West Virginia Week in Review - May 2, 2020: COVID-19 Update

5/2/2020

 

 

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COVID-19 Response Weekly Update
April 25 - May 1

 

 

 

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, May 1: Gov. Justice provides more details on The Comeback plan ahead of next round of reopenings

 

 

 

“THE COMEBACK” UPDATE: WEEK 2 REOPENINGS SCHEDULED TO BEGIN MONDAY
Gov. Justice issued a reminder Friday that “Week 2” of the Governor’s multi-phased plan to reopen businesses across the state – “West Virginia Strong – The Comeback” – are scheduled to begin this coming Monday, May 4.

This phase includes the reopening of small businesses with 10 or fewer employees, restaurants with takeaway service or outdoor dining options, as well as religious entities and funeral homes.

Professional service operations such as hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, and pet grooming are also among the businesses permitted to reopen in Week 2. Additional safety guidelines for these specific types of businesses from the West Virginia State Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists are now available on the Governor’s “The Comeback” webpage.

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES FOR HOTSPOT COUNTIES TO BE RELEASED
Gov. Justice also announced that additional safety guidelines will be released soon for the state’s 11 remaining COVID-19 “hotspot” counties – which are areas subject to stricter measures to slow the spread of the disease as deemed necessary by local health officials.

These remaining hotspots are Berkeley, Cabell, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marion, Monongalia, Ohio, Wayne, and Wood counties.

“We’ve been in touch with all 11 and we’re continuing to get feedback from our experts, from the counties, and from the people that are on the ground with our health departments,” Gov. Justice said. “We want everybody to come back online and we want to do as much as we possibly can, as we do the baby steps instead of the running, but we are very aware of the hotspot counties, their bordering outside-the-state neighbors, and different issues they might have, so we’re going to try to treat that appropriately.”

 

 

 

MEDICINE FROM NATIONAL STOCKPILE DELIVERED TO WEST VIRGINIA HOSPITALS
Also, Gov. Justice congratulated the West Virginia State Police and DHHR for their efforts Friday to provide medications from the United States Strategic National Stockpile to hospitals across the state.

“Twenty state troopers, working together with the DHHR, have orchestrated the delivery of life-sustaining medications to every hospital across our state in one day,” Gov. Justice said. “These medications, that have shortages nationwide, have been delivered quickly by our troopers to make sure they get to the people of West Virginia.”

 

 

 

APRIL REVENUE UPDATE
Gov. Justice announced Friday that general revenue collections for April were $192.3 million below estimate, with the sharp decline associated with the economic response to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

“We expected this. We’ve been watching this all along,” Gov. Justice said. “Our revenue people – I meet with them all the time – have been on top of this. We’re almost exactly on track with where they believed we’d be.

“I really believe, wholeheartedly, we’re going to address the number through the federal government allowing us to backfill revenue. We do not have that assurance yet. But we’re working it. 

“Remember, I’m the business guy. This is right in my wheelhouse. We’re a state that was tracking along, making money, doing great, and having surpluses and everything else and now this terrible pandemic is right in our lap. And all we’re asking to do is to be able to backfill the cause and effect of this pandemic. That’s it. And I think our federal government is going to come through.”

 

 

 

GOVERNOR THANKS RURAL LETTER CARRIERS, HEALTH WORKERS FOR THEIR SERVICE DURING PANDEMIC
Additionally, Gov. Justice thanked the over 1,000 West Virginia Rural Letter Carriers who work every day of the week in all corners of the state delivering mail – including food, medicine, recovery checks, as well as other essential items to over 300,000 postal customers in West Virginia.

“I want everyone to think about our mail carriers – the people delivering your packages,” Gov. Justice said. “Think about when the stores were closed and we needed stuff. Those people were bringing that stuff right to your homes. Those people are doing valiant work and absolutely we commend them and thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”

The Governor also thanked all the workers at local health departments across the state who have continued to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“Think about your county health department. Think about the hours that they’re going around the clock with testing, they’re visiting the nursing homes,” Gov. Justice said. “They’re doing everything. They are our boots on the ground. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

 

 

 

UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS UPDATE
Gov. Justice also reported that WorkForce West Virginia, along with the help of the West Virginia National Guard, has processed 148,000 of 164,000 unemployment claims that have been filed since March 1.

