West Virginia Week in Review - December 19, 2020


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Gov. Justice provides update on vaccine distribution efforts
During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that the state’s first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived in West Virginia at hub locations in Kanawha and Monongalia counties. Pfizer’s vaccine received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA Friday evening. Once the EUA was secured, vaccines began being shipped to states on Sunday morning. Monday’s vaccine deliveries in West Virginia included the expected total of over 10,000 doses at the two hub locations in Kanawha and Monongalia counties.
On Friday, Gov. Justice announced that a total of 15,885 vaccines had been delivered to various distribution points across West Virginia, including numerous hospitals, long-term care facilities, and local health departments. Gov. Justice said that approximately 5,450 of the individuals who have been vaccinated so far include residents and employees of 42 long-term care facilities.

Gov. Justice announced that, based on current projections, the first round of vaccinations will be completed in all long-term care facilities just over two weeks after the first shipment arrived in West Virginia.

On Friday evening, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Emergency Use Authorization for the Moderna vaccine. The state has placed an initial order for 32,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine; the maximum ordering cap allowed for West Virginia at this time.
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Gov. Justice, pandemic response leaders receive COVID-19 vaccine
Championing the safety and effectiveness of the new COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Justice, members of the state’s pandemic leadership team, and several healthcare workers from across West Virginia were all vaccinated live on-air during another virtual address late Monday afternoon. The Governor announced that the very first COVID-19 vaccines administered in West Virginia were at Thomas Health in South Charleston. Joining the Governor in receiving the vaccine were WVNG Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch, State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad.

Gov. Justice also announced this week that a letter was published that was signed by over 30 West Virginia health leaders from diverse healthcare fields, including medicine, pharmacy, nursing, physical therapy, public health, hospitals, and long-term care.
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Gov. Justice updates COVID-19 vaccine timeline
During Monday morning’s COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Justice announced an additional update to the state’s vaccine allocation plan. 

“With our limited supply at first, our planning and decision-making is based on four key principles: reduce the rate of hospitalizations, reduce the rate of deaths, protect our most vulnerable, and ensure our state can maintain critical services,” Gov. Justice said.

The four subsections of Phase 1 remain unchanged in terms of which personnel qualifies under each category:
  • Phase 1-A: Hospital, long-term care facility and staff, and pharmacies.
  • Phase 1-B: Community infrastructure and emergency response, public health officials, and first responders.
  • Phase 1-C: Other healthcare workers, like home health providers.
  • Phase 1-D: Teachers and education staff in higher education and K-12 and other sectors for critical services for our state, such as utility and transportation workers.
For Phase 1-A and Phase 1-B, everyone in these categories will be offered the vaccines, regardless of age. However, in Phase 1-C and Phase 1-D, there will be an initial emphasis on getting vaccines to those at increased risk for complications or death from COVID-19, specifically individuals age 50 and above.
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Gov. Justice provides details on Phase 2 of allocation plan
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice went into more detail on the state’s plan for Phase 2 distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Phase 2 of vaccine distribution includes the general populace. Current estimates indicate that Phase 2 may begin as early as March 2021.

Phase 2 is broken down into three subsections:
  • Phase 2-A: those who are most vulnerable in the general population. An initial emphasis will be placed on individuals over age 60, beginning with the oldest and working backward. From there priority will then be given to those over age 50 with pre-existing health problems with a note from a physician. 
  • Phase 2-B: those who did not receive a vaccine in Phase 1-C and Phase 1-D, again prioritizing those age 50 and above.
  • Phase 2-C: all West Virginians who want a vaccine will be able to receive one.
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Gov. Justice reviews CARES Act funding allocation
On Friday, Gov. Justice was joined by West Virginia Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy to provide a detailed review and update on the state’s allocation of $1.25 billion in discretionary funds appropriated to the state by Congress through the CARES Act.

