West Virginia Week in Review - April 25, 2020: COVID-19 Update

4/25/2020

 

 

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COVID-19 Response Weekly Update
April 18 - April 24

 

 

 

This week, Gov. Jim Justice and State health leaders continued the fight to slow the spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Justice Administration is working to keep the public informed of the many measures being taken in the interest of protecting them from the spread of the disease.

Additional information about COVID-19 and what West Virginia is doing to combat the virus can be found on Coronavirus.wv.gov or by calling the state's 24/7 hotline at 1-800-887-4304.

A list of all of Gov. Justice's actions and executive orders related to COVID-19 are also available online.

 

 

 

Friday, April 24: Gov. Justice discusses potential strategies to safely begin reopening daycares, restaurants

 

 

 

On Friday, Gov. Justice announced that discussions on ways to safely reopen various aspects of the state and its economy continue to ramp up.

“As we move forward, I would just promise you with all my soul that I will continue, with the experts that we’ve brought together, to try to protect you in every way,” Gov. Justice said. “But, at the same time, I’m also going to try every way in my power to get you back to work and get you back to the lifestyle that you’ve become accustomed to.”

After recently announcing plans to bring West Virginia’s hospitals back to full capacity by allowing elective procedures as early as next week, Gov. Justice unveiled Friday plans to test all staff members at West Virginia daycares so those facilities can reopen as quickly and safely as possible.

“So that way, when you bring your children to one of our daycares, you’ll know that component is as safe as possible,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re going to do ongoing testing of daycare staff and we’re going to try to come up with some ways we may be able to do temperature testing of other people coming into these facilities.”

 

 

 

The Governor also announced that he has directed his team to look into the safest ways to begin the process of reopening restaurants and determine what additional safety protocols may be necessary. He indicated the state will provide advance notice of at least a week before the current guidelines are altered.

Gov. Justice listed some safety requirements that are currently being considered, including limiting restaurant capacity, implementing special spacing requirements for bars and restaurants, increasing cleaning measures, limiting the number of people per table, instituting temperature checks for employees, requiring masks for cashiers and staff, providing disposable menus and utensils, and serving beverages in cans or bottles.

Additionally, Gov. Justice said that he has directed his team to specifically look into the possibility of easing restrictions on outdoor dining across the state.

 

 

 

Gov. Justice also reported that, after implementing strict public health measures in Morgan County recently, the area has seen a low number of active cases of COVID-19.

As a result, the Governor announced Friday that he has issued an Executive Order, removing Morgan County from the list of COVID-19 community clusters in West Virginia.

Morgan County is still subject to all statewide restrictions, including the ongoing statewide Stay At Home order.

Eleven other counties across the state remain classified as “community clusters” and remain subject to additional restrictions as deemed necessary by their respective local health departments.

 

 

 

Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice recognized the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety’s Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, along with inmates across the state, for their recent efforts making masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Inmates at Lakin Correctional Center – the state’s prison for women – as well as inmates at the Charleston Correctional Center and the Denmar Correctional Center have been making masks with materials supplied by the West Virginia National Guard.

 

 

 

Throughout the week, Gov. Justice alerted West Virginians to the availability of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. PUA is an option for additional assistance benefitting workers who would otherwise not be eligible for unemployment compensation.

Applications for PUA opened Friday night. Qualified workers include self-employed workers, independent contractors, workers with insufficient work histories, gig workers, ride sharing drivers, and more.

Click here to view the WorkForce West Virginia website

 

 

 

Twice this week, including on Friday, Gov. Justice took part in additional conference calls with Vice President Mike Pence, members of the Coronavirus Task Force, and other governors across America to update the White House on how various states are progressing in their COVID-19 response efforts.

Gov. Justice highlighted that, according to the latest data, West Virginia’s fatality rate remains comparatively low versus the national average and is far below the rates seen in other countries.

Visit Coronavirus.wv.gov to view the most up-to-date COVID-19 testing numbers

Also Friday, Gov. Jim Justice sent a letter to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, urging him to reconsider a decision to transfer out-of-state inmates to their Hazelton facility in Preston County and to their facility in Gilmer County during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here to read the letter on the Governor's website

 

 

 

Thursday, April 23: Gov. Justice announces backlog of unemployment claims has been cleared; reports progress on mass nursing home testing

 

 

 

On Thursday, Gov. Justice announced that staff from Workforce West Virginia, with assistance from members of the West Virginia National Guard, have successfully cleared the massive backlog of unemployment claims that had been submitted over the past several weeks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 150,000 unemployment claims have been filed since March 1 this year. For perspective, in a typical year, WorkForce West Virginia receives an average of approximately 3,400 claims in the month of March.

