West Virginia Week in Review - May 16, 2020: COVID-19 Update












COVID-19 Response Weekly Update
May 9 – May 15





Week 3 of the Gov. Justice reopening plan – West Virginia Strong – The Comeback – is now underway and announcements regarding Week 4 reopenings have been made. The Governor's new Safer At Home order is also in effect. Click on the links to read more:

Additional information about COVID-19 and what West Virginia is doing to combat the virus can be found on Coronavirus.wv.gov.

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



Friday, May 15: Gov. Justice adds more recreational activities to list of upcoming reopenings




On Friday, Gov. Justice announced that low-contact sports training facilities, such as those for gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, martial arts, and similar recreational activities, will be among those allowed to resume operations on Monday, May 18, provided that these entities follow additional guidelines put in place to keep their patrons and all West Virginians as safe as possible.

Gov. Justice has also issued an executive order, formalizing all of the May 18 reopenings.

Businesses included in each phase of the Governor's reopening plan, West Virginia Strong – The Comeback, are not required to resume operations on any specific date. The plan provides the option for reopening for specific businesses, but only if they are able to do so safely.




Also on Friday, outdoor guided fishing and rock climbing businesses were allowed to reopen, once again provided that these entities follow all necessary safety guidelines.




Also this week, Gov. Justice got the ball rolling on a plan to increase COVID-19 testing opportunities for minorities and other vulnerable populations across West Virginia.

The plan, which was developed with input from the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, and the West Virginia National Guard, is providing free optional testing to all residents in several counties that are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission.

Testing efforts began on Friday and continued through Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., at each of the following locations:

    • Martinsburg High School (701 S Queen St., Martinsburg, WV)
    • Asbury United Methodist Church (110 W North St., Charles Town, WV)
    • Bluefield State College: Harris-Jefferson Student Center Lower Parking Lot (219 Rock St., Bluefield, WV)
    • Commission on Aging (1614 S Kanawha St., Beckley, WV)

Cabell, Fayette, Kanawha, Marion, Mineral, and Monongalia counties have also been identified as areas with vulnerable populations. Testing efforts will take place in these areas in the near future.




Additionally, Gov. Justice announced the unexpected passing of West Virginia Air National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Chris Nasser, offering his condolences for the loss.

“I ask that you’ll join Cathy and I in keeping this National Guardsman in your thoughts and prayers,” Gov. Justice said. “There’s just been a lot of tough news right now. But we’ve got to find a way, as tough, strong, and faithful West Virginians to be able to withstand these tough times.”

Lt. Col. Nasser served as Mission Support Group commander at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg.




Gov. Justice issued a proclamation, in accordance with President Trump’s proclamation, ordering that all United States and West Virginia State Flags at the Capitol Complex and all state-owned facilities across West Virginia be displayed at half-staff, from dawn to dusk on Friday, in honor of Peace Officers Memorial Day.

“Our police officers give so much and, for some crazy reason, we have gotten in a situation where a lot of people are disrespectful to the first people we call when we have a problem,” Gov. Justice said. “I would encourage all of us to think about how important they are to us.

“Please, in remembrance of those that we've lost and in respect of all of those who are giving us so much all the time, please remember to be thankful.”




Also Friday, Gov. Justice announced that he has signed a proclamation, officially declaring this upcoming Sunday, May 17, 2020, as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma Awareness Day in West Virginia.

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG, is a rare brain tumor that affects between 150 and 300 children in the United States each year. At this time there is no known cure. DIPG is the leading cause in childhood death due to brain tumors, with a median survival rate of eight to 11 months.

“This is so rare that it’s so important to make people aware all across this state in any way we can,” Gov. Justice said. “And just we hope and pray, someday soon, we’ll have a cure.”




On Friday, Gov. Justice provided the latest overview of statewide data on COVID-19, highlighting that West Virginia’s cumulative percentage of positive test results has dropped, once again, to 2.03 percent.

West Virginia continues to excel in several metrics compared to its surrounding states and the national average. View the latest COVID-19 data at Coronavirus.wv.gov.




Gov. Justice reported Friday that more than $551 million in unemployment benefits have been paid out from Workforce West Virginia since mid-March.

“Can you just image the work that’s gone in to send out half-a-billion dollars in a month-and-a-half,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s amazing. I know we’ve still got people that are waiting and, to me, until every rock has been turned, we’re not done. But kudos to Workforce West Virginia, the National Guard, and all their teams. You’ve done a lot of good work.”




Gov. Justice is again reminding 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.




Thursday, May 14: Gov. Justice schedules reopenings for gyms, rec activities; announces plan to test vulnerable and minority populations




On Thursday, Gov. Justice announced that fitness centers, gymnasiums, and recreation centers have been added to the list of entities that will be allowed to resume operations, with limitations, in the next phase of the Governor’s reopening plan.

