West Virginia Week in Review - July 11, 2020

7/11/2020

 

 

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Gov. Justice announces statewide indoor face covering requirement

 

 

 

After West Virginia experienced its highest daily total of new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday that he has issued an executive order that will establish a statewide indoor face covering requirement. The order requires all West Virginians age 9 and older to wear a face covering at all indoor public places where six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained. The requirement does not apply to anyone who has trouble breathing or anyone who is otherwise unable to remove their own face covering without assistance.

The Governor clarified that the requirement to wear face coverings does not apply inside residents’ homes or vehicles. Also, the requirement does not apply when consuming food or beverages inside a restaurant. The requirement does not apply anywhere outside. However, state health leaders still strongly suggest that residents wear a face covering when outside in circumstances where proper social distance is difficult to maintain.

For children ages 2 years old through 8 years old, face coverings are not required. However, it is recommended that parents or guardians use their best judgment as to when to assist their children, ages 2 through 8, with wearing a face covering.

CLARIFICATION ON FACE COVERING, CONCEAL CARRY LAWS

Also on Monday, Gov. Justice’s General Counsel Brain Abraham added that, while there is a law in West Virginia that prohibits the use of face coverings in public, there is an exemption to that law for emergency situations such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Abraham went on to explain that the new face covering requirement does not restrict the right of West Virginians to carry concealed weapons.

 

 

 

Gov. Justice moves reopening date for West Virginia schools

 

 

 

With the daily number of new COVID-19 cases continuing to climb in recent days, Gov. Justice announced Wednesday that he and State education leaders are now targeting Sept. 8, 2020, as the tentative date to resume student instruction in school buildings in all 55 counties across West Virginia.

“No one wants us to go back to school more than I do,” Gov. Justice said. “But, at the end of the day, I’m going to do what I think is the best thing and safest thing for our kids. And I am not going to move forward with going back to school until I am absolutely as sure as I can be that our kids, teachers, service personnel, and parents are going to be safe."

The Governor added that officials with the West Virginia Department of Education, including Superintendent Clayton Burch, have conceptualized a condensed student instruction calendar, starting Sept. 8, that would provide 180 days of instruction while still allowing the school year to conclude by the end of May.

 

 

 

West Virginia Department of Education releases school re-entry guidance

 

 

 

The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) released preliminary school re-entry guidance for the 2020-21 school year during the July meeting of the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE). The information, housed on the WVDE’s website and in the West Virginia School Re-entry Toolkit, represents the work of the state’s School Re-entry Advisory Council – a partnership between the Office of Governor Jim Justice; the WVDE; the WVBE; public health officials; local and national agencies and organizations; county superintendents; and educators. The information will assist county school systems as they prepare for re-entry on September 8, 2020. The information offers scenarios and details about face masks, social distancing, and other protocols to assist counties as they create re-entry plans. The Toolkit and accompanying website will serve as a resource for educators, families, communities, and students.

 

 

 

Gov. Justice announces appointment of new State Health Officer

 

 

 

On Friday, Gov. Jim Justice, along with West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Cabinet Secretary Bill J. Crouch, announced the appointment of Ayne Amjad, MD, MPH, as State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, effective immediately. Since 2010, Dr. Amjad, of Beckley, has been a private practice physician specializing in internal medicine and preventive health care serving residents in Beckley, Oak Hill, and Princeton. She also is the assistant program director of Encompass Health in Princeton and the medical director of PCH Home Care in Beckley. Dr. Amjad replaces Dr. Cathy Slemp who resigned on June 24, 2020.

 

 

 

Gov. Justice, WVSSAC director discuss plans for fall sports and activities

 

 

 

With the daily number of new COVID-19 cases continuing to climb, Gov. Justice joined West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) Executive Director Bernie Dolan during his briefing on Friday to discuss current plans for high school and middle school sports, cheerleading, and marching band activities for the fall season. In accordance with the Governor’s announcement Wednesday that the beginning of the school year would be adjusted to Sept. 8, 2020, Dolan announced Friday that the fall sports and activities calendar would also be adjusted. Dolan announced that, under the current plan, golf would be the first sport to resume competition because its participants are adequately able to socially distance from one another during matches. There is also less practice time required to resume competition for golf. As a result, golf is currently scheduled to tee off its season on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. Competitions for volleyball, cheerleading, cross-country, and soccer are currently scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Football games would be able to start as early as Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, under the WVSSAC’s current plan.

Dolan added that competition attendees will have to follow additional safety guidelines, which will vary based on the type of sport and the facility in which it is being played but will likely include social distancing and the wearing of masks, to keep all participants and visitors as safe as possible. Any additional WVSSAC guidelines will be provided online as soon as they become available.

