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Highlights from Gov. Justice COVID-19 Press Briefings

CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials this week for for daily press briefings regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.

Tuesday’s Highlights were:

More than six weeks after Gov. Justice made West Virginia the first state in the nation to order the testing of all nursing home residents and employees statewide, Gov. Justice announced Tuesday that leaders with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent a letter to governors in all 50 states across America, calling on them to focus their COVID-19 testing efforts on nursing homes and other vulnerable communities. 
Gov. Justice’s directive for the full testing of the state’s nursing homes came on April 17, 2020 – 44 days before the letter was sent.
“I’ve already written on the letter ‘already done,’” Gov. Justice said. “Remember West Virginia, you were the first to do it. We ran to the fire. I commend all those that were involved in helping us pull off all that testing. I’m proud of you, West Virginia.”
In addition to the full testing of nursing homes, Gov. Justice also ordered the testing of all daycares, assisted living facilities, and residential care communities statewide on May 6. Additionally, on May 28, Gov. Justice ordered the testing of all inmates and employees at West Virginia’s correctional facilities.

Gov. Justice took time out of Tuesday’s briefing to announce that Amsted Industries has recently become the majority owner of Advanced Graphite Materials (AGM), located in Clarksburg. Amsted Industries will expand the production of synthetic graphite at the existing site, enabling U.S. companies to access a domestic, high-grade graphite material for use in products such as electric vehicle batteries and missile systems.
“This investment in West Virginia is unbelievable news,” Gov. Justice said. “Amsted Industries brings more than 100 years of global manufacturing excellence to our state. They are making a statement to the world that West Virginia is on the move and an excellent place to do business and manufacture products.”
This new venture ensures a domestic supply chain for synthetic graphite for critical sectors of the U.S. economy. Amsted plans to increase synthetic graphite production at the site in the coming years, generating jobs and creating the first fully-integrated producer of anode grade materials based in the United States.

Gov. Justice provided another overview of statewide data on COVID-19, highlighting that West Virginia’s daily percentage of positive test results dropped to 0.21 percent, while the state’s cumulative percentage of positive test results also dropped to 2.03 percent, the lowest marks in these categories since the recent spike in cases at Huttonsville Correctional Center and Jail.
“That’s exactly what we want to see,” Gov. Justice said. “All of this is moving exactly how we want this to move and that’s really good.”
West Virginia continues to excel in several metrics compared to its surrounding states and the national average. View the latest COVID-19 data at Coronavirus.wv.gov.

During his remarks Tuesday, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard, announced that the WVNG yesterday supported the West Virginia State Police by helping test all cadets returning to the academy for training.
Maj. Gen. Hoyer reported that 75 cadets and staff members from 24 counties across the state were tested. All of these tests came back negative.
Additionally, Maj. Gen. Hoyer announced that the WVNG will be providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to members of the West Virginia Division of Corrections as they begin to test all correctional facilities in the state, per Gov. Justice’s recent directive to do so.

Monday’s Highlights were:

During Monday afternoon’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that today marks the start of Week 6 of his plan to reopen the state: West Virginia Strong – The Comeback.
The next wave of reopenings are scheduled for this Friday, June 5. Businesses permitted to resume operations on Friday include:
•Casinos (Safety guidelines)
•Movie theaters (Safety guidelines)
Reopening businesses must properly follow all additional safety guidelines.
Businesses included in each phase of this reopening plan are not required to resume operations on any specific date. This plan provides the option for reopening, not a requirement.
The Governor’s Safer at Home order remains in effect at this time.

On Monday, Gov. Justice provided an update on COVID-19 test results from Huttonsville Correctional Center and Jail in Randolph County, announcing that all 1,089 inmate and employee test results have now come back.
Since his previous update on Friday, two more inmates’ test results came back positive, bringing the final number of positive inmates to 118. No additional staff members have tested positive.
“The Division of Corrections is surely on top of this and they’re providing constant updates,” Gov. Justice said. “I want to thank the Division of Corrections, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Guard for all of their work in responding to this outbreak.”
Gov. Justice also reported Monday that, to-date, testing has been conducted on 149 additional inmates at other correctional facilities across the state, with zero test results coming back positive.
As a result of the recent developments at the Huttonsville facility, Gov. Justice ordered last week that all inmates and employees at every corrections facility across West Virginia be tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible, as a precautionary measure in efforts to curtail the spread of the virus.
“We’re going to continue to stay on top of the situation at all of our correctional facilities,” Gov. Justice said. “That’s exactly what we ought to be doing – we run to the fire and we absolutely try to put the fire out with the greatness of all the people that are working on it.”

