CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — At least six day care workers in Kanawha County have now tested positive for coronavirus, local health officials said Saturday.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice has mandated testing at day care centers as part of his ongoing plan to lift virus restrictions and reopen the state’s economy.
“We hate that there have been positive cases, but this underscores the need to test our daycare workers,” said Sherri Young, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
Kanawha officials said three of the employees who tested positive work for three day care centers that have been closed during the pandemic. The other three positive employees work at Zion Child Development Center, the Fort Hill Child Development Center and the West Virginia National Guard Child Development Center.
The third week of Justice’s reopening strategy is scheduled to begin Monday with drive-in movie theaters and physical therapy centers allowed to reopen. He has already let hospitals resume elective procedures and allowed the reopening of small businesses, outdoor dining restaurants and barber shops.
The Justice administration has, without explanation, eased a key testing benchmark to start its reopening strategy.
The plan hinges on having the cumulative positive test rate remain under 3% for three days, reversing a previous goal of having cases decline for two weeks. The two-week criteria was previously endorsed by the White House and Clay Marsh, a West Virginia University official leading the state’s virus response.
Marsh now says the state has enough downward trend lines to allow for restrictions to be lifted. He has acknowledged that it would take a severe outbreak for the state’s positive case rate to rise high enough to pause the reopening under the new benchmark.
State officials have not given clear benchmarks on what kinds of testing capacity and safety equipment inventory they want to have as part of the reopening strategy.
At least 53 people in the state have died from the virus and around 1,300 have tested positive, according to health data.