 

 

 

WVDE releases guidance on band, choir, and performing arts

 

 

 

The West Virginia Department of Education released additional guidance on bands, choirs, and other performing acts activities on Friday. Under the new guidelines, marching bands may begin practicing under current West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC) guidelines (outdoors, pods of no more than 10, etc.). Proper social distancing and sanitation protocols are required. Unfortunately, there will be no band camps this year. At this time, neither the WVSSAC nor the West Virginia Department of Education can support bringing such large numbers of students together for full days of large scale activities. Show choirs, general choirs, and ensembles may also hold summer practices outdoors in small groups of less than 10, while utilizing proper social distancing, sanitation protocols, and best health practices. Indoor rehearsals are prohibited because of the threat of spreading aerosolized droplets from singers in small or confined spaces. Further guidance will be provided as the school year approaches.

 

 

 

Gov. Justice announces plans to expand small business grant funding

 

 

 

On Friday, Gov. Justice offered more information about his initiative to provide $150 million of West Virginia’s CARES Act funding to small businesses across the state. Earlier this week, Gov. Justice announced that he had expanded the scope of his initiative, to allow all businesses with 1-35 employees to be able to apply for grants of up to $5,000 each. The original proposal made it so that only businesses with 5-35 employees would be eligible. The Governor announced that guidelines for the grants and instructions on how to apply would be available Friday evening on Grants.wv.gov. Businesses planning to apply must first register as a vendor with the State. Online vendor registration is available. Applying businesses must have existed on Feb. 29, 2020 to be eligible. Applications will be available as early as next Monday, July 13, 2020.

 

 

 

Gov. Justice adjustment to CARES Act distribution

 

 

 

Gov. Justice announced adjustments on Friday to his plan to distribute the $1.25 billion in federal funding that the State received through the CARES Act. The Governor announced that he is now putting $50 million toward broadband projects across the state. These projects will improve access to telemedicine, virtual learning, and more, particularly in rural areas. This funding will be taken from the $100 million originally proposed to go toward the Division of Highways to use on projects to improve access to medical facilities. However, after meeting with DOH leadership, Gov. Justice opted instead to provide $50 million for these projects up-front, with a potential phasing-in of additional funds in the future.

 

 

 

Gov. Justice announces upcoming free community testing

 

 

 

As part of Gov. Jim Justice’s initiative to increase COVID-19 testing opportunities, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) announced locations for testing on July 14, 16, and 17, 2020. Free COVID-19 testing will be held in Barbour, Harrison, and Mercer counties with support from local health departments and state and community partners at the following dates and locations.

 

 

 

Testing is also being provided today, Saturday, July 11, in Marshall, Mercer, Monongalia, Preston, Upshur, and Wayne counties. The effort is part of a plan to provide free optional testing to all residents in several counties that are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission. It targets residents who have struggled to be seen by a physician or do not have insurance to pay for testing. However, other residents, including those who are asymptomatic are welcome to be tested.

Free testing was also offered Friday, July 10, in Marshall, Monongalia, Preston, Upshur, and Wayne counties.

 

 

 

 

 

Gov. Justice urges extra caution in Monongalia County

 

 

 

On Friday, Gov. Justice reported that, as the number of COVID-19 cases across the state have increased in recent weeks, the area that has seen the most significant uptick in new cases has been Monongalia County. With 282 current active cases in Monongalia County alone, Gov. Justice said Friday that he and state health officials are watching the region’s numbers very closely. 

“We have to be looking, now, at the possibility of closing our bars and indoor dining, unless we get a real movement in our favor,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re also going to have to start looking at restricting our gatherings toward a smaller number statewide. It’s the very last thing that we want to do.

“I am pleading with everyone in Mon County and across the state, please, please wear your mask,” Gov. Justice continued. “We’re making great strides. If you go into the store, you see that people are doing a lot better. But we need to be almost flawless. If we don’t, absolutely, we’re going to have more people get sick.”

 

 

 

Cities/counties grant funding: $38 million has now been awarded

 

 

 

Gov. Justice provided an update Friday on cities and counties throughout West Virginia applying for funds through the federal CARES Act, reporting that more than $38 million has now been awarded all across the state. A new web portal is now available for city and county government officials to apply for this grant funding, at grants.wv.gov. Interested parties can also call the helpline: 1-833-94-GRANT. Each of the recipients of CARES Act funding, along with grant amounts, are now available to view through the COVID-19 transparency web portal provided by West Virginia State Auditor’s Office.

 

 

 

Division of Motor Vehicles announces extension to Sept. 30, 2020 for several DMV transactions

 

 

 

The West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles announced Friday that many driver and vehicle transactions have been granted a continued blanket extension to September 30, 2020. This announcement revises the recent memorandum that extended the expiration date on the face of the following documents, beginning March 1, 2020: 

  • Any Driver’s License, including Graduated Driver's License (levels 1, 2, and 3, and includes February expiration dates) and Commercial Driver’s License Instructional Permits, including Commercial Permits.
  • Vehicle registration, including temporary vehicle registrations or plates, and IRP registration.
  • Also, in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), any CDL holder whose medical certification expires March 1, 2020, or after, and was issued for 90 days or longer, will have until September 30, 2020, to provide a new medical certification to avoid the downgrading of the CDL.

