CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Following his standard procedure, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice began Wednesday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing by lamenting the most recent coronavirus deaths in the state, with a total standing at 111.
Justice said that while West Virginia COVID-19 numbers are something that most other states would be envious of, they are trending the wrong way. The number of active cases in two of the state’s hotspots, Kanawha and Monongalia counties, has dropped, Justice said.
There are 94 people in the state who are hospitalized due to COVID-19, a number that has risen, the governor said. Hospitals in the state still have patient capacity, he said.
The governor also provided an update on an outbreak at a nursing home in Mercer County, where two people have died and 23 staff members and 19 residents have tested positive, Justice said. The governor and state health officials attributed the original cause of the outbreak as coming from Myrtle Beach. Everyone at the nursing home is currently begin re-tested, they said.
The governor and state officials addressed the lag in getting COVID-19 testing results back, saying that the state’s local lab has improved its turnaround time from eight days to four or five days, while national labs have assured the state that they are also improving lag times.
A lab at West Virginia University should be up and running by the end of August, Justice said.
The governor also talked about school reopening plans, saying that “nothing is etched in stone” and that local counties will know what is best. He used Doddridge County, which has three active cases, as an example of a place that may be in a better position to have traditional school, as compared to a place like Monongalia County, which has 136 active cases and a large number of college students set to return to it.
In terms of the September 8 school opening date, Justice said that people will have to be prepared to pivot as we get closer to the date. Justice said he still believes that students in the state will be able to go back to school while they, teachers and personnel are protected.
When asked about the possibility of teacher strikes related to COVID-19 safety concerns, Justice said he hopes “we don’t get to that,” but he understands the concern, particularly with the age of some teachers.