West Virginia Week in Review - August 22, 2020












Gov. Justice announces updated County Alert System for school status, nursing home visitation




This week, Gov. Jim Justice made a series of changes to the county-by-county color-coding system that was recently put in place to communicate the safety status of schools. On Monday, Gov. Justice updated the thresholds that determined the level of openness for each Pre-K-12 school in West Virginia.

The updated thresholds are as follows (based on a seven-day rolling average):

GREEN: 3 and fewer cases per 100,000
YELLOW: 3.1 – 9.9 cases per 100,000
ORANGE: 10 – 24.9 cases per 100,000
RED: 25+ cases per 100,000

Then on Friday, Gov. Justice announced that the county-by-county map is being expanded to include the safety status of nursing homes and has been updated with an enhancement to its metric calculation for low-population counties. The West Virginia COVID-19 Dashboard has been updated to include a live, interactive map that reflects the color status of each county in real-time. The map will now be called the County Alert System and will be used for multiple purposes.




Beyond reflecting how schools in each county will operate, nursing homes across the state will begin using the same green-yellow-orange-red color scale to notify the public about the status of visitation at such facilities within each county. For both schools and nursing homes, Gov. Justice and health experts also announced an enhancement to the metric calculation that determines each county’s color. To account for the possibility of outliers in regions with smaller populations, the metric for counties with fewer than 16,000 residents will be based on the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people on a 14-day rolling average. Meanwhile, the metric for counties with more than 16,000 residents will still be based on the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people on a seven-day rolling average.




Also on Friday, Gov. Justice announced that, at his direction and with the approval of state medical experts, the Department of Education has modified its School Re-Entry Protocol. The new protocol requires face coverings for students in grades 3 and above in various settings:

GREEN: Require face coverings for grades 3 and above on buses and in congregant settings (outside of core groups) where social distancing cannot be maintained.
YELLOW: Require face coverings for grades 3-5 on buses and in congregant settings (outside of core groups) where social distancing cannot be maintained. Require face coverings for grades 6 and above at all times.
ORANGE: Require face coverings for grades 3 and above at all times.
RED: N/a (In-person instruction will be canceled if a county reaches red status).

These requirements are in addition to previously announced protocols for in-person instruction.




Gov. Justice hosts Dr. Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, to discuss West Virginia virus response




Prior to his regularly scheduled COVID-19 press briefing Wednesday, Gov. Justice hosted Dr. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, at the West Virginia Capitol to discuss efforts being made to combat the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopen the state.

“Dr. Birx, you see her on TV all the time, she is amazing,” Gov. Justice said. “She has incredible energy and unbelievable knowledge. She's traveled all across the country. The great work that she’s doing and her dedication to West Virginia and this nation is amazing. And I can very proudly say that she was tickled to death with the things we’re doing in West Virginia.”




In an interview with members of the media following a roundtable with state leaders at the Culture Center, Dr. Birx praised West Virginia for executing an effective virus response. Dr. Birx specifically commended Gov. Justice and state leaders for developing what she called a “remarkable” plan to safely reopen schools across the state. The plan uses a scientific metric to evaluate the safety level in each county and a color-coded map system to let parents, students, teachers, and faculty know what precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of their communities.

“We’re going to put it in our governors report next week and I’m worried that West Virginia is going to get a call from another 49 governors,” Dr. Birx said. “To really lay out the metrics of where every county is, making that visible to every single parent, and linking that to school choice and then very clear guidances of what to do depending on what your category is."

In an email from the White House Friday, sent to all 50 of the nation’s governors offices, Dr. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, specifically highlighted Gov. Justice and West Virginia’s County Alert System as a leading practice for other national leaders to emulate as they make decisions about their own school re-entry plans.




Gov. Justice, Vice President Mike Pence hold joint briefing on West Virginia COVID-19 response




Gov. Justice joined Vice President Mike Pence last Saturday, along with several other national and state leaders, for a briefing to discuss efforts being made in West Virginia to combat the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopen the state. 

“Thank you for your leadership during this extraordinarily challenging time,” Vice President Pence said to Gov. Justice. “I truly do believe, Governor, that because of your leadership and because of this team you have assembled and because of the cooperation of the people of West Virginia, you have saved lives in this state.”

Vice President Pence serves as the leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The Vice President and Gov. Justice were joined for the briefing by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Congresswoman Carol Miller, Congressman Alex Mooney, United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, United States Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, and West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. James Hoyer.




