CHARLESTON — Gov. Justice and state health experts came together Wednesday to once again urge West Virginians to follow all proper precautions put in place to slow the spread, and to give guidance on the upcoming holidays.
“Since Monday, we’ve lost another 23 West Virginians. You can see, on the television, all across the nation, this thing has amped up and it keeps getting worse and worse,” Gov. Justice said. “We are all very hopeful that, as it’s done in the past, it will peak and then it will go the other way. But right now, we’re still going up.”
However, the Governor also added that the statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt – improved to 1.08 Wednesday morning; tied for the 13th-best such rate of any state in the country. On two states across America currently have Rt values under the 1.00 threshold indicating whether the disease is spreading or contracting.
Meanwhile, West Virginia continues to outperform the national average – as well as the rates of all of its bordering states – in lowest percentage of population positive, and lowest percentage of positive test results.
Walgreens is now offering free testing at 54 locations statewide, including several new testing sites. Locations include Mercer County and pre-registration is required for pharmacy drive-through testing.
Also on Wednesday, Dr. Ayne Amjad, State Health Officer and Commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, announced that the Department of Health and Human Resources has now released guidance for safe holiday celebrations and holiday travel ahead of the coming fall and winter holiday season.
“If you are going to see your family, we do recommend a few things, such as to only stick around immediate family members,” Dr. Amjad said. “A few other things to mention are, if you recently had COVID-19 and you may still be symptomatic, or if you think you’ve been around someone who may have COVID-19, do not go around any family members.”
The West Virginia DHHR recommends the following precautions during the upcoming holidays:
HOSTING OR ATTENDING A HOLIDAY GATHERING
• Host or attend outdoor activities rather than indoor activities when possible. If this is not possible, avoid crowded, poorly ventilated, or fully enclosed indoor spaces. Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors as weather conditions permit.
• Host or attend activities with only people from your local area as much as possible.
• Limit numbers of people at gatherings as much as possible.
• If you are hosting a gathering, encourage attendees to bring supplies such as extra masks, hand sanitizers, or tissues to help everyone stay healthy. If you are attending a gathering, bring these supplies to protect yourself.
• If the gathering will include people from more than one household, all guests should aim at strictly avoiding close contact with people who are not in their households for 14 days before the gathering.
STEPS TO TAKE DURING GATHERINGS
• Maintain a distance of six feet from people not in your household. Avoid using restroom facilities at high traffic times, such as at the end of a public event.
• If you plan to eat out at a restaurant, avoid busy eating areas and high volume mealtimes.
• Wave and verbally greet persons instead of using gestures that promote close contact such as handshaking, bumping elbows, or giving hugs.
• Wear a mask at all times when around people who do not live in your household. Do not swap masks with other people. When not wearing a mask or when within six feet from others, avoid singing, chanting, or shouting, which increases the spread of the virus.
• Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces by cleaning and disinfecting those surfaces and any shared items between use. Using touchless garbage bags and gloves when handling trash decreases contact with commonly touched surfaces.
• Wash your hands often as recommended by the CDC. If this is not feasible, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.