CHARLESTON, WV – During his daily COVID-19 press briefing Monday, Gov. Jim Justice announced that several new businesses and entities will soon be allowed to resume operations as part of the Governor’s reopening plan: West Virginia Strong – The Comeback.
INDOOR SHOPPING MALLS
Gov. Justice announced that indoor shopping malls will be allowed to reopen this Thursday, May 21, provided that all additional guidelines are followed to help keep West Virginians as safe as possible.
“From the standpoint of our specialty retail opening back up and our big box stores opening back up, naturally, our malls should be open,” Gov. Justice said. “Working with our medical experts, we now have additional guidelines on our indoor malls and we feel very comfortable with them.”
ADDITIONAL WEEK 5 REOPENINGS
Also on Monday, Gov. Justice added several businesses and entities to the list of Week 5 reopenings on Tuesday, May 26:
•Indoor and outdoor bars at 50% capacity
•Museums and visitor centers
Guidance documents will be provided on The Comeback page of the Governor’s Office website as soon as they become available.
Gov. Justice had previously announced that state park cabins and lodges would also be able to reopen on Tuesday, May 26, for use by in-state residents only.
Also today, Gov. Justice announced that spas and massage businesses will be permitted to reopen on Saturday, May 30, provided that all additional guidelines are followed. Guidance documents will be made available online.
“We want to give people a heads up on a date that they can plan and gear up for,” Gov. Justice said.
CASINOS & LIMITED VIDEO LOTTERIES
Additionally Monday, Gov. Justice announced that limited video lottery retailers will also be permitted to reopen on Saturday, May 30, while all casinos across the state will be allowed to open their doors beginning on Friday, June 5, provided that all additional guidelines are followed.
Guidance documents will be provided on The Comeback page of the Governor’s Office website as soon as they become available.
“Our Lottery Director, John Myers, has worked closely with all of the operations in the state and with the medical experts to develop guidance that will allow these facilities to open safely,” Gov. Justice said.
“As we continue to go forward and as we continue to get closer and closer with dates, we’re monitoring our numbers all the time,” Gov. Justice continued. “We very well could have to change these dates if our numbers change. But, hopefully, we won’t. Our numbers have been unbelievable and, if they stay this way, we’ll be able to open more and more.”
PREVIOUSLY-ANNOUNCED REOPENINGS TAKE EFFECT THIS WEEK
Also today, Gov. Justice offered a reminder about several previously-announced reopenings that are scheduled to take effect this week.
Reopening Thursday, May 21
•Indoor dining at restaurants
•Large/specialty retail stores
•State park campgrounds for in-state residents only (Guidance for ALL campgrounds)
•Hatfield McCoy Trail System
•Outdoor recreation rentals (Kayaks, bicycles, boats, rafts, canoes, ATVs, and similar equipment)
•Outdoor motorsport and powersport racing with no spectators
Businesses included in each phase of this reopening plan are not required to resume operations on any specific date. This plan provides the option for reopening, not a requirement.
The Governor’s Safer at Home order remains in effect this week as well.
ALL COUNTIES REMOVED FROM HOTSPOT LIST
Gov. Justice also announced that, with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources putting its new “High Alert Status” system in place to quickly identify specific areas in West Virginia that may be experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases, all counties that were still remaining on the list of community hotspots have now been removed from the list by executive order. This includes Monongalia, Marion, Harrison, Jefferson, and Berkeley counties.
“At this point in time, under the new system, we no longer have counties on the hotspot alert,” Gov. Justice said. “Our medical experts will be watching all of our 55 counties closely as we move forward with our new High Alert Status system.”
DHHR TESTING UPDATE
During his remarks today, Secretary Bill Crouch with the West Virginia DHHR reported that 2,388 individuals from several communities that have been identified as particularly susceptible to COVID-19 were tested over the weekend as part of the DHHR’s new initiative to test more minority and vulnerable populations throughout the state.
