COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice joined by State Superintendent Clayton Burch, WVSSAC Director Bernie Dolan to discuss back-to-school plans


CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held another news briefing today to update the public on the State’s latest pandemic response efforts.
During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice was joined by State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch and WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan to discuss back-to-school plans for West Virginia as they relate to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve heard the Governor, our State Board President Miller Hall, and others talk about the toll that [the pandemic] took on our children, our families, our educators, service personnel, and all those related to the school system,” Superintendent Burch said. “We’re glad to be back. We know we want consistent time for our children to be in school. We want to make sure that families know that we do still have virtual school options available, but that consistent daily connection to the teachers is the most important thing.”
The West Virginia Board of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education released their back-to-school guidance for the 2021-22 school year. The information is designed to provide county school systems with strategies to facilitate the safe return to school and the continued operation of schools without interruption.

The information offers key mitigations for schools and extracurricular activities as well as other protocols to assist counties as they begin the new school year. The document and accompanying website will serve as a resource for educators, families, communities, and students.

“I don’t want to overlook the most important mitigation strategy that we have, and that is the vaccinations for students 12 and older, and for teachers and staff,” Superintendent Burch said, noting that additional school vaccination clinics will be held into the fall.
“We are ready to support our K-12 and our colleges and universities with vaccination clinics as schools restart,” Gov. Justice said. “And as soon as the FDA authorizes the vaccines to be given to individuals younger than 12, we will give you updates.”

The Governor added that he has authorized the Joint Interagency Task Force to stand up tabletop exercises to prepare for any and all potential scenarios that could arise as students return to school.

Gov. Justice and Superintendent Burch went on to discuss the WVDE’s #IGotVaxxedWV campaign, which was launched this summer to encourage students 12 and older to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

The WVDE also recently launched their #IGotVaxxedWV Competition to reward schools that have supported vaccinations among students and staff. The competition will run through the first week of October 2021 and – with Gov. Justice’s support – will award $50,000 to four elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools with the highest percentage of eligible staff and students vaccinated. The competition will include both public and private schools.

“If you don't want an interruption in your school year, in your sports programs, and everything else, you’ve got to get vaccinated,” Gov. Justice said. “It's incredibly safe and it's the absolute best answer that we have.”

WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan also made remarks Wednesday, announcing that the official practice schedule is already underway for all fall sports except volleyball, which is scheduled to begin next week.

Dolan added that the guidelines that were used last year for individual sports will serve as recommendations for this year and encouraged all eligible players and coaches to get vaccinated.

“We know that vaccination is the safest way and the best way to be able to participate,” Dolan said. “The guidance has been that, if you are vaccinated, you don't have to quarantine. And more often than not last year it was the quarantine that was interrupting the schedules.

“At this point, we don't intend on changing any of our state tournament schedules,” Dolan continued. “So we hope that everybody goes out and does what they need to do to make sure we're able to do that and the kids are able to do that, because nobody wants to end up missing some of their season again.”
Gov. Justice also announced that the deadline to register for the final prize drawing in the “Do it for Babydog” Vaccination Sweepstakes has been extended to Sunday, Aug. 8, at 11:59 p.m. EDT.
The final round of prizes will now be awarded on Tuesday, Aug. 10.

“You’ve got a whole bunch of extra time, so be sure to get yourself vaccinated and get yourself registered,” Gov. Justice said. “We're continuing to vaccinate lots of people, especially in the last few days.”

Demand for COVID-19 vaccines has been on the rise in response to the increased threat of the Delta variant.

In the past two days alone, over 2,200 doses have been administered in West Virginia. Another 7,500 shots were administered over the weekend; an increase of about 85% over the previous weekend total of 4,070.

All West Virginians who have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine are eligible to register for the sweepstakes.
Over 378,000 West Virginians have registered to date.

The final round of prizes for vaccinated West Virginians ages 18 and older include:
  • One grand prize of $1.588 million
  • One second place prize of $588,000
  • Two brand-new custom-outfitted trucks
  • Five lifetime hunting licenses
  • Five lifetime fishing licenses
  • Five custom hunting rifles
  • Five custom hunting shotguns
  • 25 weekend getaways to West Virginia State Parks
Additionally, two vaccinated West Virginians ages 12-25 will win a full four-year scholarship to any public institution in the state.
Gov. Justice also announced that today he sent a letter to President Joe Biden, requesting that he reauthorize funding for the National Guard.

“Our National Guard has been so good,” Gov. Justice said. “This funding is critical to our continued response and preparedness for the ongoing pandemic, so I surely hope and pray that we'll get that authorization and we’ll get it quickly.”

Click here to view letter
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that there are currently 11 active outbreaks in churches throughout West Virginia, accounting for 96 total cases. The churches are located in Braxton, Cabell, Fayette, Jackson, Jefferson, Marion, McDowell, Nicholas, Putnam, and Raleigh counties.

Additionally, there are currently 11 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state, accounting for 81 total cases.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there are also 26 active inmate cases and three active staff cases across the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation system. To view the latest DCR case update, click here.
Finally on Wednesday, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks about COVID-19 to honor Logan Fluharty of Paden City, who lost his courageous battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia earlier this week.

“I am really brokenhearted today,” Gov. Justice said. “Cathy and I send all kinds of love to Logan and his family.”

Gov. Justice visited Logan two weeks ago, riding in a parade through Paden City in Logan’s honor and taking part in a special ceremony alongside the Ohio Valley Avengers; a charity organization made up of high school students that partner with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to bring hope and joy to kids battling diseases.

The Governor read a proclamation to the hundreds of community members in attendance, officially declaring Logan as “Laser” Logan Fluharty: the first Valley Avenger from Paden City.
“Laser” Logan Fluharty, Gov. Justice, and the Ohio Valley Avengers: July 21, 2021
“Logan, we love you, we love the great people of Paden City, and we love the Ohio Valley Avengers and all the good stuff they did. It was a real honor to be with you that day,” Gov. Justice said Wednesday. “I know to God above that Logan can hear me. And Logan, I want you to know that all of us love you and will miss you, but we know you're in a better place.”
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