 

 

 

CORONAVIRUS CZAR URGES WEST VIRGINIANS TO WEAR FACE COVERINGS WHEN OUTSIDE
In his address Friday, West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh urged all West Virginians to wear a mask or face covering of some kind as much as possible when outside to protect against the spread of COVID-19 as the state begins to reopen.

“As we go back out again and as we go to the stores or the other activities we like to do, remember: protecting yourself protects your neighbor, which protects our healthcare workers and our healthcare capacity, and also protects our state,” Dr. Marsh said.

 

 

 

DHHR PROVIDES UPDATE ON NURSING HOME TESTING
Additionally Friday, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch reported that nearly all testing has been completed at nursing home facilities across West Virginia.

Sec. Crouch said that despite initial hopes to unveil the results of that testing on Friday, additional results will need to come in over the weekend to give a more complete picture.

“We’ll wait to do the summary next week when we have complete information, we expect to have all of those reports in by Monday, so we anticipate doing the summary on Monday,” Sec. Crouch said.

 

 

 

DHHR RECOGNIZES BEGINNING OF MENTAL HEALTH MONTH
Sec. Crouch also pointed out that May is Mental Health Month and urged West Virginians to take as much care of their mental health as possible in these challenging times.

“This pandemic is stressful and difficult for almost everyone,” Sec. Crouch said. “We all have a hard time dealing with not seeing our families and not seeing our friends.

“One in five people experience mental health illness at some point in their life and everyone is facing challenges in these trying times. We encourage you to take care of your mental health as you would your physical health.”

If you need mental health support, please consider calling or texting HELP4WV (844-435-7498). Additional mental health resources are also available on the behavioral health page on Coronavirus.wv.gov.

 

 

 

Thursday, April 30: Gov. Justice announces “Safer At Home” order to replace “Stay At Home” order

 

 

 

“SAFER AT HOME” ORDER
In light of West Virginia's success at keeping the cumulative rate of positive COVID-19 tests under 3 percent and in concert with the Governor’s recently-announced plan to reopen the economy – Gov. Justice announced Thursday that he will soon lift the “Stay At Home” order imposed statewide last month, replacing it with a “Safer At Home” order.

The new order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, May 4.

Click here to read the full order

“‘Safer At Home’ still strongly encourages all West Virginians to stay at home when not performing essential tasks, but no longer mandates them to stay at home,” Gov. Justice said. “Our people have been knocking it out of the park, but we need to keep it that way. You should still stay home if you have any symptoms or have come in contact with someone who has the virus.”

The Governor’s “Safer At Home” order provides additional new guidelines for individuals, businesses, public gatherings, and more.

The new order will be modified each week throughout the duration of “The Comeback” reopening plan.

 

 

 

“THE COMEBACK” UPDATE
Gov. Justice also issued a reminder that Thursday marked the beginning of “Week 1” in his multi-phased plan to reopen businesses across West Virginia. In this phase, hospitals offering elective procedures, outpatient health care operations, and daycares are permitted to resume services, provided that they follow all necessary safety guidelines issued by the State.

The Governor also announced that the Department of Health and Human Resources had issued guidance on the testing of staff at daycare centers statewide.

 

 

 

HORSE RACING SCHEDULED TO RESUME WITHOUT SPECTATORS
Also Thursday, the Governor announced that horse racing will be able to resume, without spectators, on Thursday, May 14.

“It takes a couple weeks of active training and conditioning before it’s safe for the horses,” Gov. Justice said. “They will be starting back very, very soon in preparation for us to have spectatorless horse racing.”

