CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials yesterday for his latest daily press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.
DAYCARE, ASSISTED LIVING, RESIDENTIAL CARE TESTING
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that he has issued an Executive Order, directing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the West Virginia National Guard to test all daycare employees, as well as all residents and staff members at assisted living facilities and residential care communities throughout the state for COVID-19.
The Governor has directed that this effort begin immediately to provide more aggressive support to these communities.
“With our daycares, we’ve had several different staffs, as they’re trying to get back up and running, to voluntarily test themselves,” Gov. Justice said. “We’ve had four positives on staff that have come in from Kanawha County. And the thing is that none of these people had any symptoms.
“It is our hope, in every way, we can have all of our daycares up and open. We need them to take care of our children as our workers go back to work. But we absolutely cannot risk anything to our children or anything our children maybe could take back to their families.”
The Governor also stressed the importance of keeping the vulnerable populations at West Virginia’s assisted living facilities and residential care communities as safe as possible.
“We knew, as soon as we finished testing our nursing homes, we would go to mandatory testing of our assisted living facilities and our residential care communities,” Gov. Justice said. “We absolutely need to do everything in our power to keep our most vulnerable populations as safe as possible.
Last month, at the direction of Gov. Justice, West Virginia became the first state in the nation to require COVID-19 testing for all nursing home residents and staff statewide. In the time since, other states have begun to follow suit.
GOV. JUSTICE ANNOUNCES TARGETED TESTING IN AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES
Also today, Gov. Justice announced that he has directed targeted testing to begin in several African American communities in West Virginia.
This enhanced testing will be a main focus of the newly-established COVID-19 Advisory Commission on African American Disparities – a task force administered by the WV DHHR with the mission of investigating the effect of COVID-19 on African American communities across the state.
“We are looking at these communities and doing the prudent work that will enable us to ensure that we won’t have critical problems in those communities as well,” Gov. Justice said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.
State Health Officer Dr. Cathy Slemp and her staff at the West Virginia DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health have been compiling and analyzing data on the effect of COVID-19 in African American communities for the past several weeks.
“Based upon that data, we’ve begun the process of establishing specific areas in the state where we will increase testing,” DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said.
Sec. Crouch said that these increased testing efforts will initially be centered in Berkeley, Jefferson, Marion, Monongalia, and Raleigh counties. Additional counties or areas may be added in the future.
The DHHR plans to utilize the West Virginia National Guard’s mobile testing and drive-thru testing capabilities to enhance testing in these areas. Sec. Crouch added that some of these counties’ local health departments have already begun testing African American populations.
The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, under Executive Director Jill Upson, will help the DHHR and the task force coordinate public outreach and testing efforts across the state.
“We look forward to working with the task force and the results of our efforts to address the needs of the African American population,” Sec Crouch said.
Week 2 of the Gov. Justice reopening plan – West Virginia Strong – The Comeback – is now underway and announcements regarding Week 3 reopenings have been made. The Governor’s new “Safer At Home” order is also in effect.
During Week 3, scheduled to commence on Monday, May 11th, 2020, wellness centers operated by or with West Virginia Licensed Health Care providers as well as drive-in movie theaters will be allowed to reopen.
UPDATE ON COVID-19 TESTING DATA
Today, Gov. Justice announced that the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in West Virginia has continued to increase, while the number of active cases has continued to decrease.
In addition, the Governor announced that the statewide cumulative rate of positive tests has continued to drop – with the day-to-day positive growth rate also dropping to 0.8 percent.
The latest COVID-19 data can always be found at Coronavirus.wv.gov.
“This is good stuff,” Gov. Justice said. “These numbers are only so low because of how good you’ve done and how prudent you’ve been as great West Virginians.
“Now, I want to tell you that the days ahead are not just going to be quiet seas and clear sailing,” Gov. Justice continued. “The days ahead are going to have bumps in them and we are absolutely going to try to stay on top of all the bumps we possibly can. But we’ve got to ask you to continue being smart.”
GOV. JUSTICE HONORS NURSES, SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS
Also today, Gov. Justice announced that he has signed a proclamation, officially declaring May 6, 2020 as Nurses Day in West Virginia in honor of the hard work, bravery, commitment, and caring hearts of all nurses displayed across the state and the nation during this pandemic.
“Do you have any idea what these great people have brought to us and the lives that they’ve saved and the dangers they’ve put themselves in?” Gov. Justice said. “Do you know how tough it is to come to work and know that you’re dealing with this killing virus every day? Can you imagine the bravery that it takes to be one of these nurses every day?
“So, as you see them, please appreciate them and please thank them. We’re signing this proclamation today and all it’s just one more level of gratitude for all the great work these heroes have done.”
The Governor also reminded the public that today is also National Interpreter Appreciation Day, announcing that he has also signed a proclamation, officially declaring May 6, 2020 as Interpreter Appreciation Day in West Virginia and taking time to thank the two sign language interpreters who have been a part of the Governor’s daily media briefings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s just so many things that we’re very thankful for,” Gov. Justice said “We thank all of those who are helping us in every way.”