. The State Police are in close contact with all levels of law enforcement statewide. Our Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is doing the same with other first responders as well as county and local counterparts. At our correctional facilities we have halted all non-attorney visitation, with phone and video visitation still available and unaffected. These and similar actions ensure an effective response to this evolving situation. As Gov. Justice says, the health and safety of our fellow West Virginians is the highest priority.”
Statement from Major General James Hoyer, West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General
“The West Virginia National Guard continues to stand ready to support the State of West Virginia and our partner agencies to strengthen detection and response to COVID-19. We have contingency plans in place, are reviewing them daily, and are taking steps to educate and safeguard our military and civilian personnel, family members and installation communities to prevent any public health threat. The Guard is also engaged in training and educating local emergency room departments, liaising with DHHR and DHSEM and providing expertise through outreach to communities in the state. We remain prepared to assist the citizens of West Virginia in any response capacity throughout the duration of this situation."
Statement from Sarah Armstrong Tucker, Ph.D, Interim Chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission, Chancellor of the Community and Technical College System
“At the statewide level, I’ve been working under Governor Justice’s direction to ensure the proper planning is in place across our higher education system. Each campus has individual needs with different student populations, so we are seeing varying proactive measures being taken at the institutional level - with particular focus on spring break and mitigating any potential threats related to students returning to the state after traveling. Our preeminent goal is to maintain the health and safety of all of those within and around our campus communities, and we will continue coordinating and communicating among our campuses to that end.”
Statement from West Virginia Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch
“The West Virginia Department of Education is maintaining open and ongoing communications with the Governor’s Office and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to provide consistent and coordinated information to the education community. While no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported, county school systems have updated or are in the process of updating their emergency plans. I will outline guidance that counties may consider when planning school-sponsored student travel in the coming weeks. Decisions about field trips and similar activities are made at the local level, however, the WVDE will offer planning recommendations for counties to consider. I will maintain contact with the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) regarding sporting events and public safety. At this time, all state basketball tournament play will continue as planned. I also am in contact with the U.S. Department of Education and will work with Deputy Secretary Mitchell Zais if flexibility is needed during the upcoming academic testing window, and to meet the provisions of federal grants.”
- On Monday this week, March 9, 2020, Gov. Justice and DHHR Secretary Crouch participated in their latest national briefing call with Vice President Mike Pence and officials with the Trump Administration. Gov. Justice and Secretary Crouch have participated in numerous national briefings over the past several weeks.
- Also on Monday, Gov. Justice and the DHHR announced the creation of an information hotline to address public and medical provider questions and concerns regarding COVID-19.
- On Saturday, March 7, 2020, Gov. Justice and the DHHR announced that, for the first time, testing for COVID-19 could be performed in-state by DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health’s lab. Previously, West Virginia had been submitting tests of individuals who were considered at significant risk of having COVID-19 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing.
- Last Wednesday, March 4, 2020, Gov. Justice gathered key members of his administration and medical experts from across the state to coordinate precautionary measures and continue preparations and planning for novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Following their meeting at the State Capitol, Gov. Justice announced that he had issued a State of Preparedness for West Virginia.
- Last Monday, March 2, 2020, Gov. Justice and Secretary Crouch participated in another national briefing call with Vice President Pence and officials with the Trump Administration.
- The Governor has been meeting regularly with members of his administration on coronavirus preparations going back for more than a month.