CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice made several announcements during his virtual news COVID-19 briefing Thursday.

After getting a lot of calls asking that gyms be allowed to open up, Gov. Justice announced that as of Monday, May 18, gyms and health clubs will be able to reopen. The governor’s office released guidelines for gyms to follow that limit occupancy to 40% of fire codes, detail cleaning procedures, call for health screenings for employees and patrons and mandate that showers, locker rooms, pools, saunas, courts and water fountains remain closed. You can read the full guidelines here.

Justice also announced that whitewater rafting and zip-lining businesses will be allowed to reopen, with limitations, on Thursday, May 21.

While reviewing the state’s COVID-19 statistics, in a positive light, Gov. Justice paused to issue a warning to state residents: “At the drop of a hat, we’ll shut it(the state) back down to protect our people,” Justice said.

WV DHHR officials detailed a new county alert program to track which areas of the state are seeing increases in COVID-19. Through the program, if state health officials see an increase in community transmission of coronavirus, a specific county may be placed on “high alert” by the governor.

“This approach will provide a consistent way to allow West Virginia to return to work while ensuring that we are monitoring for and taking aggressive steps to prevent the resurgence of the virus,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.

Gov. Justice also announced a plan to increase COVID-19 testing in minority communities in the state. The tests will be free and patients will not have to have symptoms to be tested, Justice said. Initially, the tests will be available on Friday, May 15 and Saturday, May 16 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Berkeley, Jefferson, Mercer and Raleigh counties.

Testing will be available at:

  • Martinsburg High School, 701 S. Queen Street, Martinsburg, WV
  • Asbury United Methodist Church, 110 W. North Street, Charles Town, WV
  • Bluefield State College Harris-Jefferson Student Center Lower Parking Lot, 219 Rock Street, Bluefield, WV
  • Raleigh County Commission on Aging, 1614 South Kanawha Street, Beckley, WV

Proof of address will be required and those under 18 will need to have a parent with them, officials said. Additional testing for Cabell, Kanawha, Marion, and Monongalia counties will be held on May 22 and 23, 2020, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Fayette, Kanawha and Mineral counties on May 29 and 30, 2020, also from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with locations to be determined and announced at a later date, according to a DHHR news release.

“This effort aligns with Governor Justice’s strategy to increase testing among vulnerable populations to more effectively slow the spread of this disease,” said Dr. Slemp. “Gov. Justice directed the DHHR to develop an advisory group to assist in community outreach and education related to COVID-19 in African Americans, Latinos and other minorities in the state of West Virginia. We’re getting the word out about how important testing is in these communities and now we’re ready to put our plan into action to help save lives.”

DHHR officials also gave an update on testing efforts at assisted living facilities, saying that testing has been completed at 13 of 94 facilities.

Justice also mentioned that Exxon has donated 2,400 hundred gallons of medical grade hand sanitizer to the state.