CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today announced that testing for COVID-19 can now be performed in-state by DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health’s lab. Prior to this point, West Virginia submitted tests of individuals who were considered at significant risk of having COVID-19 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing.
“The ability to test at the state level is a huge step forward that will allow us to respond even faster to this evolving situation,” Gov. Justice said. “This remains a top priority for me and for my entire administration. My DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch continues to join me for weekly calls with the Trump Administration and we will continue to do everything we possibly can to ensure the safety of West Virginians.”
There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia, but this remains an evolving national situation. As of March 7, 2020, West Virginia has arranged for the testing of five residents for COVID-19; two have already come back negative, while three remain pending.
“Our team at the state public health lab has worked overtime to enable testing right here in West Virginia,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of the DHHR’s Bureau of Public Health. “As disease continues to spread domestically, it is essential that we have the necessary resources to serve the public health response and support our communities.”
If an individual develops symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough, or shortness of breath, and has significant reason to believe they were exposed to COVID-19 in the two weeks before illness onset (typically a history of travel from or living in a geographic area with widespread community transmission or contact with a known or suspected case), the individual should call their health care provider, emergency room, or local health department before seeking care. Contacting the medical provider in advance will make sure that individuals can get the care they need without putting others at risk.
“We anticipate that commercial testing will be available in West Virginia very soon, as well,” Dr. Slemp said, noting that the department is also working with commercial labs to assure lab result reporting to DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “This is critical for understanding disease surveillance data across the state and for facilitating appropriate public health action as cases are identified in West Virginia.”