“I can’t say enough for how we’ve pounded a massive round peg into a square hole in West Virginia and been able to punch out all these claims,” Gov. Justice said. “I hate like crazy that they didn’t all come out on day one. But all the people that were sitting at home worried, I hope there’s real-live relief coming your way and that all your dollars are going to be backfilled and taken care of.”

 

 

 

Gov. Justice also reported that the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and West Virginia National Guard continue to work around the clock to test all nursing home residents and staff members statewide for COVID-19, announcing that he expects all testing to be complete by the middle of next week. 

“They’ve done amazing work in testing the nursing homes and they are proceeding ahead very, very quickly,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s a monumental task if you think about it. We had tested 22,000 people in 40 days and now we’re going out and testing 28,000 people in a very, very concise period.

“And we’re getting better results than what I’d feared,” Gov. Justice said. “And this program, with West Virginia being first in the nation to do it, you see, if you watch the national news, the CDC and everybody's coming out and saying we should be doing this on a national basis.”

 

 

 

Gov. Justice also recognized the work of the West Virginia Department of Commerce, specifically the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, helping to support small businesses across the state during the ongoing Stay At Home order.

“We have assisted with 2,000 businesses in the state of West Virginia, as far as helping them and guiding them through the wickets,” Gov. Justice said. “There’s all kinds of stuff that we have up on our website to help small businesses and, I think, very soon, we’re going to have another tranche of federal money that’s opening up to cover the small businesses that were missed on the first go-around.”

 

 

 

During his remarks, the Governor also provided an update on the Roads to Prosperity program and the statewide secondary road maintenance initiative. Work by the Department of Transportation has continued through the pandemic, with appropriate safety precautions in place.

The Governor announced Thursday that bids have been awarded for more than three dozen road construction and paving projects across the state, worth more than $125 million combined. He also announced that this year’s roadwork plan, which will outline the State’s plans for the paving season, will be released very soon.

“We’re going to absolutely jump on every pothole, the pulling of every ditch, and we’re going to just stay after it until we get this thing across the finish line,” Gov. Justice said. “We all know that our roads got in this condition by decades of neglect. But my administration has directed more money to roads than ever before in our history. We’ve gotten right after it and we’ve done it without raising taxes.”

 

 

 

Gov. Justice once again reminded all West Virginians to take the opportunity to complete 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 ten years for the state and its local communities. The funds can go toward things like healthcare, education, infrastructure, school lunch programs, and more.

Respond to the Census online at 2020census.gov.

Also on Thursday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health filed two orders to implement additional measures regarding the reporting and publishing of COVID-19 data. 

The rule changes will allow for collection of additional data to assist in the implementation of public health programs and help control the spread of COVID-19. One order requires the reporting of any COVID-19 positive individual who died with the disease and another order gives DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health the ability to publicly identify long-term care facilities with COVID-19 positive cases among residents and/or employees. 

Click here to read more

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, in conjunction with Secretary of State Mac Warner, issued an alert to West Virginia voters Thursday concerning the increased potential of election fraud due to broad access to absentee ballots for the June 9 primary election.
 
The leaders’ concerns largely relate to the ability of fraudsters to steal or manipulate absentee ballots now that more people will use a mail-in, absentee ballot due to social distancing concerns driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read more about spotting the signs of absentee voter fraud

 

 

 

Also on Thursday, Gov. Justice participated in a virtual Town Hall on WSAZ-TV to discuss the State's progress in fighting to slow the spread of COVID-19 across West Virginia. The Governor was joined by West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch, State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch, and WorkForce West Virginia Acting Commissioner Scott Adkins.

 

 

 

During the Town Hall Thursday, Gov. Justice received a personal phone call from President Donald J. Trump to once again discuss West Virginia's progress with limiting the spread of COVID-19. While on the call, Gov. Justice reported to President Trump that West Virginia's numbers remain among the lowest in the country, but expressed the need for more personal protective equipment in the event that a potential future spike should occur.

 

 

 

Additionally Thursday, Gov. Justice made a national television news appearance on the Fox News show, The Story with Martha MacCallum, to discuss plans to potentially reopen various aspects of the state and West Virginia's success in limiting the spread of the disease.

“We use all the advice that's coming from the federal government, from the Trump Administration, but we have really smart people here that are innovative in their thinking, we've got real experts,” Gov. Justice said. “There's so many things where we've pushed the right buttons at the right time, not patting myself on the back in any way, West Virginians have risen to this situation as they have done so many times. I give them all the credit in the world.”