 

 

 

WEST VIRGINIANS URGED TO PARTICIPATE IN FOOD DRIVE
Additionally the Governor announced that the United Ways of West Virginia are holding a Country Roads Food Drive on Tuesday, May 5, to feed families in West Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I encourage you, if you would, to try to help, to try to call in to these people, and to try to do anything and everything you possibly can,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s great stuff when you see, over and over, West Virginians stepping up and doing all the good stuff that they do everyday.

“We’re trying, every way in the world, to feed our kids and our elderly and those that are maybe having a really tough time right now. West Virginians know that we absolutely, surely to goodness, have to take care of people that are really having a rough go.”

 

 

 

WEST VIRGINIANS REMINDED TO PARTICIPATE IN CENSUS
Gov. Justice once again encouraged all West Virginians to take the opportunity to complete the 2020 United States Census.

“Please, please, please call your neighbors, your in-laws, your outlaws, and everyone around you and absolutely make sure we get counted,” Gov. Justice said.

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 health care, education, infrastructure, school lunch programs, and more.

 

 

 

DHHR TO ISSUE ONE-TIME PAYMENT FOR EMERGENCY LOW INCOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE
Also on Thursday, the DHHR’s Bureau for Children and Families announced that it is issuing a one-time Emergency Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) supplemental payment of $100 to both LIEAP participants and heating source vendors to offset bulk fuel expenses from the current program year.

This one-time payment will take the place of Emergency LIEAP and should be received by the end of May. The payment will be automatic; an application or a termination notice will be not required.

 

 

 

WEST VIRGINIA TO OFFER FREE SAT SCHOOL DAY TO SENIORS THIS FALL
Officials with the West Virginia Department of Education announced Thursday that they have worked closely with College Board to establish an SAT School Day administration this fall for West Virginia students who will be seniors during the 2020-21 school year. This administration of the exam will provide seniors who would have taken the state-provided SAT School Day in spring 2020 as juniors with an opportunity to obtain SAT scores in time to be submitted for college admissions and to qualify for the state’s PROMISE Scholarship.
 
The primary test date for the fall state-provided SAT School Day will be September 23, but counties may choose a test date of October 14. Both school-day test dates are followed by a 10-day window to administer tests to students who require accommodations. A makeup date is set for October 28. In addition to the state school-day test dates, the WVDE has provided counties with other options, including establishing a test site and using vouchers for seniors to test on a Saturday national test date in the fall.

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 29: Gov. Justice announces that “The Comeback” is now underway

 

 

 

WEEK 1 PHASE OF REOPENINGS SET TO BEGIN
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that, for the third consecutive day, the statewide cumulative rate of positive test results remained below 3 percent, meaning that the Governor’s six-week plan to reopen the state – “West Virginia Strong – The Comeback” – officially got underway.

“We have witnessed a miracle and the miracle has been you, West Virginians. You’ve listened, you’ve responded, you’ve kept your distance, you’ve absolutely pushed all the right buttons as we’ve gone along, and you’ve produced numbers that are unprecedented,” Gov. Justice said. “Now we’ve got to bring our state back to life.”

This week, outpatient health care operations were permitted to resume for facilities regulated by Licensing Boards contained in WV Code Chapter 30, including:

  • Acupuncture Professionals
  • Chiropractors
  • Counselors
  • Dentists
  • Dietitians
  • Hearing-Aid Dealers and Fitters
  • Licensed Practical Nurses
  • Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Professionals
  • Doctors of Medicine and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Optometrists 
  • Pharmacists
  • Physical Therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Registered Professional Nurses
  • Respiratory Professionals
  • Social Workers
  • Speech-Language Pathologists


Also in Week 1, daycare services across the state were able to resume, with enhanced testing procedures put in place.

These reopenings came in addition to the resumption of elective medical procedures at hospitals across West Virginia, as ordered by Gov. Justice last week. During his remarks, Gov. Justice announced that the DHHR had approved applications for 39 hospitals and five ambulatory surgical centers across the state.

Hospitals seeking to resume elective procedures must 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. Each hospital has the discretion to determine the best time to apply to restart elective medical procedures at their facility.