Sec. Hardy listed the total amounts expended to-date in several categories, including $30 million for the West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program; $50 million for the Medical Access Roads Program; $32.3 million for broadband development; $253 million in relief for cities and counties, which is expected to reach approximately $265 million once all applications are processed; $10 million in support of Fairmont Hospital; $16.5 million to assist Public Service Districts supporting customers with past due bills; $40 million in testing, sanitation supplies, and more for the West Virginia National Guard; a total of $240 million in State expense reimbursement; over $502.2 million in unemployment benefits expended since March 1; $74 million for COVID-19 testing efforts through the Department of Health and Human Resources; and several smaller expenditures.
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Dr. Deborah Birx visits West Virginia again to discuss COVID-19 response
On Monday, Gov. Justice announced that he hosted Dr. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, for another meeting at the West Virginia Capitol to discuss the state’s pandemic response. During Monday’s visit, Dr. Birx made a presentation where she provided detailed information about the most recent surge in COVID-19 cases across America, compared to previous surges in the spring and summer.
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Gov. Justice announces plan to initiate weekly testing at colleges and universities
On Monday, Gov. Justice announced that, as part of efforts to further reduce the spread of COVID-19, he is planning to initiate weekly testing of all college and university students across West Virginia. The Governor added that by vaccinating all of the state’s long-term care facilities over the next several weeks, it will enable the state to shift testing resources away from those facilities and toward higher education institutions.
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Extracurricular Equity Fund means more relief for West Virginia high schools
On Friday, Gov. Justice announced that he and the West Virginia Department of Education are dedicating a combined total of $4 million to establish a new Extracurricular Equity Fund, which will help support extracurricular programs such as sports, band and choir, and countless other student organizations in every public high school across the state. The amount distributed to each high school will be based on enrollment. The funding will go toward helping make up for the loss in revenue these schools have encountered with the loss of fans attending games.

