CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Jim Justice has named Dr. Ayne Amjad West Virginia’s state health officer and commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health, filling a position formerly held by Dr. Cathy Slemp, who resigned last month.
Justice made the announcement Friday during his coronavirus press briefing.
“She has done so much stuff. She has [an] incredible résumé, and she is excited about being a part of this team,” said Justice. “There’s not very often that we, are we able to reach out and really snag a real superstar. But, she is uh, she is just that.”
Justice had stated his concern over Slemp’s performance in recent weeks, citing inconsistencies in the reporting of coronavirus case figures. Bill Crouch, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, then asked for and received her resignation.
Amjad is a Marshall University graduate who specializes in internal medicine and preventive healthcare in Beckley. She also has a master’s degree in public health.
“I am excited to be here, and everything happened really fast, but I’m excited to be part of the team, and will get started right away to address everything that needs to be done,” said Amjad.
According to Justice, there are 50 people currently hospitalized in West Virginia for coronavirus. However, he stated his concern for Monongalia County, which has seen a recent spike in cases.
“We have 246 active cases in Mon County and well over 400 that are positive cases that we have accumulated in Mon County,” said Justice. “We need to understand that my executive order said ‘mandatory.’ Mandatory in public buildings.
“It’s mandatory to wear masks. Now, we have held the reins back as far as making some kind of penalties or whatever it may be, and we don’t want to drive ourselves into a situation of…to where we’re divided,” Justice continued.
“As far as Mon County goes, what we have to do is just this. We have to be looking now at closing the bars. We have to be looking now at closing indoor dining, unless we get a real movement and moving in our direction. It’s the last thing we want to do.
“We’re going to have to look at restricting our gatherings and going to a smaller number statewide. In Mon County, we are looking—and I am waiting on more information coming from our experts, and everything, to tell us, ‘Go now, shut the bars back down. Shut down the indoor dining.’ Do you think we want to do this? It is the last thing on earth I wanna do.
“We have got to absolutely wear our masks,” Justice reiterated.
One area of interest going into Friday was high school sports, which Justice alluded to on Wednesday, when he announced his targeted school start date of Sept. 8. West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Executive Director Bernie Dolan addressed the upcoming fall sports season during Friday’s briefing.
“Because we’ve moved back the start of school to Sept. 8, uh, we also are pushing back our practice days,” said Dolan. “So, instead of starting on Aug. 3, which most fall sports would have started, besides volleyball, we’re moving the start of all of our practice activities to Aug. 17.”
Dolan said this date would allow for enough practices to allow sports, football in particular, to begin the week before school is set to begin.
“As we work from there, we work backwards because you have to have so many practices. Uh, you have to have 14 practices to safely participate. So, we had to get to a starting date that allowed us to have that,” said Dolan.
Dolan also said the wearing of masks and social distancing will be required at athletic events. It is likely there will be limits placed on attendance, as well; however, limits could vary depending on the venue and the sport, Dolan explained.
Listen to Dolan outline the plan for high school sports below: