West Virginia Week in Review - March 27, 2020: COVID-19 Update


COVID-19 Response Weekly Update
Marc​h 20 - March 27
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 precautionary 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. 
WV COVID-19 Newsroom WV COVID-19 Newsroom
Friday, March 27: Gov. Justice says access to medical supplies for front line workers is improving, tells citizens to keep practicing social distancing
On Friday Gov. Justice said that supplies for the state’s medical personnel, as well as first responders and correctional workers, keep coming to West Virginia and that “every effort” to obtain and produce additional supplies via numerous sources is being made.“It’s getting better and we’re going to make it happen for those brave people who are out there working around the clock in our battle against this pandemic.”
Information was released that the first death in West Virginia due to the coronavirus had happened in Monongalia County. However, the information that was given to the Department of Health and Human Resources from an employee at a private nursing home in Morgantown was later deemed to be inaccurate.

Gov. Justice said that future release of information has got to be correct.

DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said the protocols were being changed and that a second confirmation with hospitals is being put in place to make sure the information being disseminated is accurate.

At the request of Governor Jim Justice, The West Virginia Department of Education continues to work with counties to shift to more efficient models to feed children during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. As the state moves from immediate nutritional triage to long-term distribution plans, Superintendent W. Clayton Burch reminds everyone that feeding students in need remains the top priority.
As some counties transition to the multi-day meal packs, food will be delivered on a staggered basis and counties will receive replenished supplies on different days of the week. If there are unmet needs during this transition, families should contact alternate community sites and food banks for support. County-by-county information is available by calling the United Way at 211.
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Thursday, March 26: Gov. Justice urges West Virginians to “stay the course, stay strong” in face of pandemic; appoints Dr. Clay Marsh as COVID-19 Czar
Gov. Justice continued to urge all West Virginians on Thursday to “stay the course” on practicing social distancing and good hygiene and praised the population for helping to limit exposure to the disease.

Governor Justice appointed Dr. Clay Marsh, Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences at WVU, as State COVID-19 CZAR.
Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Commerce Ed Gaunch announced that under the Governor’s directive, all West Virginia Department of Commerce agencies are operating in an “all hands on deck” manner to assist our fellow West Virginians at this time. 
WorkForceWV has processed more than 41,500 initial claims for benefits since the Governor’s Executive Order issued on March 19, 2020. In addition, they have processed more than 10,000 low earnings claims.

Governor Justice spoke directly with President Trump on a teleconference and stressed the importance of getting additional supplies for medical professionals. 
Governor Jim Justice also announced that West Virginia residents can enjoy a month of free fishing. Now through Friday, April 24th, the requirement to possess a fishing license to fish in state-regulated waters has been waived for state residents. Anglers must practice safe social distancing. 
The West Virginia State Tax Department officially extended the deadline to file 2019 annual income tax returns for individuals, trusts or estates, and corporations from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.

Also on Thursday, The West Virginia Department of Commerce launched a directory with information about state and federal resources available to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The directory, which is available online at http://www.westvirginia.gov/covid19, includes topics such as Small Business Administration loans, Department of Labor standards, unemployment benefits and tax deadlines.
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Wednesday, March 25: Gov. Justice holds Statewide Day of Prayer Service, extends school closure, requests extension of state income tax filing deadline
Gov. Jim Justice joined religious leaders from across West Virginia Wednesday to conduct a virtual Statewide Day of Prayer Service. Leaders from many different religious backgrounds participated in the event to provide all West Virginians, no matter their religious denomination, an opportunity to pray as one people during the state’s ongoing “Stay At Home” order, which was put into effect Monday in efforts to help contain the spread of COVID-19. The service included several prayers and songs meant to bring hope to West Virginians through worship. The service was broadcast live online and on television stations across the state.
Gov. Jim Justice later joined State health leaders at the Capitol Complex in Charleston for a virtual press briefing to once again update the public on the many measures being taken in the interest of protecting the public from the spread COVID-19. During his address, Gov. Justice announced that he has instructed State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch to extend the ongoing closure of all schools statewide for at least three-and-a-half more weeks. The Governor and education leaders are now hoping to resume in-class instruction on Monday, April 20, 2020.

