CHARLESTON, WV – Following his latest daily COVID-19 press briefing on Monday, Gov. Jim Justice announced that wellness facilities (gyms and fitness centers supervised by licensed professionals) and drive-in movie theaters will be among the next wave of businesses permitted to reopen as part of the upcoming Week 3 phase of the Governor's reopening plan: West Virginia Strong – The Comeback.
CHARLESTON, WV – Following his latest daily COVID-19 press briefing on Monday, Gov. Jim Justice announced that wellness facilities (gyms and fitness centers supervised by licensed professionals) and drive-in movie theaters will be among the next wave of businesses permitted to reopen as part of the upcoming Week 3 phase of the Governor’s reopening plan: West Virginia Strong – The Comeback.
Week 3 is scheduled to commence next Monday, May 11, 2020.
Additional guidance documents have been released for these businesses to ensure they are reopening in the safest manner possible for all West Virginians.
Several additional types of businesses will be permitted to reopen in the weeks ahead. The opening schedule for these businesses will be based upon the recommendations of state medical experts and upon testing data available at that time.
During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Justice offered a reminder that the Week 2 phase of his reopening plan has officially begun.
This phase allows for the reopening of small businesses with 10 or fewer employees, restaurants with takeaway service or outdoor dining options, religious entities and funeral homes, as well as professional service operations such as hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, and pet grooming shops. Reopening businesses must follow all additional guidelines that have been put in place to help keep West Virginians safe.
Businesses included in each phase of this reopening plan are not required to resume operations on any specific date. This plan provides the option for reopening, not a requirement.
“I encourage all businesses that are allowed to open to do so only if they can follow the guidelines to keep West Virginians safe,” Gov. Justice said.
Gov. Justice’s “Safer At Home” order also officially took effect Monday – replacing the original “Stay At Home” order issued last month.
“Safer At Home” still strongly encourages all West Virginians to stay at home when not performing essential tasks, but no longer mandates them to stay at home. It also provides new guidelines for individuals, businesses, public gatherings, and more.
The new order will be modified each week throughout the duration of the Governor’s reopening plan.
Gov. Justice also announced Monday that he has issued an Executive Order, removing Cabell, Wayne, and Wood counties from the list of COVID-19 community clusters or “hotspots” in West Virginia.
Five counties remain on the hotspot list at this time, including Marion, Berkeley, Harrison, Jefferson, and Monongalia counties.
At one point, West Virginia had 12 counties designated as “COVID-19 hotspots” – areas subject to stricter measures to slow the spread of the disease as deemed necessary by local health officials.
After consulting with local health officials, Gov. Justice ordered the removal of Morgan County from the list on April 24.
The Governor removed Jackson, Kanawha, and Ohio counties from the list Sunday.
Later this week, a new methodology will be released that will give the state additional flexibility to develop and implement more precise response plans that meet the needs of each county if a new hotspot were to develop.
Also Monday, Gov. Justice announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved West Virginia’s application for Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) cards to support child nutrition needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the direction of Governor Jim Justice, the joint request was recently submitted by the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
The program is part of the CARES Act and delivers nutrition assistance on an EBT card that can be used to purchase groceries for families with school children who qualify for free or reduced price school meals. The EBT card holds the value of the free school breakfast and lunch reimbursement rates for the days that schools are closed.
More than 231,000 children in the Mountain State are eligible. It is estimated that more than $72 million in federal dollars will be coming to West Virginia households to be used in local grocery stores.
“We are grateful beyond belief to have this federal support to make sure our kids’ needs are being met during this pandemic,” Governor Justice said. “Making sure every single one of our kids in West Virginia has enough to eat is one of my top priorities. The minute we realized we had to shut down our schools, I went to work with our education leaders and put a plan in action that is now providing over 1 million meals a week to children statewide.”
“Since the start of this pandemic, the WVDE has worked with county school systems to ensure no child is forgotten and no family has the added stress of food insecurity,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, W. Clayton Burch. “We are hopeful the addition of the P-EBT cards will be an added support for families, and are grateful for the continued combined efforts of our counties and partners.”
Superintendent Burch added that while the P-EBT card program will provide an additional resource to families impacted the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, the State’s ongoing multi-agency effort currently providing 1.4 million meals a week to students across West Virginia will continue through the end of the scheduled school year in each respective county.
Gov. Justice also mentioned that, over the weekend, West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as R0 – was the lowest such figure of any state in the country.
The Governor added that West Virginia’s statewide cumulative rate of positive COVID-19 tests dropped once again to 2.27 percent.
“The national average is 16 percent,” Gov. Justice said. “Virginia is at 17 percent, Pennsylvania is at 20 percent, Ohio is at 13 percent, Maryland is at 19 percent, and Kentucky is at 8.5 percent.
“You really have done an amazing, amazing job.”