 

 

 

CORONAVIRUS CZAR UPDATE: MARYLAND FOLLOWS WEST VIRGINIA’S LEAD IN TESTING ALL NURSING HOMES
West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh also made remarks, reporting that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered universal COVID-19 testing at all nursing homes across the state.

Last week, Gov. Justice issued an executive order that made West Virginia the first state in the country to mandate testing of all nursing home residents and staff members statewide.

“I think this, once again, demonstrates the leadership that our state and our Governor have illustrated,” Dr. Marsh said. “And I think that many states will be following in tow. But West Virginia was first and I think that’s been a very important decision since that is our most vulnerable population.”

 

 

 

VETERANS HOME TESTING UPDATE
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that testing for COVID-19 has been completed for all residents and staff members at the Veterans Nursing Facility in Clarksburg.

Gov. Justice reported that, of the 306 individuals who were tested, all 306 tests came back negative.

 

 

 

GOV. JUSTICE REMINDS STUDENTS TO COMPLETE FEDERAL AID APPLICATION
Gov. Justice also offered a reminder to college bound West Virginia students or even those considering a path in higher education that the deadline to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is Friday, May 15, 2020.

“An awful lot of you are not doing that right now and a lot of you are probably preoccupied by this terrible virus and have a lot of different things on your mind,” Gov. Justice said. “But, whether you go or whether you don’t, I urge you to sign up now so you don’t miss this window.”

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 28: Gov. Justice provides additional guidelines for reopening certain small businesses, restaurants, and religious entities

 

 

 

GUIDELINES FOR REOPENING CERTAIN BUSINESSES NOW AVAILABLE
On Tuesday, Gov. Justice provided additional guidelines for certain businesses that may be permitted to reopen as early as the "Week 2" phase his plan to reopen the state.

The guidelines provided Tuesday were for small businesses with 10 or fewer employees, restaurants with takeaway service or outdoor dining options, as well as religious entities and funeral homes – all of which are among the types of businesses permitted to resume operations in Week 2, currently scheduled to begin Monday, May 4.

Professional service businesses such as hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, and pet grooming are also permitted to reopen in the Week 2 phase of the plan. Additional guidelines for the reopening of these types of businesses were provided this Friday by the West Virginia State Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists

 

 

 

DHHR AND WVU PARTNER TO OFFER ONLINE COURSE FOR CONTACT TRACING
Additionally, Gov. Justice announced that the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the West Virginia University School of Public Health are teaming up to offer an online course, training public health investigators how to perform contact tracing for COVID-19.

Contact tracing is a method used to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Health investigators work with COVID-positive patients to try to help them remember everyone they were in contact with while they may have been infectious. People who might have been exposed can then be warned.

The DHHR and WVU are recruiting members of the West Virginia National Guard and anyone assisting DHHR or local health departments in their response to COVID-19 to take part in the course, which begins this week. Senior undergraduate and graduate level students in public health, health professional programs, and related fields may also participate.

“I am proud to see this partnership and commend WVU for getting this done,” Gov. Justice said. “This is more great work being done by West Virginians and it’s more great work by West Virginia University.”

 

 

 

DHSEM SECURES ACCESS TO PPE DECONTAMINATION SYSTEM
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Justice announced that the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has secured access to one of only 25 high-capacity decontamination systems for personal protective equipment (PPE) in the U.S., by working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State of Virginia.

In early April, FEMA announced that the Battelle Memorial Institute would offer 25 Critical Care Decontamination Systems (CCDS) nationally to decontaminate personal protective equipment for health care and other frontline COVID-19 responders. A CCDS can decontaminate up to 80,000 N95 masks per day when operating at full capacity.

“This is one of 25 units in the entire country and very, very soon it’s going to come and be here,” Gov. Justice said. “I commend our Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and all of our Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety for all that they’ve done to make this a reality.”