Watch Gov. Justice's full interview here (segment begins at 15:20)

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 22: Gov. Justice, West Virginia leading nation in several aspects of COVID-19 response

 

 

 

On Wednesday, Gov. Justice highlighted several aspects of the State of West Virginia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that are setting new precedents for the entire country.

The Governor recognized the West Virginia National Guard for becoming the first National Guard in the country to be approved by the U.S. Department of Defense to provide mobile testing for COVID-19.

The WVNG established two COVID-19 mobile testing laboratories, which were activated for use Wednesday. The units will be primarily stationed in Charleston and Morgantown.

 

 

 

This comes just days after West Virginia became the first state in the country to begin testing all nursing home residents and staff members statewide.

Wednesday, the Gov. Justice announced that recent testing of 120 people at the veterans nursing home in Barboursville resulted in just one positive case. The proactive testing allowed officials to move quickly in efforts to limit the spread.

“That tickles me to death because we had a few breakouts at nursing homes that were very, very alarming,” Gov. Justice said. “That’s why we went on this crusade to test everybody – something that had never been done in the nation before. Now, many, many states are following suit and, in fact, I’ve been told the CDC is on the verge of making that recommendation nationwide.”

Gov. Justice also highlighted a recent study that ranked West Virginia as the #1 state in the nation for carrying out the best response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It just came out the other day and, of all things, it should maybe be the thing we’re most proud of,” Gov. Justice said. “West Virginia was recognized for being first in the nation in the way that we have handled this thus far. And we need to continue to be first in the nation on how we decide to bring our people back as quickly and safely as we possibly can.”

 

 

 

With low-interest loan packages from the federal government set to soon come in to small businesses to help keep their operations afloat, Gov. Justice provided a message to small business owners across West Virginia.

“Many of you probably do not think you have business interruption insurance,” Gov. Justice said. “And the insurance companies, especially the great, big, gigantic insurance companies they would look right at you and say ‘You don’t have any coverage.’ Don’t stop there. Get your best accountant, your best lawyer, your very best advisor and push it to the limit because many of you have coverage and you don’t know you’ve got it.”

 

 

 

Also Wednesday, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) announced that they have postponed the 2020 Governor’s Schools planned for this summer. The Department organizes six residential academies each summer as part of this program to provide deep learning opportunities for students from grades 8-12.

Each year, the WVDE holds the Governor’s Schools at West Virginia college and university campuses and state facilities. West Virginia University and Marshall University have both announced that they will cancel on-site courses and resort to online instruction only this summer. Therefore, the venues will no longer be available.

Next year – summer 2021 – the WVDE will double the number of programs offered to make sure that those students selected this year will still be able to participate. The exception will be the Governor’s Honors Academy. Since rising seniors attend this program, they will likely be unavailable next summer as they prepare for the next phases of their lives. Therefore, the WVDE hopes to host weekend experiences and recognitions this fall to celebrate their accomplishments.

Click here to read more

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 21: Gov. Justice announces West Virginia schools to remain closed for rest of academic year

 

 

 

On Tuesday, Gov. Justice announced that all pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools in West Virginia will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year.

“I was really hopeful and I tried in every way to get us to where we would be able to go back to school because I know how much the kids would appreciate it...just the excitement of the kids going back and seeing their friends and their teachers,” Gov. Justice said. “But I’ve promised you over and over that I would never put you in a position that could be harmful. I promised that I would try to protect you in every way. And the bottom line is that this is what we have to do to protect everyone.”

School buildings and facilities will remain closed while remote learning continues through the end of the school year. Meal delivery programs for students will also continue to operate through the end of the school year.

Gov. Justice also encouraged all schools statewide to begin looking for ways to safely hold graduation ceremonies to celebrate the academic accomplishments of outgoing seniors across West Virginia.

“We need to graduate our seniors,” Gov. Justice said. “I would urge each and every school to try to find a way, over the course of the summer, to celebrate their accomplishments.”

 

 

 

State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch joined the Governor on Tuesday for the announcement, announcing that a Graduation Task Force consisting of West Virginia Board of Education members, county administrators, state PTA members, educators, and WVDE staff, will work to address issues related to high school graduations and creating a smooth transition for graduates moving toward the next phases of their lives.

Counties will work with their boards of education and local health departments to determine details around graduation ceremonies which may look very different than in years past. The WVDE will post updated school calendar information this week at wvde.us/COVID19.

