CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined State health leaders at the Capitol Complex in Charleston today for a virtual press briefing to once again update the public on the many measures being taken in the interest of protecting the public from the spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).“Keep the faith, the things that we’re doing are working, stay at home as much as you can, get out and exercise in small groups or by yourself, and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re making real progress but we’ve still got a long way to go with this and we’ve got to stay vigilant.”
Gov. Justice said that supplies for the state’s medical personnel, as well as first responders and correctional workers, keep coming to West Virginia and that “every effort” to obtain and produce additional supplies via numerous sources is being made.“It’s getting better and we’re going to make it happen for those brave people who are out there working around the clock in our battle against this pandemic.”
Earlier in the day, information was released that the first death in West Virginia due to the coronavirus had happened in Monongalia County. However, the information that was given to the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) from an employee at a private nursing home in Morgantown was later deemed to be inaccurate.
Gov. Justice said that future release of information has got to be correct.
“I’m just flat mad about it,” Gov. Justice stated. “I’m truly working in every way to see that we protect every single life here in West Virginia. There is plenty of chaos out there anyway but we’ve got to put the safeguards in place and get it right. This is inexcusable in my book.”
DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said the protocols were being changed and that a second confirmation with hospitals is being put in place to make sure the information being disseminated is accurate.
He also reminded citizens from out-of-state that continue to look at West Virginia as a “getaway” site, that it is “essential” they self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The Governor said if state residents know of violators to report it to local authorities.
COVID CZAR SAYS CITIZENS ARE DOING RIGHT THINGS, TALKS ABOUT PRODUCTION OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES IN STATE
Dr. Clay Marsh, who was appointed by Gov. Justice on Thursday as the COVID-19/Coronavirus Czar for West Virginia, said residents of the state are “doing the right things at the personal level” to keep the curve flattened and that “people need to double down” only go out to get “essential supplies” and “don’t cluster” with others.
“We are also working with Gen. Hoyer (Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard) and our educational institutions to identify a pathway for testing certain types of materials to produce personal protection equipment (PPE),” Dr. Marsh added.
DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch and Dr. Cathy Slemp, the State’s Public Health Officer, said 150 testing sites are available across the state and that more than 2,000 have been tested.
Additional guidance and recommendations will be made available to the public as data continues to be analyzed.
Jeff Sandy, Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety (DMAPS), reported that as of 7 a.m. today no employees or inmates in the state’s correctional facilities have COVID-19.
Sandy provided a report on the acquisition and distribution of PPE for law enforcement, firefighters and correctional officers.
He also praised the State Police, Fire Marshals and Education personnel for continuing to assist in delivery of food throughout the state and said Fusion Center personnel have identified and stopped “countless attempts of fraud.”
Sandy said that “in consultation with the West Virginia Supreme Court” the Corrections Commissioner has released “70 non-violent offenders close to the end of the terms” from custody.
The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE), at the request of Governor Jim Justice, continues to work with counties to shift to more efficient models to feed children during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. As the state moves from immediate nutritional triage to long-term distribution plans, Superintendent W. Clayton Burch reminds everyone that feeding students in need remains the top priority.
As some counties transition to the multi-day meal packs, food will be delivered on a staggered basis and counties will receive replenished supplies on different days of the week. If there are unmet needs during this transition, families should contact alternate community sites and food banks for support. County-by-county information is available by calling the United Way at 211.
The WVDE has worked with state partners including the National Guard, the Division of Tourism, and the Department of Agriculture to develop more efficient methods to get food to counties. As has been the case, each county will coordinate meal distribution to families, and some counties may choose to continue their current feeding plans. Families should contact their county board of education offices for updates and with questions.
“Going forward, our force will continue to be a leader in the state in the response to this public health threat. We are urging all West Virginians to join us in practicing proper hygiene, maintaining social distance and avoiding gathering of groups of people to ensure we can flatten the curve here in West Virginia and protect our most vulnerable population,” says Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard.
Currently, more than 250 members of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) are serving the State of West Virginia by augmenting civil authorities through four lines of effort:
- Operationalizing of the event
- Stabilization of the population
- Logistical movement of critical supplies
- Information and analytics to combat the virus
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Jim Justice has asked West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Cabinet Secretary Austin Caperton and his staff to remain in constant communication with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding potential compliance and enforcement issues that may arise. As of today, all rules, regulations and permitting requirements under the jurisdiction of the WVDEP remain in full effect.
Gov. Justice continues to encourage all West Virginians to follow the guidelines presented last week by President Donald J. Trump to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.