Governor Jim Justice

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday if the state’s positivity rate reaches 3 percent no changes will be made in trying to contain COVID-19.

That cumulative 3 percent was the benchmark the state used earlier this year as a reopening guide, implementing his “comeback plan” with at least three consecutive days with the rate below 3 percent.

On Wednesday, the cumulative rate stood at 2.97 percent and has been slowly rising for weeks as the state sees more positive tests.

“It is not a showstopper,” he said of the 3 percent rate. “But at the same time we are very concerned about that.”

Justice said things will not shut down again, at least for now.

“We don’t feel that benchmark would warrant doing that,” he said, pointing out that “our neighboring states are higher than us. It’s just a benchmark, not a line in the sand or … a national guideline.”

Justice, however, also said that more stringent steps related to stopping the spread are “all on the table.”

West Virginia continues to remain in better shape than most states, he added.

The state has seen a combination of more cases primarily due to the increase in testing, with a total of 5,663 active cases on Wednesday, an increase of 394 in just 24 hours.

The daily positivity rate was 4.88 percent as the number of positive cases is also surging around the country, another contributing factor to the increase here.

Justice also continued to push testing as most counties now have free testing in place, but he again expressed his disappointment in the low numbers of people showing up.

“The more we test, the better off we will be,” he said of the ability to catch those who are positive and spreading the virus but don’t know it. “I come here three days a week to plead with you to get tested … We are still not doing it to the level we need to be doing it.”

Justice praised members of the National Guard, the DHHR (Department of Health and Human Services) and local health departments who are all making “sacrifices, “ on the front lines and “working their ever-lovin’ tails off “ to provide the service.

“I am telling you, you have got to go get tested,” he said.

Bill Crouch, DHHR Secretary, said local health departments are “working around the clock” to help with testing events along with an already “incredible load.”

“They stepped up, they are our frontline folks, boots on the ground, heroes in the communities in West Virginia,” he said.

Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, said one of the main purposes of the County Alert System color code map is to get communities involved, and that includes testing.

It was designed to be an interactive map to get communities involved to help reduce the spread, he said, and prevent the more restrictive orange and red colors that keep kids out of school and stop sporting events.

Calling the map a “visual call to arms,” he said it reminds residents that it’s a “personal responsibility and personal opportunity to protect the people we love.”

Marsh also emphasized the importance or wearing masks, pointing out countries like Taiwan where virtually all residents wear masks and the much lower positive case rate and number of deaths.

Taiwan is an island with a population of 23 million, but it has had fewer than 600 positive cases and only seven deaths (as of Oct. 24).

“Tighten up,” Justice told state residents, and wear a mask and get tested. “If you don’t do this you are going to be faced with the funeral of a loved one.”

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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