Monongalia County has been green on the state COVID map for several days but reopening the bars remains just a hope.
In answer to a question about the whole state turning greener, and Mon County in particular, Gov. Jim Justice said Wedneday, “I am hopeful we’ll be able to let the bars reopen soon. We need to get our feet under us a little better than the last go-round.”
He needs assurances, he said, that owners who allowed unmasked crowd to pour in last time will adhere to the guidelines better when they do reopen.
Wednesday’s County Alert System map showed three counties orange and three gold and all the rest green or yellow. Answering the broader question about the state getting better overall, he said, “I’m very hopeful that that’s the case.”
More green can mean more normalcy, he said. “We’re on the glide path Were getting ready to go down the runway. We hope and pray all of us are going to have a safe landing with this. We’ve got to still be careful. We’ve got to still fly the plane.”
Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Sarah Tucker provided an update on campus COVID testing statewide. Prior to returning to school, the governor’s office directed HEPC and provided resources to test all students, faculty and staff.
Now, she said, the governor’s office has directed and provided resources for surveillance testing for 10% of each institution’s students, faculty and staff each week.
Tucker said the campus testing taxed local health departments, but for the surveillance testing the Naitonal Guard and Department of Health and Human Resources is providing saliva-based tests that the institutions can perform without tapping health department resources.
The testing, she said, will be conducted at all public two- and four-year institutions and at not-for-profit private institutions.
Justice took a question about about various lawsuits filed against the state regarding COVID map issues, and about a suit threat from a teacher union over the maps and the safety of returning to school.
Part of his answer dwelt on West Virginia’s good numbers relative to the nation, and that only Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico haven’t returned to school.
“If we don’t test, we’re going to get worse, it’s just that simple,” he said, and a third to a half of the state would be shut down. “You surely don’t want to be the envy of the nation and be Washington, D.C., or Puerto Rico.”
The nation’s largest teacher union, the American Federation of Teachers, recommended the 5% positivity rate that West Virginia is using. “I’m going to continue to try to do the right thing for all West Virginians. … In a lot of these situations, it’s just politics, politics, politics and it stinks.”
A reporter raised again the issue that word is circulating that Charleston-area athletes and parents are getting mutliple tests in order to bump up the negative test numbers and move Kanawha County into yellow or green.
Justice said he’s a coach. “Coaches, honest to Pete, if you are doing this, then you should not be a coach. … You are setting a horrible example for your kids.”
Bureau of Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad said she’s heard the same concerns.
“We do want people to test.” They want to find the baseline but they aren’t asking people to multi-test to improve the numbers. “If you’re doing that to play sports, that’s not appropriate. … That is not what we’re here for. If that’s the way to game the system that’s not a good representation.”
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