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Justice will send more Guard to orange counties to beef up testing; Mon trending better but bars staying closed for now

MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice said he plans to send more National Guard members to the orange counties to accerleate testing and get them to gold or better; and he plans to stick by his guns on the Monongalia County bar closures regardless of the lawsuit filed this week.

Justice opened with an apology for starting the day’s briefing 49 minutes late, noting some technical difficulties and “a lot of meetings” on the issues he planned to raise.

Knowledge, Justice said, helps the state pinpoint and deal with COVID outbreaks. “How do we achieve knowing? The only way to achieve knowing is to test more.”

The local health departments are on the front line of the effort, he said. “We’ve got to make life for them easier rather than more difficult.” That means pushing more National Guard members out into the field and he’ll be using $50 million of CARES money to do that.

To demonstrate how easy the testing is, Justice had two guard member come in and do a swab test on him at the end of his briefing. “There’s nothing to it. It takes every bit of 10 seconds,” he said.

If people across the state board the testing bandwagon, he said, “This may be our greatest moment,” a chance to surgically attack the spread and stop it.

Mon bars

Mon County spent a long time in the red, Justice said. “It looked like what are we going to do there?”

Now, some bar owners have sued Justice, the city or Morgantown and other parties to be made whole and be allowed to reopen.

“They have every right to do so,” Justice said, but he’s not backing down on the closures. “I say pour it on. I’m going to continue to make tough decisions.”

But he’s working closely with the city and county, he said, and WVU may be on the brink of general reopening (WVU reported later in the day on-campus classes will resume Monday.

“We feel like that Mon County is trending well,” he said, If testing keeps a good pace, “They are very very soon going to be in the gold or the yellow.”

The Dominion Post asked what the benchmark would be for the bars reopening.

He didn’t offer a specific map color or number, but said the county, city and health department will need to weigh in. The key is “just getting ourselves down to where our rate is really moved down to the right levels to where we feel safe. … We cannot just barely get ourselves to where we need to be and then have an instant replay of what we’ve already done the first time.”

He understands jobs and livelihoods are at stake, and people will need to follow the rules, he said. He cited a childhood lesson form his dad, who told him it’s OK to get a Caterpillar D10 bulldozer hung up. You go get another one to move the one that’s stuck.

“’Son, it’s OK to get one bulldozer hung up. But for God’s sakes a living, son, you’d best better not go get another D10 and get ’em both hung up.’ That’s the situation we’re in right there with the bars.”

Two days after they reopened, he had to close them again because some students and bars flaunted the rules, he said. So they will need to follow the guidelines next time around.

Other COVID news

Justice had been regularly reporting on a controversy with a private Christian school in an orange county that held classes despite the directives, and the negotiations with them.

He announced Wednesday a deal that will allow private schools in orange counties to open with the understanding they will test all students, faculty and staff.

Government has no real control over those schools, Justice said, but they agreed to do something novel and worthy, and the negotiations reflected West Virginians’ attitude of avoiding needless conflict.

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh reinforced Justice’s testing message and cited a new article in a “high level” medical journal that reported 8.9% of infected people are super spreaders who infect 80% of the others. People are most infectious during the two-day window before symptoms occur and the day symptoms begin. The article also re-emphasized that masks stop the spray of aerosols from person to person.

Asked about trick-or-treating for Halloween, Justice promised to have guidelines proposed by Oct. 1 (which may mean Oct. 2, as the 1st falls on a Thursday; his briefings would fall the day before and after).

Justice also fielded a question about how his staff and team are handling the pressure of the pandemic.

He said for himself, it’s lonely and tiring. More broadly, “All of us have just got to suck it up. … Because we’ve all signed on to a job of honor, to serve and get through it.”

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