CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice began Wednesday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing by announcing that the state has now had 350 coronavirus-related deaths.
The governor then compared the 350 deaths among West Virginia’s population of 1,792,147 to deaths in surrounding states: 1,170 in Kentucky(population: 4,467,673); 3,208 in Virginia(population: 8,535,519); 3,949 in Maryland(population: 6045680); 4,783 in Ohio(population: 11,689,100) and 8,142 in Pennsylvania(population: 12,801,989). Justice then said that none of those numbers mean anything to the family members of the people who have died.
The state now has ten church outbreaks in seven counties, which is an increase from four outbreaks, Justice said.
The governor also announced that there is now a positive case among inmates at the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County.
State education officials announced that saliva tests will now be conducted by colleges and universities in the state to continue surveillance testing of students and staff.
Justice was again asked about the changes the state has made to its color-coded maps. “If we don’t tested, we’re going to get worse,” Justice said. Before the map changes were made, people weren’t getting tested in order to keep the numbers down, Justice said. If the state followed the original map, “a third to a half of our state’s” schools would be shutdown. The state is using the AFT’s(the state’s largest teacher’s union) standard of 5% positivity, Justice said. “At the end of the day, if there’s lawsuits, there’s lawsuits,” Justice said. The governor blamed questions about the map changes on “politics, politics, politics and it stinks!” he said.
When asked by 12 News Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis about reports of student athletes and their family members getting multiple tests to help drive up negative test numbers, Gov. Justice said he doesn’t know of any instances of that happening, but said: “coaches, if you’re doing this, you shouldn’t be a coach. You’re setting a horrible example for your kids. It’s plain awful.” WV DHHR officials said that they have been getting those kinds of complaints.
For the first time since the briefings began in March, a different sign language interpreter appeared. When asked if the two regular interpreters had tested positive for COVID-19, the governor declined to answer citing privacy issues and took the reporter to task for asking the question.
When asked about President Trump’s comment during Tuesday night’s debate about a West Virginia mailman “selling ballots,” Justice did not specifically answer the question, but said: “I was really disappointed in the debate in every way. It turned into an ugly food fight. I hate like crazy for us in the United States to have that. I was really, really saddened by the whole thing.”