Gov. Justice announces drop in West Virginia unemployment rate




During his briefing Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 9.9% for the month of July. The national unemployment rate for July was 10.2%. Since April, when state unemployment levels reached 15.9%, more than 47,000 jobs have been recovered across West Virginia. Before the pandemic, West Virginia had historic economic growth that led to a 4.7% unemployment rate statewide.




Gov. Justice announces expansion in Kids Connect initiative




On Friday, WVDE Superintendent Clayton Burch reported that Gov. Justice’s Kids Connect initiative – a joint effort between the Governor’s Office of Technology, the WVDE, and the Higher Education Policy Commission to establish over 1,000 free wireless internet access points statewide by Sept. 8 – is ahead of schedule and has plans to expand its reach even further than originally anticipated. At the suggestion of West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the WVDE will add more Kids Connect hotspots at each of the state’s 20 armories. Superintendent Burch added that the WVDE’s interactive map of Kids Connect locations will be updated with the extra hotspot sites.




Gov. Justice adds self-employed, sole proprietors to those eligible to receive small business grants




On Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that he is opening up his West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program to sole proprietorships and self-employed individuals in West Virginia. Any sole proprietor or self-employed person, in operation on or before March 1, 2020, is now able to apply for up to $2,000 in grant funding. Meanwhile, any West Virginia-based small business with 1-35 employees, in existence on or before March 1, 2020 is still able to apply for up to $5,000 in grant funding. Over 2,300 of these applications have been submitted to date, with more than $9.5 million being awarded so far. Businesses planning to apply must first be registered as a vendor with the State to be eligible. Guidelines for the grants and instructions on how to apply are available at Grants.wv.gov.

The application will remain open until Sept. 30, 2020.




Gov. Justice extends Mon County bar closure, announces reopening date




Gov. Justice announced that, after one final extension to countywide bar closure in Monongalia County, these facilities will be able to open at the end of this month, provided that they adhere to a list of additional safety guidelines. On Wednesday, Gov. Justice issued an executive order, extending the closure of all bars in Mon County for an additional 11 days. The extension was requested by West Virginia University and the Monongalia County Commission, with WVU students returning to campus in Morgantown this week. The new order extends the countywide bar closure until Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Gov. Justice pledged that this will stand as the reopening date, barring a major uptick in case numbers or another unforeseen circumstance and provided that all safety guidelines are properly followed.




Gov. Justice announces funding being sent to volunteer fire departments




On Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that the $4.19 million that he pledged to support West Virginia's volunteer fire departments is now ready for distribution. Each of the state's 419 VFDs will receive $10,000.

“Our firefighters have all meant so much to us during this pandemic, but especially the ones who do so on a voluntary basis,” Gov. Justice said. “I love being able to get this money out because, at the end of the day, this is going to help us save more lives.”

The funds must be used to help pay, specifically, for extraordinary costs incurred by these volunteer EMS agencies during this pandemic.




Gov. Justice directs Workforce West Virginia to apply for "Lost Wage Assistance" unemployment insurance funds




On Wednesday, Gov. Justice directed WorkForce West Virginia to apply for the Lost Wages Assistance Payments grant through the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). Upon approval by FEMA, this grant will allow WorkForce West Virginia to provide an additional $400 per week in assistance payment to those receiving Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits due to COVID-related impacts. FEMA disaster relief funds will cover $300 of the new weekly payment and the other $100 will come from West Virginia’s allocation of the federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund. Lost Wage Assistance was established after Congress did not reauthorize the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provided an extra $600 payment to eligible UI claimants.




West Virginia confirms first case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome




The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources confirmed Thursday that a West Virginia child has been diagnosed with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). This is the first reported case in West Virginia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. Many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been exposed to someone with COVID-19.




State Superintendent announces school re-entry hotline




State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch announced Friday that the West Virginia Department of Education has launched a School Re-entry Hotline, specifically dedicated to answering any parent, educator, or citizen’s questions or concerns related to the WVDE’s plan for returning to school.

The School Re-entry Hotline is available at 304-957-1234.




WV DHS releases update on retesting efforts at South Central Regional Jail




The West Virginia Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday that retesting at the South Central Regional Jail shows COVID-19 has been largely contained, with 57 positive and 433 negative results among inmates and six positive and 84 negative results among staff. The positive inmates are in just five of the jail’s 24 housing units, including the two units where cases prompted the second round of enhanced testing at the facility. None of the positive inmates required care, as of Tuesday, in the jail’s medical section or at an outside facility. The positive employees were all self-quarantining at home.




