MORGANTOWN — The positive case count at Huttonsville Correctional Center rose to 111 as of Thursday afternoon, Gov. Jim Justice said.
Justice and his team again promised to expand COVID-19 testing to all correctional facilities, but again didn’t give a timeline when asked.
Justice said, “We do have a real plan for that. … We do have the testing capabilities. We will move and we will move very, very expediently.” Nursing home testing took two weeks and this population is significantly lower so it should go faster.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said they will continue current procedures, including testing the workers who come in and out from the communities, inmates coming in and out, while prioritizing facilities with higher case activity and facilities that lack to capacity to quarantine cases or have a lot of movement in and out as the courts reopen.
“We want to make sure we are prioritizing appropriately the tests that we have available,” he said, “and prioritize those for the people that come in and out of communities and work there.” The testing of the workers can give a snapshot of any possible community spread.
Justice added that he will soon be announcing expanded testing in communities near Huttonsville, which sits in Randolph County, to check for possible community spread.
Jeff Sandy, secretary of the newly renamed and reorganized Department of Homeland Security (legislation last session renamed and reorganized the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety and placed the National Guard directly under the governor) described COVID-19 precautions at the jails and prisons.
The total population, he said, is 13,966 inmates, employees and contractors. An inmate entering a facility answers a medical questionnaire and is taken to a body scanner to be searched for hidden drugs.
Incoming inmates’ temperatures are taken and they’re placed in 14-day quarantine before entering the general population. Inmates with fevers are taken to a hospital. Every inmate and every employee is given two masks and everyone’s temperature is taken daily.
On other topics, last weekend the Department of Health and Human Resources held free community testing in Monongalia, Marion, Cabell and Kanawha Counties. DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said 3,058 people turned out in the four counties; only six tested positive.
While testing at these temporary locations is open to everyone, the testing originated as a means to offer better, unrestricted access for members of minority communities who are more vulnerable and often lack access to healthcare and testing. Crouch reported that at the Marion site, 47.9% of those tested were African-American; in Mon 8% were African-American and 5% were Asian.
As of Thursday morning, DHHR figures show that in Mon, African-Americans make up 9.2% f the positive cases to date while “others,” including Asians, make up 8.5%. In Marion, African-Americans make up 47/1%, “others” make up 3.9%.
Marsh fielded a question based on a report that says 80% of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic. The reported asked how that affect spread-prevention strategies and give confidence we are keeping track of the virus.
Marsh said that a test is good in that moment; a week later that person could be infected. And most spread is done by those who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic. “It’s very difficult to keep track with our current technologies even if you commit to testing everybody.”
Virus droplets can stay in the air up to 14 minutes in an inside environment, he said. That’s why all the mitigation measures, including social distancing and wearing mask are so important.
Talking about masks, he said, “If 80% of us do that, we will be able to open West Virginia predictably safely. If 60% of us do that, we should be able to open West Virginia with some problems but be able to get over that hump.”
The Dominion Post followed that with an anecdotal question based from a reporter who visited a strip mall and saw very few people wearing masks. Whether that might be an example of some kind of quarantine burnout or overconfidence, the reporter asked how they can combat that and keep people focused.
Justice said, if everyone gets lax and tired, “I surely understand all that, I got it. … I see it too.”
He continued, “I wish to goodness that more and more people would just be on guard and be really smart. But we’re going to continue to watch the numbers and hope and pray the numbers continue to be good. If they continue to be good, we’ll be OK. We need to not go to sleep at the switch here because we’ve still got a long way to go.”
On the topic of resuming summer youth activities, Justice said they would be meeting later Thursday to discuss that and he expected to report on that on Friday.
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