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Justice and team: Get tested for COVID to improve the maps, slow the spread; 7,000 a day is minimum goal

MORGANTON — Testing, testing, testing.

That was pretty much the sole topic of Gov. Jim Justice’s Monday COVID-19 briefing.

Monday saw two counties in the red and five in the orange – including Monongalia – on the county alert system map.

“We all know that there’s problems here and we’ve go to do something about it,” he said. That means finding out where the problems are. “You’ll never ever get out of any hole unless you know how deep in the hole you are. … The more we test the more we know.”

So Justice has ordered ramped-up testing in the red and orange counties, as a starter. The two-prong testing numbers will help counties move toward the yellow and green he said. The two prongs are infection rate (cases per 100,000 population on a seven- or 14-day rolling average) and positivity rate (positive cases relative to all tests performed).

More tests will improve the positivity rate, he said, and will help identify people who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic and may need treatment or to quarantine to prevent spread.

Justice said he understands local health officials will need resources. “I’m all in to help them. … We’re going to find a way.”

Testing was going on at WVU on Monday and will be going on again 9 a.m. To 4 p.m. Wednesday at the WVU Student Recreation Center.

Justice and his team said not nearly enough people are getting tested. Adjutant General James Hoyer said the numbers have been running from about 3,500 per day to a recent high of 4,600 but the goal is minimum of 7,000 per day.

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said the state has the capacity to test 10,000 per day. One challenge, though, has been the speed of results. “We have added a significant number of labs to our testing arsenal.” But they have to make sure the labs are connected electronically and not faxing results to local health departments.

The Dominion Post mentioned that some people might hesitate to get tested out of fear their lives will be disrupted while they wait. We asked what people should do while they wait for several days for the results.

Bureau of Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad and COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh tag-teamed an answer that boiled down to this: If you have no symptoms and feel fine, go about your daily life with all the usual precautions to protect yourself and others: masks, social distancing, hand hygiene and so on.

But if you feel sick or have symptoms, go home and quarantine, so you don’t possibly spread it to others.

Amjad pointed out that most people who get tested fall in the 30-50 age range, and mostly women. They’d like to see more children and young adults get tested, and more men.

Patients coming to WVU Medicine are often asked if they’ve been tested for COVID in the past 14 days. The Dominion Post asked WVUM the reason for this question and if a recent erects a barrier to service.

A WVUM spokesperson said in an email exchange, “The most important reason we ask whether a person has been tested for COVID is so that we can catch those who had a recent positive test result. If the patient recently tested positive or is awaiting results after a recent exposure and is coming to an appointment that, through further questioning, we find to be medically necessary, we will take additional steps – moving the patient into an exam room faster, having our staff wear appropriate protective equipment, etc. – to ensure the safety of that patient, our other patients, and our staff.

“If the appointment is determined to not be medically necessary at that time, then we may reschedule the appointment. If the person reports having been tested for a return-to-work or school screening without exposure or symptoms, we will proceed with the appointment as scheduled and following our current protocols related to masking and social distancing. Ultimately, our main goal is to protect all of our patients and employees.”

Two county maps

The only other major topic of the day was an issue The Dominion Post raised at a previous briefing and another reporter raised on Monday: two maps with different information. DHHR has a County Alert System map updated daily and The Department of Education ha a School Alert System map updated every Saturday that governs school openings and athletic events for the following week.

“They are different and it is going to lead to some level of confusion,” Justice said. A panel of experts reviews the data for the school map and recommends the color codes to Justice, who approves. The panel is worked out the by the DHHR, the Department of Education, the National Guard, SSAC and health officials.

The daily map is essentially just an indicator of daily trends, he said, while the weekly map is the agreed-to map to allow schools and families to make decisions for the coming week.

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