Justice Issues Restrictions On Nursing Home Visitations, Extends Mon County Bar Closures
With recent deaths from the coronavirus in West Virginia concentrated within the state’s elderly population, Gov. Jim Justice says he is once again restricting visitations at nursing homes.
At a virtual news briefing Wednesday, Justice announced 12 additional coronavirus-related deaths since Monday. He also noted outbreaks in at least 28 nursing homes across the state.
As of Wednesday morning, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reports 153 deaths from COVID-19 and 8,008 total cases of the coronavirus. Many of those deaths come from the state’s elderly population and residents at nursing homes.
“We have got to — in some way — try with all in us to calm this down,” Justice said.
Nursing homes were among the first places hard hit by the coronavirus in West Virginia. Justice mandated testing of all residents and staff and barred outside visitors. But in mid-June, as part of the state’s reopening plan, visitations resumed.
As of Wednesday night at midnight, those visitations will again be put on hold.
However, Justice said his administration will develop a “metric” that would allow some nursing homes to open back up to visitors if conditions allow. He said more information should be available in the coming days.
The governor also again extended the closure of bars in Monongalia County. That extension — the third since Justice closed bars in the county in mid-July — will last seven days.
Justice said that came in part from recommendations from officials at West Virginia University, where classes are set to resume later this month.
“We're going to keep the bars closed for seven more days and see where we stand. We're going to evaluate the protocol,” Justice said.
However, newly reported cases in Monongalia County have dropped significantly over the past two weeks. According to a data analysis from The New York Times, the county has recorded 21 new cases in the past week. In mid-July, the county was reporting more than 100 new cases a week.
“We want these businesses to be open,” Justice said. “We want them to be open so badly it's unbelievable — because I want us back to normalcy as quickly as we possibly can in every way we can possibly do it.”
Justice said Monongalia County officials offered indifference to the closures in a phone call with a member of his administration. But county commissioners say they never asked for bars to be closed and disputed Justice’s representation of their communications with him.
Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom said he was “disappointed” and “shocked” by the governor’s comments Wednesday.
Bloom said that he and other county commissioners told the governor’s advisor Bray Cary Wednesday morning that they wanted the bars to remain open “with strict metrics.”
“We are disturbed that the governor made several misleading comments today,” Bloom told West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
Justice’s order extending bar closures would run through Thursday, Aug. 20.