MORGANTOWN — Following several questions about whether some high school coaches are encouraging athletes and parents to get multiple COVID-19 tests to artificially improve their county numbers, Gov. Jim Justice gave an update on Friday on what they’ve found.
He didn’t identify the counties but said they’ve looked at 2,000-plus tests and found 13 instances where someone came back for another test. It’s unclear why those people came back and it may not be connected to trying to fudge the numbers, he said.
“What we have found may be completely innocent,” he said. There’s no proof of fraud. And relative to the number of tests around the state, “the magnitude of the abuse is miniscule.”
However, as a precaution, he is calling on SSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan to develop some kind of suspension or punishment for any offenders.
Live music performance ban
Justice’s longstanding limitation on public gatherings has included a ban on live music performances. A group called West Virginia Bands Together planned a protest on the ban for Saturday outside Milan Puskar Stadium if Justice hadn’t lifted the ban by Thursday.
Justice said Friday that there’s no reason not to lift the ban and he’s just a couple days away from announcing how it will be lifted. “We’re working this. … We’re really close to figuring that out.”
The Dominion Post asked the band group if Justice’s announcement would affect the protest plans and they said no in an email exchange.
“West Virginia Bands Together was pleased to hear the governor finally mention our industry he placed a direct ban on. However, the ban is still in effect past our Oct. 1deadline so the protest will proceed. The West Virginia live music industry has been out of work since March 13 and the governor has let seven months pass while other similar industries were granted permissions to work under guidelines.
“West Virginia Bands Together would love to have faith in our governor that he will make good on his word, but without immediate call to action for removal of the ban we will be proceeding with our march to Mountaineer Field,” they said.
Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said DHHR has updated its coronavirus dashboard again to provide additional information.
Look at the dashboard, at https://dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19/Pages/default.aspx, shows some of the most prominent changes appearing on the County Alert System map. For each county, it now shows the infection rate and what color that rate would fall into, along with the positivity rate and that color, and the daily indicator – the lower of the two rates – and the indicator color.
On Friday, Monongalia showed a positivity rate of 2.08, green, and an infection rate of 11.09, gold. So the daily indicator was 2.08.
Preston showed positivity of 1.16, green, and an infection rate of 3.85, yellow.
After a massive testing surge, Kanawha County moved from orange to gold. It’s positivity rate was 4.55, gold, with an infection rate of 20.37, orange.
Justice talked at length about the Kanawha testing, where 2,054 people turned out and 85 tested positive. While the testing improved Kanawha’s numbers, he said, more important was finding 85 people who could have spread the virus without knowing it.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh agreed with Justice and highlighted a recent report on a study conducted in two villages in India. Of all the people infected in those villages, only 8% were super spreaders, responsible for transmitting the virus to others; 70% of those infected didn’t infect anyone else.
That demonstrates the need extensive testing in West Virginia to find any super spreaders, he said. “This is the only way we can start to create healthy communities.”
With expanded testing, he said, positivity rates will fall while infection rates will initially climb as more cases are identified; but identifying those cases will ultimately bring the infection rate down as the cases are quarantined and treated to stop the spread.
Justice wore a red, short-sleeve golf shirt to the briefing in order to promote flu shots for residents. Partway through the briefing he took off his sport coat and rolled up his sleeve so Bureau of Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad could administer the shot.
He urged all residents to get theirs as the flu season is approaching even as the pandemic continues.
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