A breakdown of the drive-thru testing that was provided is as follows:
•Berkeley County: 872 tests performed
•Jefferson County: 748 tests performed
•Mercer County: 364 tests performed
•Raleigh County: 404 tests performed
“We are still awaiting the results from those tests…they will take a couple of days,” Sec. Crouch said. “We have additional testing scheduled for this week and will announce those later this week.”
NEW WEBSITE STREAMLINING CARES ACT APPLICATIONS FOR CITIES AND COUNTIES
Also Tuesday, Gov. Justice announced that a new web portal is now available for city and county government officials across West Virginia to apply for grant funding through the federal CARES Act.
“I encourage all the cities and counties to apply,” Gov. Justice said. “As we get applications, we’ll work our way through them very quickly and find things they are qualified for and get those monies to you very quickly.”
Applications are available at grants.wv.gov. Interested parties can also call a helpline for more information by dialing 1-833-94-GRANT.
“The federal guidelines are changing nonstop, they’re very fluid,” Gov. Justice said. “Jim Justice believes, as he has from day one, that the guidelines will become favorable for us before it’s over and, even though we encourage you to apply now, we want you to know that you can continue to apply as we go forward.”
STATE HEALTH OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE RESULTS OF COVID-19 TESTING IN NURSING HOMES
Also Tuesday, Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, along with DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch, shared the results of Gov. Justice’s recent directive that made West Virginia the first state in the country to require the testing of all residents and staff at all nursing homes statewide.
In total, 22,598 people at 123 nursing homes were tested; including 8,911 residents and 13,687 staff members.
At the time of the testing, six percent of facilities already had COVID-19 cases identified. The initiative resulted in new identification of 28 facilities with at least one individual positive for COVID-19.
New individuals positive for COVID-19 was more common among staff. Thirty-one staff tested positive, accounting for 74 percent of the cases identified during the initial testing, while 11 residents tested newly positive (26 percent of the cases).
Sixty-four percent of facilities had only staff test positive at initial testing. In the majority of these (20 facilities, 87%), the new finding was a single positive resident or staff person (14 staff, 6 residents).
In eight facilities, newly identified positive cases resulted in new outbreaks (two or more cases in residents or staff). Staff were involved more than residents (17 staff; 5 residents). Of these outbreaks, six have had no additional cases.
FIRST POSITIVE CASE IN CORRECTIONS SYSTEM
Also, Gov. Justice announced that, for the first time, an inmate at one of West Virginia’s correctional facilities has tested positive for COVID-19.
The positive case was found in a 62-year-old male inmate at Huttonsville Correctional Center in Randolph County.
“What we’ll do is, immediately, we’ll test all of the inmates and staff in the block that we found this positive and we’re going to move forward and test all the staff in the entire facility,” Gov. Justice said. “As we test the inmates in that block today, if we find we have additional positives, we’ll expand that testing to all of the inmates in the entire facility.
“We’ve got to be prepared to run to the fire,” Gov. Justice continued. “We know this disease is with us. We’ve had wonderful blessings that we’ve not had an issue in our jail system. But we knew it was probably coming and, now that it’s here, we’re trying to run to this fire and put it out as quickly as possible.”
Yesterday, the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety confirmed that a part-time correctional officer at Huttonsville also tested positive for COVID-19. However, these are not believed to be connected.
STATE RECEIVES REMDESIVIR SHIPMENT
Additionally Tuesday, Gov. Justice announced that the State of West Virginia has received a shipment of the drug Remdesivir from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
The drug is produced by Gilead and was donated to the State for use in critically ill COVID-19 patients from West Virginia.
“I want to personally thank our President for allowing us to get some and have some of this potentially life-saving drug,” Gov. Justice said.
PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM FUNDING STILL AVAILABLE
Gov. Justice also offered a reminder that the United States Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program is still taking applications.
The funds are delivering much needed financial relief to small businesses across West Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s still open and if you haven’t applied, I urge you to do so,” Gov. Justice said. “If you could possibly qualify, but you’re not sure, or you don’t know quite how to fill out the form, call them and ask them to help you through the whole process for how you have to fill out the application.
