U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney among those in attendance
CHARLESTON, WV Prior to his regularly scheduled COVID-19 press briefing today, Gov. Jim Justice hosted Dr. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, at the West Virginia Capitol to discuss efforts being made to combat the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopen the state.
Dr. Birx, you see her on TV all the time, she is amazing, Gov. Justice said. She has incredible energy and unbelievable knowledge. She's traveled all across the country. The great work that shes doing and her dedication to West Virginia and this nation is amazing. And I can very proudly say that she was tickled to death with the things were doing in West Virginia.
In an interview with members of the media following a roundtable with state leaders at the Culture Center, Dr. Birx praised West Virginia for executing an effective virus response.
We really wanted to hear how West Virginia got it right and continues to get it right, Dr. Birx said. I think what Ive been convinced is its really a partnership and teamwork, coming together to create self-sufficiency through innovation, and its really been translating to every West Virginian, putting them first and then communicating how important every West Virginian is to each other.
Dr. Birx specifically commended Gov. Justice and state leaders for developing what she called a remarkable plan to safely reopen schools across the state. The plan uses a scientific metric to evaluate the safety level in each county and a color-coded map system to let parents, students, teachers, and faculty know what precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of their communities.
Were going to put it in our governors report next week and Im worried that West Virginia is going to get a call from another 49 governors, Dr. Birx said. To really lay out the metrics of where every county is, making that visible to every single parent, and linking that to school choice and then very clear guidances of what to do depending on what your category is.
I was very excited to talk about this and take this to other governors, Dr. Birx continued. I think the reason why I like it is its practical, its something that every county and every state can do, its understandable, and most importantly, its implementable. And thats really what I got from this visit, is this attention to detail but not detail for the having of detail but detail that translates into better service for West Virginians.
West Virginia represents exactly what we want to see across the country a common sense approach based on the data, local data, that people use to keep themselves safe and that they understand, Dr. Birx said.
Gov. Justice and Dr. Birx were joined by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Congressman Alex Mooney for a discussion at the Governor's Mansion and the follow-up roundtable at the Culture Center.
Among those also in attendance for the discussions with Dr. Birx were West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch, State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad, State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch, West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, and several of the states leading experts in medicine, education, business and more.
After the conclusion of the discussions with Dr. Birx, Sen. Capito and Rep. Mooney joined Gov. Justice for his latest COVID-19 press briefing.
Weve had an incredible experience this morning by hearing Dr. Birx, who is a terrific health leader at the COVID Task Force with the Vice President, Sen. Capito said. Weve all seen her on TV, but I can tell you theres nothing like seeing her in person and seeing how inspirational she is and the message that shes led in this country. She said shes thrilled to be coming to West Virginia because its a green state, she hasnt been able to see too many green states and she wanted to know what was the key to our relative success, and I think she came away with a couple things: the Governors leadership, constant communication.
Thank you, Governor, and your team for your leadership in this important time, Rep. Mooney said. We should all be encouraged that West Virginians from across our state are supporting, protecting, and standing by one another during this unprecedented time.
Dr. Birx also praised the Governor's indoor face covering requirement, the state's expansive collection of COVID-19 data, the state's commitment to full testing residents and staff at every nursing home in West Virginia, the Governor'sCOVID-19 Advisory Commission on African AmericanDisparities, and the development of innovative products like reusable masks and sanitization equipment.
WEST VIRGINIA UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS AGAIN; REMAINS BELOW NATIONAL AVERAGE Also during his briefing Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 9.9% for the month of July.
The national unemployment rate for July was 10.2%.
Since April, when state unemployment levels reached 15.9%, more than 47,000 jobs have been recovered across West Virginia.
Before the pandemic, West Virginia had historic economic growth that led to a 4.7% unemployment rate statewide.
GOVERNOR ADDS SELF-EMPLOYED, SOLE PROPRIETORS TO THOSE ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that he is opening up hisWest Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Programto sole proprietorships and self-employed individuals in West Virginia.
Any sole proprietor or self-employed person, in operation on or before March 1, 2020, is now able to apply for up to $2,000 in grant funding.
Meanwhile, any West Virginia-based small businesswith 1-35 employees, in existence on or before March 1, 2020 is still able to apply for up to $5,000 in grant funding. Over 2,300 of these applications have been submitted to date, with more than $9.5 millionbeing awarded so far.
Businesses planning to apply must first be registered as a vendor with the State to be eligible. Guidelines for the grants and instructions on how to apply are available atGrants.wv.gov.
The application will remain open until Sept. 30, 2020.
