MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice announced a coronavirus executive order during his Thursday press briefing. All private and public golf courses must take all possible steps to assure social distancing. That includes mandating one person per golf cart unless the golfers live together.
“I’m not trying to hassle anybody, all I’m trying to do is keep you all safe,” he said.
As part of the same order, he is allowing municipalities to move their local elections to June 9 to match the state primary.
While discussing test results, COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh mentioned it can take up to seven days for results to come back from the private labs.
The Dominion Post has received frequent calls and emails about the reason for that lag and posed the question during the briefing. Marsh and Bureau of Public Health Commissioner Cathy Slemp answered it.
Both explained that when the pandemic began, all tests had to run through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Testing was expanded to state labs and then to private labs. The labs had to develop protocols in a hurry.
The two major private labs are LabCorp and Quest, they said. They got overwhelmed and started falling behind. Results were taking as long as 12 days. But the private labs have begun opening new, more local facilities and are starting to catch up, though they’re still behind.
Once the labs have facilities to conduct all West Virginia testing in-state, Marsh said, the turnover will improve.
Slemp added that companies around the world developed COVID-19 tests that weren’t available 13 months ago. A national shortage of testing reagents contributed to the backlog.
Both mentioned a new test developed by Abbott that can return a positive result in 5 seconds and a negative result in 13 seconds. Slemp said the state I expecting more supplies of that test. When they arrive, the Bureau will have two goals: one, to expand regional availability for faster turnaround; and two, to deploy them on a mobile basis for outbreak investigations and special populations.
The Department of Health and Human Resources is now releasing statistics twice a day, at 10 a.m. And 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon, there were 523 positive cases out of 13,863 tests, for a rate of 3.74%.
Justice again pointed out that west Virginia is faring far better than the nation as a whole; the national rate is 19.03%. Among our neighbors, only Kentucky is close, at 6.2% while Maryland stands at 14.3%.
Later, he cautioned everyone not get get complacent because of that. “Don’t go asleep at the switch. Stay the course.”
Marsh also urged all to keep keeping apart and follow all the protective practices. Once we get past the peak of the pandemic, he said, the next challenge will be figuring out how to reactivate the state, the nation and the world.
Justice reported that as of Thursday, WorkForce West Virginia had received a total 113,000 unemployment claims tied to the coronavirus. On Wednesday, they received 5,400 and processed 4,200.
Adjutant General James Hoyer reported that the second claims call center was up and running at WVU and the third would be up by Thursday night. And they’re looking at opening a fourth.
With Easter and Passover here and Ramadan approaching, Slemp addressed the question of worship-related gatherings. Traditional in-person worship activities should not be held, she said.
Instead, faith groups should consider alternatives such phone-based, online or drive-in events. She said people should stay connected as faith-based communities but do so in safe, effective and creative ways.
Justice opened his briefing by acknowledging the death of an 89-year-old Sundale nursing home patient, bringing the state’s total to five. “It’s now five too many,” he said, and urged all to keep the woman’s family in their thoughts and prayers.
He warned seniors to beware of phony IRS calls that seek financial information to process their CARES checks. The number to report scams is 304-558-8520.
And he again urged all to fill out their U.S. Census forms to assure the state receives its share of federal funding. During the last census, he said, “a tremendous amount of people were not counted.” Because it happens just every 10 years, “it hurts us for a long time.”
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