“It’s still available and we want all of our businesses – it doesn’t matter how small you are – just think about how you can propose that businesses, let the SBA walk you through the process, who knows, you may very well qualify and it could be something significant to your family in every way.”
Learn more at sba.gov.
WEST VIRGINIANS URGED TO PARTICIPATE IN CENSUS
Once more Tuesday, Gov. Justice asked all West Virginians to participate in the 2020 United States Census.
“You can’t imagine how important it is to West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “We’ve got to all be counted. Please help each other. We’ve got to get counted or else we’re going to short-change ourselves millions and millions of dollars.”
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.
GOV. JUSTICE THANKS LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS, LOCAL HEALTH OFFICERS
Gov. Justice took time to thank local health departments and local health officers across West Virginia for their brave and important work throughout the pandemic.
“I can’t say enough about our local health officials,” Gov. Justice said. “They deserve all kinds of credit because they are our front line soldiers.
“You have done great work and I really appreciate you.”
GOV. JUSTICE ANNOUNCES WVSTRONG STATE PARKS DISCOUNT
To show his appreciation for the resiliency and support of West Virginians during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Justice announced Wednesday that West Virginia State Parks will soon offer a historic discount on lodging for all West Virginia residents.
The offer is called the WVSTRONG Discount. For stays between June 1 through August 31, all West Virginians will be eligible for a 30 percent discount on lodging at all state parks.
This discount is the first of its kind in the history of West Virginia State Parks.
“At the end of the day, all West Virginians have been heroes throughout these unusual times” Gov. Justice said. “Because of the resiliency and strength you have shown, following the advice of our experts, our state has seen some of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases in the country. You’re saving lives and we can never thank you enough.”
To claim the 30 percent discount on a new reservation, simply book online at wvstateparks.com and enter promo code WVSTRONG at checkout.
TESTING CONTINUES FOR MINORITY, VULNERABLE POPULATIONS
Also Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that efforts to test susceptible populations across West Virginia are set to continue.
The plan provides free optional testing to all residents in several counties that are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission. It targets residents who have struggled to be seen by a physician or do not have insurance to pay for testing. However, other residents, including those who are asymptomatic are welcome to be tested.
The DHHR and local jurisdictions, with support from the WVNG, will be conducting the next round of these testing efforts this Friday and Saturday.
•Cabell County: 16th Street Baptist Church (1647 9th Ave., Huntington, WV), Friday, May 22 & Saturday, May 23 | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
•Kanawha County: Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center (1701 5th Ave., Charleston, WV), Friday, May 22 & Saturday, May 23 | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
•Marion County, Windmill Park (900 Ogden Ave., Fairmont, WV), Friday, May 22 & Saturday, May 23 | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
•Monongalia County: Big Lots (902 Fairmont Rd, Morgantown, WV), Friday, May 22 | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.; WVU Coliseum (3450 Monongahela Blvd., Morgantown, WV), Saturday, May 23 | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Mountainview Elementary School (661 Green Bag Rd, Morgantown, WV), Saturday, May 23 | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
“If you want to get tested, come by, it’s free,” Gov. Justice said. “Whatever your situation may be, if you feel you’re at risk, come get tested. The more testing we do, the better shape we’ll be in.”
WEST VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD COMPLETES TESTING AT HUTTONSVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER
At the direction of Gov. Justice and in coordination with the State DHHR and County Health Departments, the West Virginia National Guard began COVID-19 testing Wednesday at Huttonsville Correctional Center in Randolph County
Members from Task Force CRE and Task Force Medical tested 203 staff today at the corrections facility. Additional testing for the night shift staff will commence on Thursday, May 21.
Yesterday, Gov. Justice announced that, for the first time, an inmate at one of West Virginia’s correctional facilities tested positive for COVID-19. The positive case was found in a 62-year-old male inmate at Huttonsville Correctional Center.
“All inmates in the affected dorm were tested this morning,” Gov. Justice said Wednesday. “I want to thank the Division of Corrections, the DHHR, the National Guard, and everyone for responding quickly to this situation.”