These facilities will be permitted to reopen on Monday, May 18, provided that all additional guidelines are being followed. Gov. Justice has also issued an executive order, formalizing all of the May 18 reopenings.




Gov. Justice also announced that whitewater rafting and ziplining businesses will be allowed to reopen, with limitations, on Thursday, May 21.

These businesses will also be required to follow additional guidelines, including limiting group sizes, the cleansing of equipment, and more, to help keep their patrons and all West Virginians as safe as possible:




State Health Officer and Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Cathy Slemp unveiled a new methodology that will be used by the DHHR moving forward to more quickly identify areas in West Virginia that may be experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

“To prevent disease transmission, to reduce illness, and to save lives, Governor Justice has directed DHHR’s Bureau of Public Health to implement and to develop a county alert system,” Dr. Slemp said. “This approach will provide a consistent way to allow West Virginians to return to work, while ensuring that we’re monitoring change and, when necessary, taking aggressive steps to prevent resurgence.

Any potential future rise in cases will trigger rapid assessment and guide action based on a seven-day rolling sum of new, non-outbreak associated cases based on population size. DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health will examine additional data and undertake a rapid joint assessment with the county. 

Following the rapid assessment and examination of data that suggest an increase in community transmission, the county may be designated by Gov. Justice with the status of “High Alert.” Depending on the individual county circumstances, action plans will include providing or assigning needed resource supports and/or strongly reinforcing or potentially increasing community mitigation measures. 

Once on the heightened alert list, a county will stay on it for a minimum of 14 days and until a consistent decrease in community spread of COVID-19 is seen. Removal from the alert list will be based on data and in collaboration with the local health department. 




On Thursday, Gov. Justice issued a proclamation ordering that all United States and West Virginia State Flags at the Capitol Complex and all state-owned facilities throughout Raleigh County be displayed at half-staff, from dawn to dusk on Saturday, May 16, in commemoration of the distinguished life and service of West Virginia Forestry Director Barry Cook.

On Monday, Gov. Justice announced that Cook had tragically passed away following a recent accident at his home.




Gov. Justice also announced that Exxon donated 2,400 gallons of medical-grade hand sanitizer to assist West Virginia in its statewide COVID-19 response efforts.

The sanitizer was delivered in 480 five-gallon buckets to the West Virginia National Guard facility in Poca.

The donated hand sanitizer will be used by various emergency personnel in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.




Wednesday, May 13: Gov. Justice adds tanning businesses to list of Week 4 reopenings




On Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that tanning businesses have been added to the list of entities that will be allowed to resume operations, with limitations, in the next phase of the Governor’s reopening plan.

These facilities will be permitted to reopen on Thursday, May 21, provided that all additional guidelines are being followed.




On Wednesday, the West Virginia Air National Guard honored front line COVID-19 health care and first responders with a flyover of hospitals in the region as part of the Department of the Air Force’s Operation American Resolve.

WVANG airmen and women flew a C-17 out of the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg and a C-130 out of the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, flying over nearly 40 hospitals across the state.

The flyovers were a part of a nationwide salute to those supporting COVID-19 response efforts and served as vital training for both 167th AW and 130th AW pilots and aeromedical evacuation crews. These flights were conducted at no additional cost to taxpayers.




On Wednesday, the Governor announced that he has signed a proclamation, officially declaring this week as National Skilled Nursing Care Week in West Virginia, in honor of the more than 15,000 West Virginians who work in nursing homes across the state.

“These people are on the front lines, fighting this terrible epidemic,” Gov. Justice said. “This week is a time that you should recognize all of our nursing home residents as well and honor them and our nursing home workers for all that they’ve done.”




Also Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that he has signed a proclamation, officially declaring the month of May as Foster Care Month in West Virginia, in honor of the more than 7,000 foster children across the state as well as the adults who have gone the extra mile to help provide quality lives for these children.

“Our foster kids, for the most part, had already been dealt a really tough hand,” Gov. Justice said. “It is imperative that we are able to continue recruiting people to keep stepping up and taking care of these kids. This pandemic has highlighted that it is tremendously difficult on these families and these kids with them having to stay home, there were lots of safe havens, like schools, that closed. The hardships that these kids and these families are going through right this minute is magnified, in multiples, to what we’re all going through.

“There are many, many out there that are hurting,” Gov. Justice continued. “They’re not invisible. We see them. I want you to see them and just note how precious they are to all of us.”




During his remarks Wednesday, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch offered a reminder to parents that, if any of their children have recently become uninsured, health care coverage is available through West Virginia Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

More information is available at chip.wv.gov.