Gov. Justice took time out of today’s briefing to discuss the recent protests that have taken place in West Virginia and across the nation over the Minneapolis death of George Floyd.
“I don’t see how in the world a thing like that could happen in the first place, especially when an individual is crying out, and saying they can’t breathe,” Gov. Justice said. “I can’t see how any West Virginian could think that that’s excusable, and we don’t.
“America is the place that we all have so much love and so much pride for,” Gov. Justice continued. “We need to make change as we go forward in lots of ways and we do that as a nation…but America, today, is hurting in a lot of different ways.”
The Governor went on to note that peaceful protests took place in at least eight cities across West Virginia, praising the fact that nobody was hurt and no violent demonstrations took place.
“Think just this: here comes West Virginia again,” Gov. Justice said. “Every single last one of us believe that we have the rights, and we should exercise those, to protest in a peaceful manner to get our points across, to absolutely convince others that our points are valid and we should recognize the problem and address it.
“We have had multiple protests – people that are out and expressing their rights in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice continued. “And how have you done, West Virginia? You’ve done it in a peaceful manner. You’ve done it in a way that absolutely recognizes you as saying ‘this is a problem’ and recognizes the goodness that you’re doing again. I could not possibly be more proud of you.
“I hope and pray, with all in me… that we will be the guiding light as we’ve been in this pandemic and in our economic recovery. We will be the guiding light that will move us forward in a positive way.
“From the standpoint of all of those in law enforcement, know that I stand rock-solid with you and I’m so proud of you, it’s unbelievable.”

Gov. Justice also took time during the briefing to announce that construction on three new schools in Nicholas County got underway today.
Groundbreakings were held at the sites of the new Richwood Pre-K–12 facility, the new Summersville Middle School, and the new comprehensive Nicholas County High School.
“We had a great big issue a while ago about moving the schools or consolidation and all that stuff and look at what we got worked out by working together,” Gov. Justice said. “Those kids and those teachers will now have new facilities to do the great work that I know they’re going to do.”
The new Richwood Pre-K–12 facility includes a major renovation to Cherry River Elementary, which will serve students in grades Pre-K–5 as well as the addition of a new Richwood Middle-High School, which will be attached and serve students in grades 6-12.
The new Summersville Middle School will serve area students in grades 6-8 and the new comprehensive Nicholas County High School will include a Career & Technical Center and be attached to the new middle school facility.
The total cost for all of the projects is $177 million, including both federal and State funds.

Also today, Gov. Justice announced that general revenue collections of $296.8 million for the month of May were $37.7 million below original estimates, but nearly $33.7 million above initial expectations of reduced revenue associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we originally looked at this pandemic and projected out what was going to happen, we anticipated that, by the end of the year, we’d be $500 million upside down,” Gov. Justice said. “But we have done far better with our May revenue collections than we thought we were going to do.”
Additionally, the Governor reported that income wage and salary withholding tax collections were $18 million above reduced expectations for the month and sales tax collections were $14.5 million ahead of reduced expectations for the month.

During his remarks Monday, Secretary Bill Crouch of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced that Sundale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Monongalia County, the location of the first positive case of COVID-19 seen in West Virginia’s nursing home community, is now free of any cases of the virus.
“I responded with a congratulations and thanking them for what they did and their response was to thank Governor Justice,” Sec. Crouch said. “On March 23, the Governor activated the National Guard to go up and test patients and employees.
“We thank the Governor for his immediate response to this and facilitating the testing of the people we needed to test to keep this outbreak to a minimum.”
Additionally Monday, State Health Officer and Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Cathy Slemp announced that 3,371 individuals were tested for COVID-19 last week as part of the latest round of free community testing.
Dr. Slemp also announced that results from previous rounds of community testing efforts in other regions have been tabulated and are now available to view online:
•Week 1 Report: May 15 and 16, 2020 (Berkeley, Jefferson, Mercer and Raleigh counties)
•Week 2 Report: May 22 and 23, 2020 (Cabell, Kanawha, Marion and Monongalia counties)
Finally, Dr. Slemp added that more community testing in Randolph County took place over the weekend as a result of the recent outbreak at Huttonsville Correctional Center and Jail, reporting that 808 individuals received a test and, with 70 percent of the results in at this time, no positive cases have been discovered.

The Governor once again offered a reminder that the State recently sent out the application for cities and counties throughout West Virginia to apply for funding through the federal CARES Act.
A new web portal is now available for city and county government officials to apply for this grant funding, at grants.wv.gov. Interested parties can also call the helpline: 1-833-94-GRANT.

Once more Monday, Gov. Justice asked all West Virginians to participate in the 2020 United States Census.
Every West Virginian who does not respond to the Census represents a loss of $20,000 in federal funds over the next 10 years for the state and its local communities. The funds can go toward things like healthcare, education, infrastructure, school lunch programs, and more.
Be counted in minutes: 2020census.gov.

During Monday’s press briefing, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard, outlined the continued support being offered to our Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA) cadets.
In March, cadets were sent home from their campus at Camp Dawson out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that time, staff and faculty at MCA have been conducting virtual training to ensure students were on track to meet the requirements for graduation.
Over the next few days, more than 100 cadets will return to take their end of course exam.
“Of the kids who left when we asked them to go home at the beginning of this pandemic, we have all but two cadets who have chosen to continue on in the program,” Hoyer noted. “I think it’s a great testament to our staff and faculty.”