CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — About 3,600 West Virginians filed for unemployment benefits last week as the state continues to lift coronavirus restrictions, federal data showed Thursday.
The state’s weekly jobless aid claims have been falling slightly as businesses have reopened but are still historically high.
More than 250,000 unemployment claims have been processed in West Virginia since the pandemic forced widespread shutdowns in March. Figures released last week show the state’s unemployment rate fell about 2 percentage points to 12.9% in May. Nationally, 1.48 million people applied for jobless aid last week.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice has already eased most virus restrictions, allowing restaurants and other businesses to reopen. This month he allowed sporting events with spectators to resume and has set July 1 as the date when fairs and festivals can be held.
The governor has based his strategy on having the state’s cumulative positive test rate remain below 3%, backing off a previous goal of having the number of cases decline for two weeks.
At least 92 people have died from the virus in West Virginia and around 2,700 have tested positive, according to state health data. Outbreaks have recently emerged, with at least 72 cases in 11 counties linked to travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and roughly 70 cases connected to church services in three counties.
Justice on Wednesday forced out a top health official, Cathy Slemp, who was a state health officer and commissioner of the public health bureau, after the governor publicly vented that the state’s active virus caseload may have been overstated.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.