CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice began Monday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing by mourning the 14 most recent coronavirus deaths in the state, but then noted that overall numbers are getting better.
The state’s numbers would be even better if residents weren’t traveling to Myrtle Beach, were wearing masks and were social distancing at church, Gov. Justice opined.
There are 30 outbreaks in nursing homes or long-term care facilities around the state, according to West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources officials. Most of those outbreaks are one or two cases, officials said. Pine Lodge, in Beckley, has 33 residents and 13 staff members who have tested positive, while 33 residents and nine staff members at Grant Rehab and Care Center in Petersburg have also tested positive, officials said.
Justice is looking at bringing back no visitation policies for nursing homes, along with finding ways to better screen staff members, he said.
The state needs to develop a plan to again test all nursing homes and correctional facilities, Justice said.
The elderly should consider attending church services online, or on TV or radio, the governor suggested.
St. Francis, the state’s COVID-19 surge hospital, now has 15 beds operating, including patients from the Princeton Health Care Center outbreak, DHHR officials said. The hospital could expand to up to 75 beds or beyond, officials said.
Free testing is scheduled this week in Brooke and Lewis counties.
The governor also expressed concern after hearing news reports that a large number of young children has contracted COVID-19 in recent weeks and that major college football conferences are considering canceling the fall season. While things are “full steam ahead” to return to school on Sept. 8, officials and the general population have to be able to pivot if things change, Justice said. If changes are necessary, Justice anticipates letting the public know by Sept. 1, he said.
When asked if the testing of all students and teachers is begin considered before the start of school, officials said that it was, but the state does not have that capability today, according to Justice.
The governor also commended President Trump for his executive order providing for $400 per week payments for people receiving unemployment benefits. Under the president’s order, the state will have to pay 25% of the benefits. Justice pointed to $678 million he has saved from CARES Act funding to pay for it.