Gov. Justice also announced that he has asked West Virginia Tax Commissioner Dale Steager to extend the West Virginia income tax filing and payment deadline until Wednesday, July 15, 2020, to correspond with the federal government’s recent tax filing extension to the same date.

During his address, the Governor also announced that he will be waiving all interest and penalties on property tax filings until Friday, May 1, 2020.
Also Wednesday, the West Virginia Department of Transportation announced that leaders with their Division of Highways have recently implemented a plan which will allow continued public service for essential roadwork and emergency situations while reducing the number of workers present at one time in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Transportation workers have been divided into two groups and two-week time periods have been established. For each two-week time period, one group will telework from home, completing a rigorous training course. The other group will continue roadwork and emergency response, while taking precautions to avoid COVID-19 exposure. At the end of two weeks, the groups will switch.
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Tuesday, March 24: Gov. Justice: “We’re pushing the right buttons to keep this thing under control and away from us”
Gov. Jim Justice joined State health leaders at the Capitol Complex in Charleston Tuesday for a virtual press briefing to once again update the public on the many precautionary measures being taken in the interest of protecting the public from the potential spread of COVID-19. 

Gov. Justice also spotlighted new efforts underway at Mylan’s manufacturing facility in West Virginia to produce hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets.

“They’re the first in the country that’s now manufacturing this product and it’s right here in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “Mylan, we’re really proud of what you’re doing, we thank you in every way, and I couldn’t be more proud of the fact you’re from West Virginia.”

The drug, which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of other conditions, is currently being investigated by the World Health Organization to determine its potential effectiveness in treating COVID-19.

Also on Tuesday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources confirmed 19 new cases of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the state, making the total positive case count at 39. New cases were identified in Berkeley, Harrison, Jackson, Monongalia, Preston and Wood counties. 
West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer announced that, at the direction of the Governor, the WVNG has created a consolidated supply center. The National Guard is working alongside the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources as well as the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to help ensure equipment needs between healthcare workers and emergency responders are being met.
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Monday, March 23: Gov. Justice issues “Stay At Home” order for all West Virginians
To further combat the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice issued a “Stay At Home” order Monday, directing all West Virginia residents to stay at home and limit movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs. The order went into effect beginning Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at 8 p.m. and will remain in effect until terminated by subsequent executive order.

With the order in place, West Virginians can still:
  • Go to the grocery, convenience, or warehouse store
  • Go to the pharmacy to pick up medications and other healthcare necessities
  • Go to medical appointments (check with your doctor or provider first)
  • Go to a restaurant for take-out, delivery, or drive-thru
  • Care for or support a friend or family member
  • Take a walk, ride your bike, hike, jog, and be in nature for exercise – just keep at least six feet between you and others
  • Walk your pets and take them to the veterinarian if necessary
  • Help someone to get necessary supplies
  • Receive deliveries from any business which delivers
West Virginians should not:
  • Go to work unless you are providing essential services or work for an essential business as defined by the Order
  • Visit friends and family if there is no urgent need
  • Maintain less than six feet of distance from others when you go out
  • Visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or other residential care facility, except for limited exceptions as provided on the facility website
During his address, the Governor announced that COVID-19 testing capacity continues to expand in West Virginia, with at least 1,500 people across the state having tests submitted to-date. Officials with the Department of Health and Human Resources also announced that at least 49 hospitals are now submitting tests to public and private labs across the state, while 19 communities are ready to do community-based testing.

The Governor also confirmed that one recent positive case of COVID-19 has been identified in an individual living in a nursing home, signaling the beginning of a community spread of the disease.