Gov. Justice awards $1.1 million to again ensure the survival of dozens more West Virginia fairs and festivals




For the second time in as many weeks, Gov. Justice held a virtual ceremony Tuesday to award more than a million dollars in grant funds to help ensure the survival of numerous fairs and festivals across West Virginia. Gov. Justice awarded 64 additional grants, worth $1,144,010 from the Governor’s Contingency Fund, to help various organizations that host fairs, festivals, or similar events bridge the gap in a year where such events were forced to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of the round of additional funding announced Tuesday, 52 grants, worth a combined amount of $451,790, were awarded to organizations that normally receive funding for their fairs and festivals through Preservation WV Grants. Ten grants, worth a combined amount of $688,220, were awarded to individual arts line items that were included in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. And two grants, worth a combined amount of $4,000, were awarded to a pair of additional festivals in Bluefield.




Gov. Justice announces additional COVID-19 testing locations




Gov. Justice updated the schedule of upcoming free community COVID-19 testing events taking place over the next several weeks at various dates and times in multiple counties across the state.

Hancock County 
Friday, August 21
1:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Weir High School: 100 Red Rider Road, Weirton, WV 
Saturday, August 22
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Weir High School: 100 Red Rider Road, Weirton, WV 

Boone County
Tuesday, August 25
10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Madison Civic Center: 261 Washington Avenue, Madison, WV

Lincoln County 
Wednesday, August 26
10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Alum Creek Church of Christ: 2368 Childress Road, Alum Creek, WV

Mason County
Friday, August 28 & Saturday, August 29
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM 
Webster County High School: 1 Highlander Drive, Cowen, WV 

Webster County
Saturday, August 29

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM 
Webster County High School: 1 Highlander Drive, Cowen, WV 

Nicholas County
Thursday, September 17

12:00 PM – 8:00 PM 
Nazarene Camp: 6461 Webster Road, Summersville, WV 




Gov. Justice presents $250,000 check to fund upgrades at new One Voice recovery facility




Thursday, Gov. Justice awarded a $250,000 check to fund several upgrades to the building that will house nonprofit organization One Voice’s new community-based recovery facility in Oceana. One Voice Inc. is a charity that supports individuals and families struggling with substance use disorder and other life-controlling issues in communities in Wyoming County and all across West Virginia. The new One Voice facility is part of the pilot project Gov. Justice previously announced for Wyoming County, which partnered West Virginia DHHR’s Office of Drug Control Policy and Marshall University to find innovative ways to combat substance abuse disorder in West Virginia’s most vulnerable communities. Gov. Justice presented the ceremonial check to One Voice Executive Director Debra Davis, who established the nonprofit in 2005.




Gov. Justice orders flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of former West Virginia Delegate 




Gov. Justice issued a proclamation Monday, ordering all United States and West Virginia flags at the Capitol Complex and all state-owned facilities in Wood County be displayed at half-staff, from dawn to dusk, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in commemoration of the distinguished life and service of former West Virginia Delegate Robert T. Goldenberg. A Parkersburg native and graduate of Parkersburg High School, Goldenberg represented Wood County in the West Virginia Legislature as a member of the House of Delegates from 1961-1962. Goldenberg served in the United States Navy as a minesweeper in combat in the Pacific Theatre, including the invasion of Okinawa, obtaining the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. Goldenberg practiced law in West Virginia for 69 years. At the time of his death, he was the oldest practicing lawyer in the state.




WV DHHR warns against fraudulent COVID-19 contact tracing calls




The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources released a video Wednesday warning West Virginians about fraudulent calls concerning COVID-19 contact tracing. Official contact tracers will not ask for money, your social security number, or financial information. If you receive a call and suspect fraud, report it to the WV Attorney General's Office: 1-800-368-8808.




WVNG takes part in bridge dedication ceremony




Wednesday, the West Virginia National Guard took part in a bridge dedication ceremony for a former WVARNG member, MSG Richard “Dick” Smoot. Smoot was a highly decorated green beret who had served in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He was tragically killed in 2015 by a drunk driver. The WVNG continues to honor his legacy through this small token of remembrance in the community.




West Virginians urged to participate in the 2020 Census




Once more, 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.

To date, 84.5 percent of West Virginians have been counted. For perspective, during the last Census in 2010, the state’s final response rate was just 74 percent. West Virginians are able to complete the Census until Sept. 30, 2020.

Be counted in minutes: 2020census.gov.




Also this week:

West Virginia Department of Transportation to hold virtual public meeting on Nitro-St. Albans I-64 Improvement Project

Gov. Justice issues Executive Order concerning Workforce West Virginia employees

WVNG welcomes home additional 150th and 201st deployed service members

WVNG issues statement on the passing of Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Allen Tackett




Contact Information

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


Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

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