On Wednesday, Governor Jim 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” – is officially underway.
“We had to have three days under three percent,” said Justice. “The 1st day was 2.69, day 2 was 2.66, we’re at 2.59 as of Wednesday.”
The “Week 1” phase of reopenings began Thursday, April 30, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
“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.”
On the local level, Wyoming County Health Department Director Fred Cox said they were cautiously optimistic about reopening.
Holding strong at only 1 case of COVID-19, Wyoming County followed examples set by northern counties to limit store capacity a week before State orders went out.
Despite the bright outlook, Cox encouraged area residents to not let down their guard just yet.
“We need to continue following the advice that’s been beat into our brains for two months now,” said Cox. “Washing our hands, avoiding crowds, all the guidelines.”
In Week 1, outpatient health care operations may resume for facilities regulated by Licensing Boards contained in WV Code Chapter 30, including:
•Hearing-Aid Dealers and Fitters
•Licensed Practical Nurses
•Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Professionals
•Doctors of Medicine and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine
•Registered Professional Nurses
Also in Week 1, daycare services across the state will be able to resume, provided that enhanced testing procedures are put in place at each of these facilities.
These reopenings are 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 has 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.
“We’re going now to another level,” Gov. Justice said. “We can’t sit back and not reopen. We can’t sit on our hands and just dwindle away because bad things will happen then as well.
“As we move forward, we can and will move safely. But we need you, West Virginians, to step up again and keep doing what you’ve done to keep everyone as safe as possible.”
The “Week 2” phase of reopenings are scheduled to begin this coming Monday, May 4, 2020. This includes small businesses with 10 or fewer employees, restaurants with takeaway service or outdoor dining options, religious entities and funeral homes, and professional service businesses such as hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, and pet grooming.
Reopening guidelines for businesses included in the Week 2 phase are now available
Several additional types of businesses will be permitted to reopen from Weeks 3-6. The opening schedule for these businesses will be based upon the recommendations of state medical experts and upon testing data available at that time. The Governor’s Office will announce which of these businesses will be able to reopen at least one week in advance of its respective reopening date.
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.”
Marsh also shared and discussed a recent article arguing that getting a positive COVID-19 test rate under 3 percent was a significant milestone in combating the virus. West Virginia’s cumulative rate of positive cases has remained under 3 percent for three full days.
Marsh also advocated that West Virginians continue to wear face coverings or masks to reduce individual susceptibility to COVID-19. He recommended that citizens watch an instructional video by the United States Surgeon General about how to make a face covering out of common household items in less than a minute.
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.
DHHR SECRETARY PROVIDES UPDATE ON NURSING HOME TESTING
Also on Wednesday, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch reported that testing has been completed on 89 percent of all the nursing homes across West Virginia and that testing has begun on 96 percent of these facilities.
“We have only five facilities that have yet to begin testing, although that testing has been scheduled,” Sec. Crouch said. “We’ll look for all of these facilities to be done by this Friday.”
Sec. Crouch said that he plans to provide a report of the testing numbers as soon as they are finished being compiled.
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.”
Click to visit fafsa.gov
WEST VIRGINIANS REMINDED TO TAKE CENSUS
Once again today, Gov. Justice urged all West Virginians to take the opportunity to complete the 2020 United States Census.
“Don’t drop the ball on that, West Virginia. We’ve got to count everybody,” Gov. Justice said. “All those dollars mean so much to West Virginia. It gives us the ability, as we go forward, to be able to help you, to protect you. We don’t want to leave money on the table.
“I ask you, as West Virginians, to absolutely call upon your neighbors, your relatives, whoever, to make sure somehow, someway, all of us are counted.”
Click to visit 2020census.gov
WEST VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD UPDATE
“The WVNG continues to lead by example to support our community by practicing good social distancing, wearing proper PPE and using our resources to create solutions for problems that arise,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the WVNG, during Wednesday’s briefing. “West Virginians should not let up on the positive progress that has been made as we move forward with reopening our state. Just as I tell our service members that they are leaders in their communities, West Virginians can also be leaders across the nation for how we navigate the reopening process while ensuring we protect ourselves and those around us, including our most vulnerable populations.”
During the briefing, Hoyer outlined that a list of vendors for personal protective equipment (PPE) who the WVNG has worked with and have been vetted is available online. Those who are in need of procuring PPE should refer to this list in order to acquire what is needed for their business.
Additionally, Hoyer noted that the WVNG will never reach out to individual businesses or non-profit organizations from a non-government email to solicit leads for PPE training, sanitization or decontamination.
Since beginning operations in support of the state’s COVID-19 response 46 days ago, the WVNG has completed 732 missions through its six lines of effort: operationalizing of the event, stabilizing the population, providing logistical movement of critical supplies, innovation, state surge capacity and capability, and conducting data analysis to combat the virus. Currently, 705 members of the WVNG are on duty serving the citizens of the State of West Virginia.