COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice announces hero pay for front line workers; adds four counties to executive order


CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined State health leaders at the Capitol Complex in Charleston today for a virtual press briefing to once again update the public on the many measures being taken in the interest of protecting the public from the spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Gov. Jim Justice said Friday that West Virginians keep doing good things that are “saving lots and lots of lives” during the COVID-19 crisis, and asked them to “not drop our guard now” as the Easter holiday weekend has arrived with new information indicating that the peak of the pandemic is now projected to be Sunday.

Dr. Clay Marsh, COVID-19 Czar, reported that projections now reflect that the number of deaths have dropped from initial reports of around 500 to a new count of 74.

“We are flattening the curve, we’re moving rapidly in the right direction but we’re still more at the beginning of the game than the end,” Dr. Marsh cautioned. “We’re still in a place where the risks are high, and there will be a second phase. So we need to just do the phenomenal things we’ve been doing to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.”

View the most up-to-date testing numbers here. 

 

 

GOV. JUSTICE ANNOUNCES HERO PAY FOR FRONT LINE WORKERS

Gov. Justice also announced that each of West Virginia’s 55 counties will receive a grant in the amount of $100,000 to utilize at their discretion to reward “hero pay” for the various front line personnel and first responders involved in the effort.

“Those at the county level are the ones that need to make the real judgment on getting this money to the people who have been looking out for us in every way and thank them so much. It’s the best and simplest way to handle it.”

The Governor said a grant will be given to the West Virginia National Guard to issue $500 to each member that has been activated to serve during the pandemic.

A letter to President Donald J. Trump was prepared by Gov. Justice just prior to Friday’s briefing and in it, he is seeking the authority to use some of the $1.25 billion in funds from the federal CARES Act to “reward first responders and other front line workers that have been putting in countless hours” as well.

Read the letter here. 

 

 

EXECUTIVE ORDER ISSUED FOR FOUR ADDITIONAL COUNTIES

An executive order was also issued by the Governor to add Cabell, Ohio, Wayne, and Wood counties to the list of community clusters for the spread of the virus and gives the local health departments in those counties the authority to further restrict and tighten rules on social distancing and essential services.

That brings the total statewide to 11 counties that have received that designation. He added that Jackson County was also considered but local health officials there believe the additional sanctions aren’t needed at this time.


Read the Executive Order here. 

View all executive orders issued by Gov. Justice related to COVID-19 response here. 

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL BEING PUT TO WORK TO HELP PROCESS AVALANCHE OF UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

Gov. Justice said despite ”working 24/7,” unemployment claims still aren’t being processed fast enough. So in response, 24 staff members from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, five State Troopers and 60 temporary employees are being hired and will begin working Monday to assist WorkForce West Virginia and the National Guard in continuing to handle the massive number of claims that have and continue to be filed.

“WorkForce West Virginia is doing a great job, they are working it as hard as they can work it but the number of claims is an avalanche,” Gov. Justice said. “Nobody could have planned for it. But we’re going to stay right on top of it. We tripled our efforts once with the National Guard and we’re going to triple our efforts again by bringing 60 more people on and processing all these claims.”

File a claim for unemployment here. 

 

 

FAIRMONT REGIONAL BEING CONSIDERED, BUT NOT NEEDED AS SURGE HOSPITAL AT THIS TIME; WVU HEALTH SYSTEMS CONTINUING WORK ON REOPENING

Gov. Justice gave an update on Fairmont Regional today:

“Fairmont Regional Medical Center has been looked at from day one,” Gov. Justice said. “Right now we don't have the need for it to be a surge hospital. But I want to assure the people of Fairmont and Marion County that WVU Health Systems is moving ahead full steam to get that community hospital back open. They are waiting on equipment to be delivered in the near future and hopefully by late May or the early days of June they’ll be ready to go.

 

 

CALL FOR PPE AT NURSING HOMES ACROSS THE STATE BEING ADDRESSED

“We heard from West Virginia Health Care Association today about their needs for personal protective equipment and the DHHR and National Guard are in contact with them and finding out what those facilities that serve our seniors and others need,” Gov. Justice indicated.

 

 

UPDATE FROM THE WV NATIONAL GUARD

From the West Virginia National Guard:

Since beginning operations in support of the state's COVID-19 response 28 days ago, the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) has completed 310 missions through our four lines of effort of operationalizing of the event, stabilizing the population, providing logistical movement of critical supplies and conducting data analysis to combat the virus. Currently, nearly 570 members of the (WVNG) are on duty serving the citizens of the State of West Virginia.

 

Since our last update, members of Task Force Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Enterprise (TF-CRE) supported the testing of 90 personnel for COVID-19 at the Wayne Continuous Care Center in Wayne County and also provided personal protective equipment (PPE) training for the staff of Eastbrook Center and delivered 60 Tyvek suits to the facility to address PPE needs. The suits are able to be decontaminated and will limit the amount of single-use PPE items needed at the facility.

 

TF-CRE provided training to 63 retail establishments, including Kroger's in Charleston on proper cargo, box handling, and PPE wear. Additionally, this team hosted the first decontamination training session with a hotelier in Cabins, West Virginia, and will expand training guidance on proper sanitation and best practices for the tourism industry and hotels next week, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 

So far, TF-CRE has trained more than 250 stores and 930 personnel while also assisting with COVID-19 drive through testing lanes in Huntington, Grafton, Weston and Brooke County. Drive through testing support will expand to include Wyoming, Mingo, Logan, Williamson, and Hampshire by next week.

 

We have increased our number of personnel supporting the Workforce West Virginia mission to 23 and our service members are undergoing training to begin processing unemployment claims, which will start next week. Our number of support personnel will increase to 30 in the coming days.

 

The WVNG, in collaboration with the West Virginia Office of Technology (WVOT) and Workforce West Virginia, are evaluating new technologies that will enhance customer service and create efficiencies in claims processing to further address the current backlog and streamline future processing for West Virginians.

 

Our communications staff have also been working with the Department of Health and Human Resources and WVOT to address and optimize benefits processing for SNAP and WIC recipients. A recent mainframe upgrade has resulted in faster processing and this team is looking at additional ways to increase capacity for the state.

 

Our mission of supporting the most vulnerable populations in the state continues to make an impact and in the last 24 hours, we packed 216 family boxes and 360 supplemental boxes at the Facing Hunger Food Bank in Huntington and 1,813 meals at the Mountaineer Food Bank.

 

Task Force Sustainment, the team dedicated to moving critical PPE supplies and running supply chain logistics for COVID-19 response, delivered hand sanitizer to Yeager Airport and Alum Creek Volunteer Fire Department yesterday, on top of receiving PPE and developing distribution plans for the counties in need.

 

Our data analysts working with DHHR's regional epidemiology teams were able to support 124 contact tracing engagements and 11 expedited specimen transfers to track the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.

Read more here. 

 

 

THANKS TO THOSE WHO ARE FEEDING KIDS, SENIORS AND NEEDY

“I want to thank all of our food volunteers that are making sure our kids, seniors and others in need are fed,” Gov. Justice said. “The folks at VOAD and their volunteers, all of our food banks and their volunteers, the Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, the National Guard. It has been a tremendous effort and continues to be with way over 1 million meals being served.”

 

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.

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