Business, Healthcare, Latest News, State Government

Gov. Justice targets day cares, outdoor dining for next steps in reopening West Virginia

MORGANTOWN — As hospitals gear up to resume elective procedures next week, Gov. Jim Justice said Friday day cares and restaurants will be in view for the next phase of reopening the state.

Day cares will be needed, he said, to serve the hospital staff members who will be returning to work.

Some have remained open during the stay-at-home period but he’d like to get them all back up and running, he said. For everyone to have some sense of security, all day care staff members will have to be tested for COVID-19. Among other safety measures, his staff is looking into such things as temperature testing the kids and parents, depending on the legality of such measures.

While he doesn’t have a specific date in mind to get the day cares reopened, he said, he wants it done as quickly as possible, in conjunction with or right behind the testing at nursing homes, to coordinate with the hospitals returning to full swing.

In response to a question, Justice said he understands that the initial demand for day care services may not be financially adequate for centers that charge per child. The question of their solvency is part of the problem instead of the solution.

So they’ll be asking for feedback from the day cares as this moves forward, he said. “We’re standing in the wings willing to try to help in every way we possibly can.”

Justice tied his comments on restaurants to the state’s ongoing encouragement for residents to engage in outdoor activities during the stay-at-home period.

What he has in mind for restaurants, he said, is outdoor dining. And there will have to be protective measures in place: sanitization, protective gear for the staff, table spacing and customer distancing.

Reopening outdoor dining, he said, will be a good seven to 14 days down the road, to address all the issues and allow the restaurants time to gear up.

In response to a question, he acknowledged that restaurant owners have had a hard time securing cleaning supplies. More importantly, they need PPEs – personal protective equipment, which are also in short supply. His people are trying to develop means to get them masks and such.

Cost isn’t a factor in supplying PPEs, Justice said. The restaurant owners told him they’re willing to pay, but the state is also willing to cover the costs.

He cautioned that this can’t be done too quickly or carelessly. “We sure don’t want to get out on a limb and be as absurd as I think Georgia is trying to be” in reopening.

Justice said he expects to roll out more announcements Monday or Tuesday. “We’re going to have real live plans on what to do.” It’s going to take time, and things won’t be fully normal until a vaccine is ready – a year or two from now. Until then, experts are looking ot have drugs approved to treat the virus and minimize its dangers.

Other highlights from Friday’s briefing. Justice said the state’s economy is not as bad as projected. The numbers were trending better than expected until two to three days ago, when they turned downward in the manner expected weeks ago.

He said that manufacturing sector kept almost 95% of its people at work by undertaking various safety measures, and that’s helped keep the economy rolling, along with other essential businesses that stayed open. “The manufacturing sector heeds to be commended in many, many ways. … We kept a lot of people working through the time period and we did it in a prudent way.”

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said COVID-19 testing has been completed at 83 of 124 nursing homes and another 12 are slated this weekend. Thousands of tests are pending and they expect results early next week.

Crouch also mentioned that a health service worker at William R. Sharpe, Jr. Hospital in Weston tested positive for COVID-19. A DHHR anouncement said The last day the person worked was April 17. Working through the local health department, measures were already in place to reduce the spread among other employees and patients.

Justice said that one correctional officer at an unnamed jail tested positive for COVID-19. April 15 was the last day the officer worked and his is in self-quarantine. DHHR determined that there was no risk posed to anyone else there and no further action is needed.

State Senate Health Committee chair Mike Maroney, R-Marshall sent a letter this week, co-signed by President Mitch Carmichael and eight other GOP senators, urging Justice to consider creating an advisory council of physicians, legislators and business leaders to help Justice steer the reopening process – in addition to Justice’s current advisory team.

The Dominion Post asked Justice if he’d seen the letter and what he thought of the idea.

He hadn’t seen it, he said, but didn’t think it necessary. He already has people helping him map out the transition. “We’ve already done this. … We’ve been way ahead of that curve.”

Tweet David Beard @dbeardtdp Email