Much of Monday’s COVID-19 press briefing focused on protests across the state and nation over the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis.
Gov. Jim Justice recognized that the two are in some ways linked as her termed the riots and looting the third cannonball to the stomach of the nation, following the pandemic and the economic meltdown.
Speaking of the killing, he said, “I don’t see how in the world a thing like that could happen in the first place. I can’t see how any West Virginian could think that’s excusable, and we don’t.”
Democracy is difficult and messy, he said. “America today is hurting in a lot of different ways.”
West Virginians know they have the right to protest and air their views, he said, and they’ve exercised their right following the killing. “You’ve done it in a peaceful manner. … I could not possibly be more proud of you. … In West Virginia we will be the guiding light again. … You are setting an example that could not be topped.”
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh answered a question about the health impact of protests around the state. “It depends on how we behave,” he said. The R0 indicator – a measure of how likely people are to apread the virus – has been inching up, and these issues have coalesced to make spread of COVID-19 more likely.
So, if you want to protest, he said, wear a mask, stay outside as much as possible, stay apart as much as possible.
Justice fielded questions on how the state would respond if protests turn violent here, and how he responded to President Trump’s conference call with governors, where Trump called many of them weak and urged them to “dominate” and react more strongly to the violence and looting erupting in many cities.
If protests turn violent or rioting erupts here, Justice said, he would immediately call in the National Guard. He believes law enforcement agencies here have policies in place and are trained to handle situations properly, not the way the Minneapolis officer did who knetl on Floyd’s neck.
Regarding Trump, he said, “The president always just speaks up and speaks his mind.” He’s frustrated over the pandemic, the deaths, and now this. He know the violence and looting have to stop.
Trump is a New Yorker, Justice said. He manner of speech may seem too tough. “That’s how the president speaks. I don’t have a problem with that. We should speak the truth and we should speak our minds.” We can’t sit back and watch White House and cities burn.
On COVID-19 matters, Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said he received a text from the director of Sundale nursing home in Morgantown on Monday. Sundale was the first nursing home to have a positive COVID-19 case, and the director, Carl Shrader, told him that the home was now COVID-free, as The Dominion Post reported on Sunday.
Shrader wanted to thank Justice, Crouch said, for sending in the National Guard to get testing started when the outbreak occurred.
Justice provided a quick update on the Huttonsville Correctional Center outbreak, saying two additional positives over the weekend brought the count to 118. At other facilities, 149 inmates have been tested with no positives.
Justice also spent a few minutes on the state economy again. The projected $500 million shortfall is now down to $236.4 million, he said. May collections came in $33.7 million above expectations. Cash to the end of the fiscal year – June 30 – is solid and he still anticipates no special session to use money from the Rainy Day Fund.
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