 

 

 

EXECUTIVE ORDER ISSUED SUSPENDING REGULATIONS FOR DENTISTS, WVDE SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGISTS
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Justice signed an executive order suspending several regulatory statute provisions to provide more flexibility to dentists and speech-language pathologists across West Virginia as the State of Emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

 

 

 

Monday, April 27: Gov. Justice unveils plan to reopen state: “West Virginia Strong – The Comeback”

 

 

 

WEST VIRGINIA STRONG – THE COMEBACK
On Monday, Gov. Justice unveiled his comprehensive plan to reopen various aspects of the state and its economy, putting West Virginia on the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan is called “West Virginia Strong – The Comeback” and allows businesses in certain sectors to reopen in phases over the next six weeks if the rate of positive COVID-19 cases in the state remains low.

“We’ve come up with a methodology that we think will move us forward, with science and math behind it, and experts behind it, and leadership behind it, we’re absolutely moving in the right way,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re going to monitor and watch every day and we’re going to take small steps and we will see where we are.

“If we’ve got to stop, or slow, or back up, then that’s what we’re going to do. You’ve done good work so far, West Virginia, and now we’re going to have to move forward. We cannot sit still forever because too many bad things will happen.”

 

 

 

GOV. JUSTICE ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER RESUMING HEALTH CARE OPERATIONS
Also on Monday, Gov. Justice signed an executive order allowing health care providers to resume all operations and procedures including elective procedures under the guidelines established in the Governor’s reopening plan. Hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers are still required to follow the Governor’s previous Executive Order to ensure that those larger facilities maintain sufficient response capacity in the event of a surge. 

The order also requires all West Virginia Health Care Boards to develop, publish, and disseminate guidance outlining the best practices to their respective memberships and professional communities for the safe resumption or expansion of services, in order to protect the medical and health care providers, as well as members of the public against the spread of COVID-19.

 

 

 

11,100 APPLICATIONS RECEIVED FOR PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE RECEIVED
Gov. Justice also announced Monday that more than 11,000 self-employed workers had applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits through WorkForce West Virginia just over the weekend.

The PUA program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment compensation to certain self-employed workers, independent contractors and gig-economy employees who normally don't qualify for regular state unemployment benefits. Individuals will be notified when their applications are approved and when direct deposit and weekly certifications are available. Payments will be retroactively applied dating back to March 29.

 

 

 

GOVERNOR ENCOURAGES PARTICIPATION IN SECOND ROUND OF PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM
Gov. Justice also recommended that West Virginia businesses take advantage of the latest round of benefits being provided by the federal government through the national Paycheck Protection Program.

“I would encourage anybody that wanted to apply, that maybe didn’t submit their applications in time the first time and then all the monies ran out, to be sure that you get back in line and apply because these dollars will flow to you and the small business community and they will absolutely be flowing back into West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “And that’s good stuff because every dollar we can get back into West Virginia will help us to be able to jumpstart our economy and do the goodness that we do for our people every day.”

 

 

 

WEST VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD WORKS TO BUILD ANALYTICAL FORECASTING TOOLS FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE
Members of the West Virginia National Guard and West Virginia University’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics have joined forces to develop key data systems to forecast and track the availability, procurement, distribution, and shortfalls of critical medical supplies throughout West Virginia during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Once established, getting an accurate reading of the on-the-ground demand for both type and quantity of PPE needed by the various medical facilities, first responder and public safety agencies, and local health departments around the state was identified as one of the primary challenges the task force would face.

 

 

 

ALSO THIS WEEK

 

WorkForce West Virginia reminds public of actions that can affect eligibility for unemployment benefits

Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation investigating inmate COVID-19 stimulus schemes

West Virginia Department of Education postpones Governor’s Schools for Summer 2020 due to COVID-19

More than 200 students receive Knights of Golden Horseshoe honor

School Lunch Hero Day comes with honors to West Virginia

Division of Motor Vehicles announces titling and registration options for customers

"Better Air, Better Health" – Department of Environmental Protection develops educational materials and activities for National Air Quality Awareness Week

 

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Contact Information

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

Contact

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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