Tuesday, May 12: Gov. Justice visits new regional food distribution center; provides additional updates on response efforts




On Tuesday, Gov. Justice visited a State warehouse facility in Rock Branch near Poca that is currently being established as a regional food distribution center as part of West Virginia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The facility allows multiple organizations to work together in a whole-of-government approach to assist West Virginians. The West Virginia National Guard has helped spearhead the new food distribution program out of the warehouse, which is managed by the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The WVNG and DHSEM recently joined forces with several nonprofit organizations, including West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WV VOAD), Mountaineer Food Bank, and Facing Hunger Food Bank to start the effort, which has already provided meals to hundreds of families across West Virginia.

The distribution center provides a full range of food supplies to local agencies, including dry goods as well as refrigerated and frozen foods.

Once fully operational, the Rock Branch center will support about eight new jobs and add 1 million pounds of food stocks to the Greater Kanawha Valley each year.




Gov. Justice also announced in his briefing Tuesday that progress is being made toward setting guidelines and scheduling a date for the reopening of indoor shopping malls in West Virginia. However, the Governor says that these businesses must work with the medical community to establish a system that’s as safe as possible.

“We’re working diligently with our indoor malls to see if we can get some really good guidance from them as to how they’re going to protect the people as they enter the malls and they go into a smaller type of an area,” Gov. Justice said. “As soon as we can get our health experts on board, I’d like us to bring back our indoor malls as soon as we can.

“We have got to go back to work. We know that,” Gov. Justice continued. “But, at the same time, what I’m trying to do is balance this so, when we go back, we’re protecting you in every way we possibly can.”




Also Tuesday, Gov. Justice cautioned West Virginians that although he recently announced a target date of June 8 for the resumption of low-contact, outdoor youth sports in the state, that the timeline is subject to change, depending on how West Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers trend in the weeks ahead.

The Governor highlighted new reports of nearly 100 children in New York City who have experienced multi-system inflammatory symptoms that health experts say are likely linked to COVID-19, with several losing their lives.

“We’re monitoring that and our health experts are on top of that, watching it like crazy,” Gov. Justice said. “We have plenty of time between now and June 8th. I’m trying to give everybody a heads up that if things keep trending the right way, on June 8th I’d love to be sitting at a Little League baseball game and watching those little rascals out there playing.

“But if, in fact, we get more and more information that this thing is taking a twist and a turn that could affect our children, the last of the last people that we’re going to expose in any way are our children.”




Monday, May 11: Gov. Justice announces schedule for additional reopenings including indoor dining, retail stores, outdoor activities




On Monday, Gov. Justice announced the next wave of businesses and activities permitted to reopen as part of the upcoming Week 4 phase of the Governor’s reopening plan.

The following entities are permitted to reopen, with limitations, in Week 4:

  • Indoor dining at restaurants at 50% capacity (Guidance)
  • Large/specialty retail stores (Guidance)
  • State park campgrounds for in-state residents only (Guidance for all campgrounds)
  • Outdoor recreation rentals (kayaks, bicycles, boats, rafts, canoes, ATVs and similar equipment) (Guidance)
  • Outdoor motorsport and powersport racing with no spectators
  • Hatfield McCoy Trail System (Guidance)

The executive order requiring out-of-state travelers to self-quarantine is also currently scheduled to be lifted during Week 4. In accordance with this scheduled change, new guidance documents are available for hotels, motels, condo hotels, rental properties, and cabins.

In addition to the reopening of campgrounds at West Virginia state parks to in-state residents, some public restrooms will also be reopened with proper sanitization protocols in place.

Several additional types of businesses and entities will be permitted to reopen in the weeks ahead. The opening schedule will be based upon the recommendations of state medical experts and upon testing data available at that time.




Gov. Justice announced Monday that state park cabins and lodges will be permitted to reopen to in-state residents on Tuesday, May 26.

The Governor also announced that certain outdoor youth sports activities will be permitted to resume on Monday June 8. This applies only to low-contact sports like baseball and softball. It does not include high-contact sports like football and basketball. Additional guidance for these reopenings will be provided online when available.




During Monday's briefing, Gov. Justice offered a reminder that the Week 3 phase of his reopening plan was officially underway.

This phase allows for the reopening of wellness facilities (gyms and fitness centers supervised by licensed professionals) and drive-in movie theaters.

These wellness facilities and drive-in movie theaters must follow all additional guidelines that have been put in place to help keep West Virginians safe.




Gov. Justice took time to thank all of the correctional officers across West Virginia, in honor of the beginning National Correctional Officers Week.

“Think about the great work these people are doing in every aspect that they could possibly be doing,” Gov. Justice said. “I absolutely, sincerely, want to thank all of our correctional officers for all the great work they do every day.”






HIGHWAYS: DOH announces dozens of projects for May 19 bid letting

HUNTING: What you need to know about online hunter education classes

ARTS: Spring 2020 issue of GOLDENSEAL Magazine now available




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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