The $2 million provided by the Governor’s Office will come out of West Virginia’s portion of Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds, provided by the U.S. Department of Education to support educational needs in each state related to COVID-19. The GEER funds, approved by Congress through the CARES Act, are a separate allocation from the $1.25 billion in discretionary funds appropriated to the state.
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West Virginia unemployment rate drops for 7th consecutive month
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the month of November dropped to 6.2 percent, despite the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the state’s workforce. The number of unemployed state residents decreased by 1,600. West Virginia’s unemployment rate has been lower than the national average for five of the past seven months.
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Gov. Justice congratulates and thanks Chief of Staff Mike Hall for his service
Gov. Justice announced Friday that his Chief of Staff, William Michael “Mike” Hall, will retire effective Dec. 31, 2020. Mr. Hall was appointed to the position in August 2017 by Gov. Justice. Prior to his time as Chief of Staff, Hall represented the State’s 4th Senatorial District. Gov. Justice will name his next Chief of Staff at a later date.
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Gov. Justice congratulates and thanks WVDEP Cabinet Secretary Austin Caperton for his service
Gov. Justice announced Tuesday that West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Cabinet Secretary Austin Caperton will transition to a new role outside of state government in January 2021. Sec. Caperton, who recently turned 69, was appointed to the position in January 2017 by Gov. Justice. Sec. Caperton’s departure is effective at midnight on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021; the end of Gov. Justice’s current term of office. The next Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection will be appointed by Gov. Justice at a later date.​
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Gov. Justice announces WVDNR to stock 30,000 additional trout for holidays
Gov. Justice announced Tuesday that, at his request, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will stock 30,000 trout over the next week in streams around the state so anglers and their families can enjoy fishing opportunities during the holiday season. This special stocking includes over 15,000 pounds of trout at 15 streams across the state. WVDNR Director Stephen McDaniel said the special stockings follow a great production year that resulted in an abundance of trout at the state's hatcheries.
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Gov. Justice, Secretary of State hold meeting of West Virginia’s Presidential Electors
On Monday, Gov. Justice and Secretary of State Mac Warner virtually hosted the official meeting of West Virginia’s Presidential Electors to vote for the president and vice president of the United States in the manner prescribed by the Constitution and the laws of the United State. West Virginia has five electoral votes.
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WVDOH announces work beginning on I-64 Donald M. Legg Memorial Bridge project
This holiday season, motorists traveling between Charleston and Huntington can expect to see work on the Roads To Prosperity project on the I-64 Nitro/St. Albans bridge (Donald M. Legg Memorial Bridge). On Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 28-30, crews with the design-build contractor Brayman-Trumbull will be clearing vegetation in preparation for future work, installing erosion and sediment control measures, and creating access points to future work areas. The majority of this work will be behind I-64 guardrails, creating minimal impacts to traffic, but drivers should be aware of people working in the area.
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Driver's license expiration dates extended through March 31, 2021
The West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles announced Thursday that any driver's license, instruction permit, Graduated License (level 1, 2, or 3), or Commercial Driver's License (CDL), as allowed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), with an expiration date of March 1, 2020, or later, will be extended until March 31, 2021. Identification cards are included in the extension as well.
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Gov. Justice awards over $391,000 in grant funding for Sexual Assault Services Program
Gov. Justice announced Thursday that he has awarded $391,892 in Sexual Assault Services Program grant funds to the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information & Services. The purpose of these funds is to identify, provide, and expand direct services to victims of sexual assault in West Virginia and will provide monitoring and technical assistance to the eligible sexual assault programs in the state. These funds are provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office on Violence Against Women and are administered by the Division of Administrative Services, Justice and Community Services.
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Governor and First Lady Justice invite West Virginia students to participate in 2021 “Almost Heaven” Governor’s Art Exhibition
Gov. Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice, along with the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History (WVDACH), are inviting all West Virginia students in grades K-12 to participate in the 2021 “Almost Heaven” Governor’s Art Exhibition. Designed to showcase student creativity and the arts, this year’s exhibition is a call for one-of-a-kind postcard designs that feature your favorite wildlife and/or plant in West Virginia. Selected postcard artwork will later be used by the West Virginia Tourism Office to personally invite travelers to Almost Heaven. The deadline for submissions is Friday, Jan. 15, 2020.
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Gov. Justice congratulates Timberline Mountain on grand opening for 2020/21 winter season
Ski season is officially underway in Canaan Valley with the grand opening of Timberline Mountain, one of West Virginia’s most historic ski resorts. Today’s grand opening is a result of $16 million in new investment by Perfect North Slopes, which purchased the resort in November 2019.
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WVDOH keeps snowplows running while following COVID-19 guidelines
As many West Virginians were caught in the path of Winter Storm Gail this week, the West Virginia Division of Highways snowplow drivers were working around an extra set of difficulties. With community spread of COVID-19 across the state, transportation workers are among the quarantined. At an already tough time of year, their co-workers are rising to the occasion to fill in. Workers, who in many cases are taking on 12-hour shifts, appreciate the public for giving them space as they clear the icy roadways.
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WVDOT remembers victims of Silver Bridge tragedy
Tuesday, the West Virginia Department of Transportation remembered the lives of 46 people who were killed in the December 15, 1967, collapse of the Silver Bridge. The bridge connected Point Pleasant, WV, and Gallipolis, OH, and collapsed during rush hour traffic. The tragedy led to the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968, which established a National Bridge Inspection Program. Bridge safety inspectors use these standards today.
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DMV regional offices will be closed for the Christmas and New Year's holiday weekends
All West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles regional offices will be closed for the Christmas and New Year's holiday weekends. Offices will close from Thursday, Dec. 24 through Saturday, Dec. 26 for the Christmas holiday. Offices will resume normal business hours on Monday, Dec. 28. Offices will also be closed from Thursday, Dec. 31 through Saturday, Jan. 2 for the New Year's holiday. Offices will resume normal business hours on Monday, Jan. 4.
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Deadline for 2021 Youth Congressional Art Competition Submissions is Feb. 1
The West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History announced this week that the deadline to turn in submissions for the 2021 Youth Congressional Art competition is Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. The competition is open to high school students only. Artwork submissions can be mailed, or hand-delivered to the Culture Center. The winner from each congressional district will have their artwork displayed at the United States Capitol for an entire year in the Congressional Art Competition, as well as receive a $100 Blick Art Materials gift card. The three first-place winners also will have their artwork framed by the WVDACH.
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Also this week:

Kanawha City DMV Regional Office is appointment only until further notice

Don’t wreck the holidays: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over


Contact Information

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


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