CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R–W.Va., and Rep. Alex Mooney, R–W.Va., joined Gov. Jim Justice for his Wednesday coronavirus press briefing.
After opening remarks by all three parties, Justice went over the deaths of six more West Virginians from coronavirus. This puts the total so far at 166.
Justice said various coronavirus statistics in the state are looking good at the moment.
“Yesterday, we had 81 new positive cases and a positivity rate for the day of 2.14[%]. Our active cases now have dropped from 1,941…down to 1,726. That’s a big move,” said Justice.
The governor alluded to another adjustment coming to the color-coded mapping system for school openings. He said the concern right now is that the standard of daily new cases per 100,000 population is skewed against some of the smaller counties in the state.
“On our color coding to our counties of our green, yellow, orange and red, we have looked, and…from the standpoint of our smaller counties, this can be skewed just a little bit,” said Justice. “We’ve got a way, I don’t want to report it today, but I’ll probably report it on Friday, of how we’re gonna tweak that just a little bit, and it’s probably gonna, it’s gonna be really beneficial to our smaller counties.”
The governor was asked to provide some more clarification on why the change was necessary, which is something he and Dr. Clay Marsh each addressed. Justice said he received a text message from a friend who was concerned about a bias against smaller counties, so the governor decided to go over the figures again.
“So, I went back, and we started through the math, and we called everybody together yesterday evening, and we started checking, checking, checking, checking, and lo and behold, we do have a bias,” said Justice. “Even though, we’re, we’re moving it and adjusting it with population, it does show a skew, or a little level of bias.”
“We know that West Virginia is a state that’s made up of some very, very low population counties, and when we have very few cases that could happen over a seven-day period of time with this seven-day rolling average that could put a county into the orange, we want to make sure that that’s not just a sort of a, a happenstance, a kind of a, a, a outlier event, and want to make sure that that’s a consistent, you know, level of community spread,” said Marsh.
“We believe this system is good, but for counties that are very low population, this has never been validated, and the problem you have because you have to do the mathematical adjustment to get to 100,000 population, that in some very small population counties, like 5,000, you’re using a pretty heavy sort of multiplication effect to get it up to 100,000, and we believe that there’s a better way to, uh, provide for consistency for those small counties. So, not a huge tweak, but a little one that we think is gonna make this an even better model,” Marsh added.
Justice addressed the ongoing closure of bars in Monongalia County. The governor elected to extend that closure again through the end of August.
“We’re going to reopen, unless we just get some terrible thing that happens in Mon County, we’re gonna reopen on the 31st of the month,” said Justice. “We’re gonna reopen in a 21-and-over…status. We’re not gonna have dance floors. We’re not gonna have live entertainment, and we’re going to expand the ability to go outdoors.”
Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx visited West Virginia on Wednesday, and Sen. Capito touched on what’s being done nationally to address coronavirus, specifically on the vaccine front. Birx also discussed the state’s color-coded map for schools.
“She was, uh, particularly interested in the color-coding system for the reopening of the schools. She recommended that it’s going to be part of her governors report, uh, that, where they share best practices with all the other governors,” said Capito. “She warned the governor that he might get 49 other governors calling him to find out.
“The other thing I asked about, and I was interested to hear, other people were interested in, is the vaccine development,” Capito continued. “There are six, I guess, active vaccine developments. She expressed cautious optimism that, uh, a vaccine would be developed in a, in a timely, uh, you know, amount of time. She didn’t get specific at all.”
“[Birx] does think we can be safe and go back to school, have that choice to go back to school if you, if you want,” said Mooney. “I think she represents the president really well, which is why he’s chosen her to be in charge and send her around to different states. She also mentioned she’s not afraid to call out a state or a community that’s not doing the right thing. And, it was public. She called out the state of Georgia when they weren’t doing things that she thought was right. And so, on the flip side of that, she was happy that we have been taking the precautions here and seem to be doing better.”
The state continues to offer free coronavirus testing in various counties. Such testing will be offered next week in Webster County. It will be held Aug. 29, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., at Webster County High School.