MORGANTOWN — The date may be on the books, but that doesn’t mean it’s etched in stone.
That was Gov. Jim Justice’s message Wednesday, regarding the Sept. 8 school reopening date.
With COVID-19 case numbers not where officials would like them to be in the state, and the very real fear of the virus’ migration from the south, any and all plans are subject to change, he said.
But, Justice pointed out, it’s important to have them in place, in order to be prepared.
Then, if they have to pivot, they pivot.
According to the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, at 5 p.m. Wednesday the state shows a total of 6,326. Of those, 1,625 are listed as active.
There have been 112 deaths, including six since Monday.
Justice said the Sept. 8 date was a no-sooner-than date, to buy time.
“This situation is ever changing; there is nothing etched in stone.”
The counties know what is best for their students, he said, and the state will help them with their plans.
“The local control is always better,” Justice said.
“Our superintendents are going to have the ball and they’re going to do good stuff.”
The Princeton nursing home outbreak — which so far accounts for 23 positives among staff and 19 among residents — has also claimed two lives. The outbreak is linked to residents coming back from Myrtle Beach, Justice said.
Meanwhile, Logan County has had two days in row of 13 new cases.
“We’re trying to watch the migration from the south. Every day we see more and more migration. .. This thing moves and it really moves very quickly,” he added.
He’s also concerned about the risk of the virus spreading from the west.
COVID-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh cited some new research that shows people who survive COVID-19 can still suffer lingering effects.
A German study of 100 patients showed that 71 days after their initial diagnosis, 78% still had evidence of heart involvement, and 63% had heart inflammation.
It doesn’t mean everyone who contracts the virus will have heart problems, Marsh said, but indicates effects can linger, and that makes the safety measures all the more important.
“COVID is a pandemic infection that can affect all of our body, all of our organs,” he said.
The Dominion Post asked about conflicting reports on hydroxychloroquine, which is back in the news.
A Henry Ford Health System study suggests it can cut the death rate in hospitalized patients and the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons endorsed its use based on that study. A Yale epidemiology professor is calling for its use in high-risk patients.
However, some are touting it as a cure, including a controversial Texas pediatrician with outspoken views on aliens and artificial intelligence holding important government and medical positions.
Marsh said while there is still much to learn — “This is a confusing area and a complex issue” — three other studies cited show hydroxychloroquine, whether administered by itself or with another drug, showed no benefit.
“Right now, for me, I would not take or give hydroxychloroquine for somebody who either had an exposure to COVID-19 or was infected,” Marsh said.
Some other treatments, such as Remdesivir and dexamethasone, have shown some benefits.
But it’s not the final word, he said.
“I’m sure there will be more work done.”
Marsh said Justice’s medical advisors aren’t trying to take sides, just convey the results of the best available research to him and the people, knowing the information evolves rapidly.
During the Q&A portion of the briefing, Justice was asked if he had any response to Sen. Joe Manchin’s criticism of his CARES Act spending plans.
Earlier in the day, Manchin held a virtual press conference about the new Senate GOP stimulus package, called the HEALS Act (see related story). During that conference, he said 45% of the CARES Act money was supposed to go directly to cities and counties — but Justice has been holding onto it to use as his “political slush fund” as the November election approaches.
Justice, in turn, called the assertion, “a flat lie.”
“What Sen. Manchin ought to do is concentrate on the job he has in D.C. and get that job done. …,” Justice said. “He ought not concentrate so much on trying to run Ben Salango’s campaign. … We’re pumping out money like you can’t imagine.”
Manchin is a politician, Justice said. “You don’t have a politician sitting here. … You have somebody that’s trying to protect all of our West Virginians.”
He added later that the Republicans and Democrats in Congress need to put aside their partisanship and pass the bill so people can get help. “The train is waiting on D.C.”
Salango is running against Justice in the 2020 West Virginia gubernatorial race.
Made aware of Justice’s comments, Salango emailed a comment: “Jim Justice is using his taxpayer-funded press conferences to attack me. We’ve asked Jim Justice to step up and help our small businesses, first responders, healthcare providers, and all West Virginians. All he’s done is help himself.”