CHARLESTON, WV – Governor Justice met with other officials Friday for his latest press briefing on statewide COVID-19 response.
ORDER PERMITS LOW-CONTACT OUTDOOR SPORT EVENTS, IN-PERSON HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION CEREMONIES
On Friday, Gov. Justice announced that he had signed an executive order that will formally allow several activities, currently scheduled to reopen in the Week 9 phase of West Virginia Strong – The Comeback, to resume, provided that all additional guidelines are followed to help keep West Virginians as safe as possible.
Approved activity reopenings on Monday, June 22, include:
•Youth sports games with spectators
•Outdoor sporting events with spectators
•Outdoor equestrian events with spectators
•Summer Youth Camps
The same executive order also formally allows county school systems to start holding in-person high school graduation ceremonies beginning Monday, June 22, provided that all additional guidelines are followed to help keep West Virginians as safe as possible.
The order will go into effect on Monday, June 22, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
GOV. JUSTICE PROCLAIMS FRIDAY AS JUNETEENTH DAY
During his briefing, Gov. Justice also took time to announce that he had signed a proclamation, officially declaring Friday as Juneteenth Day in West Virginia.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is celebrated each year on June 19 to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.
GOV. JUSTICE WISHES WEST VIRGINIA AN EARLY HAPPY 157TH BIRTHDAY
Also, Gov. Justice took time to celebrate that Saturday, June 20, 2020, was West Virginia’s 157th Birthday.
“What a place to live. We all, who live in West Virginia, know all the goodness that goes on here,” Gov. Justice said. “We know how good our families are. We know that we’re faith-based, we’re low-crime, and we’re loving people who are appreciative of one another.
“Through the miracle that’s happened here in the past few months, the world has seen how good and how safe of a place that West Virginia truly is,” Gov. Justice continued. “More people will come now because of you, West Virginia. I am so proud of you and I’m excited to celebrate this great, great birthday.”
UPDATE ON CHURCH OUTBREAKS
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice provided an update on several church-related outbreaks of COVID-19 across West Virginia.
Three such outbreaks remain active at this time. They are associated with churches located in Greenbrier, Ohio, and Boone counties.
The total number of positive cases associated with the outbreak in Greenbrier County is now up to 34, with three of the individuals currently hospitalized. A total of 104 congregation members were tested.
The total number of positive cases associated with the outbreak in Ohio County is now at five, with two of the individuals currently hospitalized.
The total number of positive cases associated with the outbreak in Boone County is now at eight.
“Church is absolutely our most sacred ground,” Gov. Justice said. “But please, you have got to wear a mask, you have got to sit every other pew. And if people aren’t doing it, for crying out loud, step up and say something.”
Despite hearing word of a potential outbreak at a second church in Greenbrier County, State Health Officer Dr. Cathy Slemp provided additional clarification.
“What we have is actually not a new outbreak in that church, we have an exposure from the first church,” Dr. Slemp said. “So, some of the congregation members from a second church were exposed to individuals who became ill from the first church.
“So we have simply been making sure we’ve notified all of those individuals that might have been potentially exposed and the church has been closed for the next couple weeks of services just in case anyone were to develop illness there and then they’re doing cleaning at the church.”
GOV. JUSTICE URGES CAUTION AMONG MYRTLE BEACH VISITORS
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice provided words of caution to West Virginians who have or who are considering traveling to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, after cases have dramatically increased at the popular vacation destination in recent days.
“We have a lot of close ties in South Carolina,” Gov. Justice said. “Lo and behold, they’ve got a big-time problem and it becomes our problem too because we’ve got a lot of people that love to go to Myrtle Beach…and now we’ve got multiple people that are coming back that are testing positive.
“If you ought to travel to Myrtle Beach – and I would think twice before I did that, West Virginia, because they’ve got a real problem going on there – but if you do that, what I would highly recommend you do is, when you get back, is just consider quarantining yourself and take the time to be tested. You may very well save a life and that life might be your own or someone close to you.”
2020 STATE FAIR OF WEST VIRGINIA CANCELED
Gov. Justice also provided an update on the 2020 State Fair of West Virginia, just after the fair’s Board of Directors announced that they had opted to cancel the event.
“The State Fair brings together tens of thousands of people and, at the end of the day, they just decided that it was too much too soon,” Gov. Justice said. “Of course, we all love the fair and we’re going to miss it in every way. But, at the same time, we understand and respect the decision.”
RALEIGH COUNTY NURSING HOME REMAINS COVID-FREE
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice reported that, despite concerns of a COVID-19 outbreak in one of Raleigh County’s nursing homes, further investigation showed that that there are no active cases at the nursing home at this time.
THOMAS HEALTH COMING OUT OF BANKRUPTCY
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice expressed his congratulations to officials with Thomas Health after learning that they have agreed on a plan to come out of bankruptcy, a move that will save more than 1,600 jobs.
“During this pandemic Thomas Health stepped up and made St. Francis Hospital a COVID-19 surge facility in the event our hospitals were over capacity,” Gov. Justice said. “We provided them funding through FEMA to set up this special hospital to assist our hospital system to maintain its load.
“We truly appreciate their partnership and are so happy for them, all their employees, and the great West Virginians who rely on Thomas for top-quality healthcare service,” Gov. Justice continued.
GRANT FUNDING TO CITIES AND COUNTIES TOPS $11 MILLION
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice provided an update on cities and counties throughout West Virginia applying for funds through the federal CARES Act, reporting that more than $11 million has now been distributed all across the state.
“We surely can’t pump the money out the door until our cities and counties apply,” Gov. Justice said. “We have guidelines that we have to follow from the federal government, but we’re moving as fast as possible. We’re calling cities and counties ourselves and encouraging them to apply to get the money out the door.”
A web portal is available for city and county government officials to apply for this grant funding: grants.wv.gov. Interested parties can also call the helpline: 1-833-94-GRANT.
Each of the recipients of CARES Act funding, along with grant amounts, are now available to view through the COVID-19 transparency web portal provided by West Virginia State Auditor’s Office.
ADDITIONAL TESTING: BOONE, LINCOLN, MCDOWELL, RALEIGH, AND WYOMING COUNTIES
Gov. Justice and the DHHR also annouçnced locations for additional free COVID-19 community testing in Boone, Lincoln, McDowell, Raleigh, and Wyoming counties, at various times and dates, beginning Monday, June 22, through Monday, June 29.
STATEWIDE CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES TESTING UPDATE
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice provided another update on his initiative to test all inmates and employees within the State’s network of correctional facilities for COVID-19.
The most recent testing results showed there were a total of ten active COVID-19 cases among inmates and residents at one jail and one prison across West Virginia and four active COVID-19 cases among corrections employees and contract staff.
More than 10,000 inmates and 4,000 employees were tested in total. Two jails and one prison have completely recovered all of their COVID-19 patients.