MON COUNTY BARS TO REOPEN ON AUG. 31 Gov. Justice also announced that, after one final extension to countywide bar closure in Monongalia County, these facilities will be able to open at the end of this month, provided that they adhere to a list of additional safety guidelines.
On Wednesday, Gov. Justiceissuedan executive order, extending the closure of all bars in Mon County for an additional 11 days.
The extension was requested by West Virginia University and the Monongalia County Commission, with WVU students returning to campus in Morgantown this week.
The new order extends the countywide bar closure until Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. Gov. Justice pledged that this will stand as the reopening date, barring amajor uptick in case numbers or another unforeseen circumstance and provided that all safety guidelines are properly followed.
We're not going to have dance floors, we're not going to have live entertainment, and we're going to have to expand the ability to go outdoors, Gov. Justice said.
Click here to view the safety guidelines that will be required for the reopening of bars in Monongalia County.
The countywide bar closure was originally established underExecutive Order 52-20, first extended underExecutive Order 55-20, further extended underExecutive Order 58-20, and extended again under Executive Order 60-20.
The order keeps all Monongalia County bars closed for the on-premises consumption of food or drinks or occupancy by the general public. However, customers are still permitted to pick up food or drinks to be taken away.
The order maintains that patrons are allowed to be seated, for dining, at tables and bar tops within "bar areas" of restaurants, hotels, and other similar facilities, subject to the same limitations that are in place for restaurants.
FUNDING BEING SENT TO VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENTS Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that the $4.19 million that he pledged to support West Virginia'svolunteer fire departments is now ready for distribution.
Each of the state's 419 VFDs will receive $10,000.
Our firefighters have all meant so much to us during this pandemic, but especially the ones who do so on a voluntary basis, Gov. Justice said. I love being able to get this money out because, at the end of the day, this is going to help us save more lives.
GOV. JUSTICE DIRECTS WORKFORCE WEST VIRGINIA TO APPLY FOR LOST WAGE ASSISTANCE UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FUNDS Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justicedirected WorkForce West Virginia to apply for the Lost Wages Assistance Payments grant through the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).
As I have said, we cannot let our people that are sitting out there with no job not knowing how in the world theyre going to pay rent, or keep from being evicted, or making their car payment, or putting food on the table just sit out there and wilt on the vine, Gov. Justice said. "We've got to get some money flowing to help West Virginians in need."
Upon approval by FEMA, this grant will allow WorkForce West Virginia to provide an additional $400 per week in assistance payment to those receiving Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits due to COVID-related impacts. FEMA disaster relief funds will cover $300 of the new weekly payment and the other $100 will come from West Virginias allocation of the federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund. Lost Wage Assistance was established after Congress did not reauthorize the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provided an extra $600 payment to eligible UI claimants.
Click here to read more
COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS UPDATE Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported modest improvement once again in some of West Virginia's COVID-19 case numbers, announcing that the number of active cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations continue to trend down.
Meanwhile, West Virginias statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission also known as Rt is currently tied for the 8th-best such rate in the country,dropping to 0.90 today. If a given statesRt value is above 1.0, it means the virus will spread quickly, while values under 1.0 mean infections are slowing. West VirginiasRt has remained under 1.0 every day since July 6, 2020; the same day that the Governor instituted hisStatewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement.
Click here to view the latest COVID-19 data
UPDATE ON CHURCHES, LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES Also Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that church-related outbreaks remain active in three counties across West Virginia: Cabell, Taylor, and Wood counties. These outbreaks account for about 44 total cases combined.
The Governor added that there are now 26 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state, with extra attention being paid toGrant Rehab and Care Center in Grant County,Cedar Ridge Center in Kanawha County,Trinity Healthcare in Logan County,Princeton Healthcare Center in Mercer County,Pine Lodge Nursing Home in Raleigh County, andRosewood Nursing Home in Taylor County.
When it comes to our nursing homes, all of our people have been unbelievable, from the staff, to the National Guard, to the DHHR running to the fire and doing testing, Gov. Justice said. But Ill say again, weve just got to be super careful about going out of state and bringing this stuff back to these vulnerable populations.
FREE COVID-19 TESTING Gov. Justice also updated the schedule of upcomingfree community COVID-19 testingevents taking place over the next several weeks at various dates and times in multiple counties across the state.
The effort is part of a plan to provide free optional testing to all residents in several counties that are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission. It targets residents who have struggled to be seen by a physician or do not have insurance to pay for testing. However, other residents, including those who are asymptomatic are welcome to be tested.
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