Additionally, customers may begin making appointments in the following eight offices for vehicle registration renewals on July 13, 2020, for appointments beginning July 14: Beckley, Charles Town, Clarksburg, Kanawha City, Martinsburg, Moundsville, Parkersburg, and Winfield. Appointments may be made by going to go.wv.gov/dmvappointment or by calling 304-558-3938. All DMV regional offices and the Fairmont Exam Center are now taking appointments. Appointments may be made at all offices for driver's license instruction permits, new driver's license and identification cards, changes to driver's licenses and ID cards, and dealer salesperson testing.

 

 

 

Gov. Justice announces $8.3 million in Community Corrections, Justice Reinvestment Initiative grant awards for 2020

 

 

 

On Friday, Gov. Justice announced that he has awarded $2,921,858 in Justice Reinvestment Initiative grant funds to 16 projects. These funds will be used to support the continued operation of treatment supervision programs throughout the state. These funds are provided by the State of West Virginia and are administered by the Justice and Community Services section of the Division of Administrative Services.

Gov. Justice also announced that he has awarded $5,417,239 in West Virginia Community Corrections Grant Program funds to 30 projects. These funds will be used to assist local communities in the establishment and continued operation of community corrections programs. The West Virginia Community Corrections Grant Program is intended to provide a means for communities to develop, establish, and maintain community-based corrections programs to provide the judicial system with sentencing alternatives for those offenders who may require less than institutional custody. These funds are administered by the Justice and Community Services section of the West Virginia Division of Administrative Services.

 

 

West Virginia State Tax Department reopens offices for in-person appointments

 

 

 

The West Virginia State Tax Department has reopened all of its Taxpayer Services locations for in-person customer service by appointment only. Locations reopening for customer service include regional offices in Beckley, Clarksburg, Charleston, Martinsburg, Parkersburg, and Wheeling. Taxpayers may schedule an appointment on the Tax Department's online appointment portal or by calling Taxpayer Services at 304-558-2799. Appointments are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. If a taxpayer cannot keep their appointment, they should cancel it as soon as possible.

Taxpayers are encouraged to contact the Tax Department by phone or email to address their questions before making an appointment for an in-person visit. Taxpayers can ask questions by phone by calling the Taxpayer Services Division at 304-558-3333 or toll-free at 1-800-982-8297. Questions can also be sent by email to the following email address: TaxHelp@WV.Gov.

 

 

 

Gov. Justice announces zero active cases among West Virginia inmates

 

 

 

On Monday, Gov. Justice provided another update on his initiative to test all inmates and employees within the State’s network of correctional facilities for COVID-19. The most recent testing results showed zero active COVID-19 cases among all inmates and residents across West Virginia. There remains one active COVID-19 case among corrections employees and contract staff. More than 10,000 inmates and 4,000 employees were tested in total as part of the Governor's initiative.

 

 

 

WV aviation units deploy, return from the Middle East

 

 

 

More than 60 service members, including pilots, maintainers, flight medics, and support staff recently left the state in preparation to deploy to the Middle East. Also recently, the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston welcomed home more than 70 airmen and women who had served more than four months overseas.

“These National Guard men and women, we should always keep them in our prayers,” Gov. Justice said. “We should celebrate the ones who have returned home and we should continue to pray for the safety of those just now being deployed. We should be so appreciative and thankful that they have given us everything we have.”

 

 

 

State Board of Education unanimously votes Miller Hall as Board President

 

 

 

Members of the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) unanimously voted Miller Hall to serve as President during its meeting on Wednesday. Hall was appointed to the Board in 2017 by Governor Jim Justice and has served as Vice President since 2018. He was born and raised in Beckley and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1971. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Fairmont State College (University); and two master’s degrees from the West Virginia Graduate College (Marshall University).

The WVBE also unanimously voted Thomas W. Campbell to serve as Vice President. Campbell is a certified public accountant and was appointed to the Board in 2012 by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.

 

 

 

 

 

Tax Department reminds West Virginians income tax filing deadline is next Wednesday: July 15

 

 

 

The West Virginia State Tax Department reminds taxpayers that income tax returns, originally due April 15, 2020, are now due next Wednesday, July 15, 2020. On March 26, 2020, Gov. Jim Justice extended the April 15 filing deadline by three months in response to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor’s decision conforms with federal income tax relief provisions issued March 20 by the Internal Revenue Service in response to the coronavirus. This three-month extension applies to income taxes and returns for individuals, corporations, fiduciaries, and pass-through entities, including declarations of estimated tax that would have been due April 15, 2020. If the taxes due April 15, 2020, are paid by July 15, 2020, no interest or additions to tax will apply. The deadline extension to July 15, 2020, also applied to any estimated payments for income taxes that would have been due between April 15, 2020, and June 30, 2020. If paid by July 15, no interest or additions will apply.

 

 

 

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.

Be counted in minutes: 2020census.gov.

 

 

 

Also this week:

WVNG: NOVA Recognizes Exceptional Military Advocate from WVARNG

WVDE: Superintendent Burch talks about reopening schools in the fall

WV Division of Forestry promotes fun activities for kids

WVSP: West Virginia State Police Enters 2020 Best Looking Cruiser’ Contest

 

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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

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