Justice Calls Meeting Of Advisers To Consider Tweaks To Coronavirus Response
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has called those advising him on the state’s coronavirus response to a Monday evening meeting. The governor is hoping to strike a balance between rising cases of the virus and allowing school openings and secondary school activities — even as the state continues to see a spike in the number of new cases.
In a virtual news conference Monday afternoon, Justice said he’s considering adding another level to the color-coded system that guides protocols for county school systems. He said the orange level — which notes 10 to about 25 cases of community spread per 100,000 residents on a rolling average — is too broad.
“So, basically, it captures a county that may be an 11 and calls them the same as a county that may be 22. I don't think that's fair,” Justice said. “And I think it's something that we need to look at and look at again.”
Just last week, the governor announced any counties listed as orange would not be allowed to hold in-person classes or extracurricular activities. Earlier protocols allowed for orange counties to allow in-person classes and some sporting events to be held.
The announcement of a Monday evening meeting came moments after coaches, families and teachers held a rally in support of kids playing sports in front of the state Capitol near the location where Justice enters the building.
Justice said he also wants his advisers to look into whether West Virginia University students who are positive but quarantining in a dorm should be counted collectively as one case or individually.
Monongalia County, which is home to WVU’s main campus in Morgantown, has continued to see high rates of newly reported cases. As of Monday, health officials reported 35.30 daily cases per 100,000 residents — by far the highest figure in the state.
“They are so red in [Monongalia] County that they're off the chart red. And, no question, a big contributor to that has been WVU,” Justice said.
The governor said he wonders how counties like Monongalia would be able to hold in-person classes when the university continues to account for new coronavirus cases.
“We can't take a positive [WVU] student and demand they go home and maybe make things worse where they go. But we cannot stop that,” Justice said. “That is the choice of the parents and the students.”
Justice said he’s gathering state coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh, state health officer Dr. Ayne Amjad, health Sec. Bill Crouch, state superintendent of schools Clayton Burch, West Virginia National Guard Maj. Gen. James Hoyer and West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission director Bernie Dolan for the 5 p.m. meeting.
He said changes to the state’s response may or may not come out of the meeting.
According to data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the state is dealing with the most active cases it's seen throughout the pandemic — now standing at 3,184.
As of Monday morning, state health officials report 275 deaths from COVID-19 and 12,820 total cases of the virus.