Superintendent Burch also provided additional updates on ways the West Virginia Department of Education and others are working to improve opportunities for students during this challenging time.

“The College Board has come forward. They’re going to make sure there are no gaps in children who are taking the AP Exam, they’re going to make sure those are available to them,” Superintendent Burch said. “The Higher Education Policy Commission has come forward to help us make sure all dual credits are complete – that all students finish that. We are also making sure that all children that are in a CTE program have the ability to finish and become a CTE completer.”

Burch also announced that the WVDE is going to cover the cost of all virtual school for high school students this summer and reported that any junior who missed the SAT will be able to take the exam in the fall for free.

Click here to read more

 

 

 

Gov. Justice also discussed students in higher education who are in-line to receive money from the federal government. The Governor said that while the money has not been distributed to the State yet, it is expected soon. And once it arrives, the funding will be distributed quickly.

“I know college students and their families are eager to receive these funds,” Gov. Justice said. “Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Sarah Tucker has assured me that as soon as our colleges and universities receive the money from the federal government, they will be distributing it to the students.”

 

 

 

Additionally, Gov. Justice provided an update on the rate of West Virginians who have been tested for COVID-19, announcing that West Virginia has now passed up all of its bordering states in terms of the percentage of the overall population that has been tested. In fact, as of Tuesday, West Virginia’s testing rate exceeded the national average.

“For those of you concerned that West Virginia is not testing, that’s not true,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re absolutely testing and we’re aggressively after that.”

 

 

 

Also on Tuesday, Gov. Justice was interviewed on the national radio program, Breitbart News Daily, about West Virginia's early success in fighting the spread of COVID-19.

“We’ve been really proactive,” Gov. Justice said in the interview. “We’ve got the least number of cases east of the Mississippi River and we’re within a rock’s throw of two-thirds of the population of this whole country.

“We declared a State of Emergency before we ever had a positive case,” Gov. Justice continued. “We did a lot of things, in terms of pushing the right buttons, and I think that’s more of a blessing from the good Lord because we happened to be a good bit ahead of the curve.

“My read was really simple, and it was that there’s no way in the world the President of the United States of America is going to shut down the engine of America [the economy] unless he knows this thing is really, really potentially devastating beyond belief. And so, my read on that was to jump out ahead and act as proactively as I could.”

Listen to Gov. Justice’s full interview here

 

 

 

In response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Justice and the West Virginia DHHR Office of Drug Control Policy announced a free smartphone app to reduce isolation and offer support resources to West Virginians with Substance Use Disorder.

The Connections app will allow treatment providers across the state to stay connected and engaged with their patients.

“Over the past few years, we’ve made tremendous progress in our fight against the opioid epidemic in West Virginia. We’ve given people struggling with addiction real hope and access to opportunities like never before,” Gov. Justice said. “But, as we’ve had to separate from each other to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it’s been really tough on those who may truly need the support of others to stay on a path toward recovery.

“We need to do everything in our power to keep helping these people move forward in their lives, not backward. That’s exactly what this app is going to allow us to do.”

Click here to read more

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also issued a consumer alert Tuesday, warning of a CARES Act stimulus check scam.
 
Nearly every American is set to receive such a check. The CARES Act provides a check for $1,200 for most adults, $2,400 for most couples, and $500 per child per household.
 
The Attorney General alerted consumers that thieves may call, email, and text West Virginians. They falsely claim people must first provide their bank account, Social Security number, or other personally identifiable information to receive the checks.

Click here to read more

 

 

 

Monday, April 20: West Virginia becomes first state in nation to begin testing all nursing home residents and staff for COVID-19

 

 

 

On Monday, Gov. Justice announced that an effort to test all residents and staff members at every nursing home in West Virginia began this morning.

The action came after the Governor’s Executive Order last week made West Virginia the first state in the nation to require all-inclusive nursing home testing statewide.

“I’ve been assured over and over from our National Guard and from DHHR that we can accomplish this in a week,” Gov. Justice said. “That would be an incredible feat. But I tell you, West Virginia, we’re going to come back with data, sure as I know my name, that’s not as good as we want it to be. But what it will do is it will lead us to save a whole lot more lives.

“What we’re going to do is a task that no one has ever taken on,” Gov. Justice continued. “But we’re going to have real, live data that we hope will help us to isolate and treat people, even those who may not have symptoms yet.”

 

 

 

Gov. Justice also announced that he would be filing an Executive Order, outlining the process for hospitals across West Virginia to apply to resume elective medical procedures, provided that certain safety thresholds are met.