The Governor also announced that four members of the West Virginia National Guard have been dispatched to the nursing home where the positive case was identified and will immediately be testing everyone in the nursing home.
Also on Monday, WV National Guard members made their way to Maryland to pick up a batch of 275 recently procured Tyvek suits with special filtering masks which will also be used by healthcare providers and first responders. The WVNG also has additional personnel working at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to manage the logistics of distributing supplies.
Gov. Justice also announced Monday that the West Virginia National Guard has begun working with leadership from the West Virginia Tourism Office and the West Virginia Department of Education to establish a program to address the need for feeding students as schools around the state continue to be closed. The Governor thanked the nearly 100 restaurants and hotels around the state which have expressed interest in providing food to students who remain out of school.

Working alongside West Virginia University Vice President and Executive Dean of Health Sciences Dr. Clay Marsh, Gov. Justice and State leaders have begun reaching out to medical schools across West Virginia, asking them to help the State identify housing options for healthcare workers. Monday, the Governor announced that WVU and Marshall University are willing and able to donate unused dorm rooms for medical staff to live in while they are taking care of COVID-19 patients.

Also Monday, the Governor announced that he is mandating the closure of cabins and restrooms at West Virginia’s state parks. The parks themselves, trails, and other public areas remain open. However, the Governor continues to urge all people utilizing the state’s natural resources to continue practicing social distancing and stay at least six feet apart from one another.

Gov. Justice also ordered the suspension of several additional statutory regulations throughout the duration of the State of Emergency.
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Saturday, March 21: Gov. Justice urges all West Virginians to follow guidelines to save lives in statewide address
During a live, statewide address at the State Capitol in Charleston Saturday, Gov. Jim Justice urged West Virginians to take all necessary precautions to help slow the spread of COVID-19, including staying home as much as possible. During his address, the Governor thanked members of the healthcare community for the leadership and bravery they have displayed during this pandemic. He also thanked grocery stores and their workers for staying open and providing resources to those who are taking shelter at home. The Governor also urged businesses across the state to find ways to allow more of their employees to work from home to help contain the spread of the disease.
The Governor was joined for the address by Dr. Clay Marsh, Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences at West Virginia University. Marsh praised the swift actions taken Gov. Justice, including closing schools and a variety of other places with large gatherings of people, before there was a single confirmed case of COVID-19 in West Virginia.
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Friday, March 20: Gov. Justice orders more closures; calls for increased blood donations
During his remarks Friday, the Governor announced that he had issued an Executive Order, mandating the statewide closure of all West Virginia state park lodges as well as the closure of the Hatfield McCoy Trail to the general public. Gov. Justice also announced that trout stockings around the state will continue as planned. Gov. Justice urges West Virginians to participate by casting a line at their favorite West Virginia state park.
Also during the briefing, Gov. Justice announced that he has also issued an Executive Order, mandating the suspension of several statutory regulations. The suspension of these regulations cut bureaucratic red tape and allowed our professionals and all West Virginians more flexibility during the pandemic.
The Governor also announced Friday that The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the COVID-19 outbreak. As the COVID-19 pandemic has grown in the U.S., blood drive cancellations have grown at an alarming rate. Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to help patients counting on lifesaving blood. 

The Red Cross implemented additional precautions to ensure the safety of donors and staff. The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation. Donating blood does not impact or weaken the immune system.
The Governor also announced that the West Virginia Tourism Office launched an interactive map of open restaurants that shows the locations of all eateries in the state that are continuing to operate drive thru, carryout, and delivery services at this time.

Also on Friday, at the direction of the Governor, the Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Children and Families requested the immediate suspension of the rule requiring applicants of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to participate in drug screening, which often requires close contact between multiple individuals.

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and Council for Community and Technical College Education voted to provide students with greater flexibilities in accessing and renewing state financial aid programs.
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Contact Information

Jordan Damron, Jordan.L.Damron@wv.gov


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