CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — About 4,200 West Virginians filed for unemployment benefits last week as applications remain historically high despite business reopenings during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Thursday.
The jobless aid filings come after Republican Gov. Jim Justice lifted virus restrictions on most businesses. State officials said they have received a quarter-million unemployment claims in roughly the last two-and-a-half months.
Across the U.S., 1.5 million people applied for the benefits last week, as total payments reached $94 billion in May — six times the previous record set in 2010 just after the previous recession. Though this time, the benefits include an additional $600 a week from the federal government.
Gov. Justice says his reopening plan hinges on the state’s positive test rate remaining under 3% for three consecutive days, loosening a previous goal of having the number of cases decline for 14 days. He has already allowed restaurants and retailers to resume business. He recently announced that fairs and festivals can begin again July 1 and that nursing homes can accept visitors June 17.
At least 86 people in West Virginia have died from the virus and around 2,200 have tested positive, state health data shows.
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 highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.