The earliest hospitals will be able to restart elective medical procedures is Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

“One of the things we have to do to restart our state is to restart the elective medical procedures at our hospitals,” Gov. Justice said. “Hospitals will apply to DHHR for review. Then, from that point forward, we will decide ‘yes, you’re prepared’ or ‘no, you’re not.’”

Before elective medical procedures can resume, hospitals must have a plan in place to safely phase-in procedures based on clinical judgement, while following all CDC guidelines. They must also have adequate inventories of personal protective equipment (PPE) and a plan to respond if there is a surge of COVID-19 patients in the future.

The Governor’s order will give each hospital the discretion to determine the best time to restart elective medical procedures at their facility.

 

 

 

Additionally, Gov. Justice made a national television news appearance on the Fox News show, Your World with Neil Cavuto, to discuss West Virginia's progress with limiting the spread of COVID-19.

“We've punched a lot of right buttons and I’m not patting myself on the back because I’m surrounded by the greatest experts on the planet,” Gov. Justice said.

“On March 12th we stopped visitation to our nursing homes, we issued a travel ban, we canceled the state basketball tournament – and my team is playing in it that very evening. On the 13th we closed the schools and on the 16th we put out a State of Emergency before we ever had one positive case in our state. And then we closed our restaurants and bars when we had our first positive.

“We’ve kept our numbers really, really low in an area where we're within a rocks throw of two-thirds of the population of this country.”

Watch Gov. Justice's full interview here

 

 

 

ALSO THIS WEEK

 

Gov. Justice, DOT announce opening of new McClanahan Bridge in Putnam County; another Roads to Prosperity Project

 

 

 

On Friday, Gov. Justice and the West Virginia Department of Transportation announced the opening of the McClanahan Bridge, a Roads to Prosperity project, in Putnam County.

“I promised West Virginians that my Roads to Prosperity program would modernize our transportation system and boost our economy through billions of dollars in new construction and maintenance work on our existing roads and bridges,” Gov. Justice said. “Today, another one of the hundreds of construction projects made possible by Roads To Prosperity has been completed and we are excited that this bridge that provides critical access in Putnam County has been replaced and is open again to our motorists.”

 

 

 

Gov. Justice, DOT release online map of 2020 roadwork projects

 

 

 

On Friday, Gov. Justice and the DOT announced that an online map of the state’s roadwork plan for 2020 is now available.

“This map allows citizens to view planned roadwork in their area and across the state,” Gov. Justice said. “It not only reflects projects that are underway but those that will begin later this year as well. This gives our residents throughout West Virginia information on just how committed I am, along with the DOT and DOH, to continue to properly maintain and modernize our transportation system.”

 

 

 

Division of Forestry names state fourth and fifth grade winners of Arbor Day poster contest

 

 

 

 

The West Virginia Division of Forestry announced the winners of the 2020 Arbor Day poster contest for fourth and fifth grade students. 

The winners are Lauren Pleska, fourth grade, Sacred Heart Grade School in Charleston, Kanawha County; and Aimee Baker, fifth grade, homeschooled in Union, Monroe County.

Schools in West Virginia were able to submit one entry from the fourth grade and one from the fifth grade. 

The theme chosen for the year must have been incorporated into the poster. This year’s theme “Trees are Terrific … in the Right Place” draws attention to the hazards of growing a tree in a space that is wrong for it, such as under power lines.

 

 

 

DHHR to offer special assistance payment due to COVID-19

 

 

 

On Wednesday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Children and Families announced the availability of a one-time special assistance payment, Pandemic Diversionary Cash Assistance (PDCA), as part of the state’s ongoing response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Applicants must not be currently participating in WV WORKS. Applicants must have a dependent child in the home; low or no income due to COVID-19; expect to return to previous employment, have a job offer, or expect future income from another source; and must not currently be sanctioned for non-compliance in a BCF program.

 

 

 

WVDEP introduces "Classroom Series" videos for educators

 

 

 

In an effort to help teachers, youth group leaders, and other educators during the COVID-19 pandemic, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) announced Wednesday that its launching playlists on its YouTube channel, “Environment Matters.” The listings are filled with educational videos that cover a wide range of state environmental topics from water issues and conservation to mining and reclamation to pollution prevention.

Dubbed the “WVDEP Classroom Series,” the playlists are a collection of previous “Environment Matters” stories. They will be grouped by topic and can serve as a resource for teachers looking for fun, informative videos to share with their students while working remotely.

 

 

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Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

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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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