Governor Jim Justice

CHARLESTON — The trend for COVID-19 to attack younger people is continuing in West Virginia and around the country.

Gov. Jim Justice said in his pandemic briefing Wednesday that an outbreak in Monongalia County has resulted in 74 percent of the positive cases falling in the 18 to 29 age category.

“Of the 436 cases, 321 are in that age group,” he said, a statistic that has grown and prompted him on Monday to close all bars in the county.

“A bar setting is the most likely place to contract the disease,” he said. “The bar, we know, are the number one place that we had to shut down. We shut them down for 10 days (only in Monongalia County).”

Justice said the “odds are” those 10 days will have to be extended. “We have a terrible amount of people who are getting this disease who are young people.”

“We now have the most active cases we have had so far,” he said of the 1,371 total, adding that “we have only 59 people that are currently hospitalized” and overall the numbers are good compared to other states.

However, he said the recent number of increased positive cases in the state also prompted him to prohibit fairs, festivals and concerts and social gatherings unless they can be held with no more than 25 people.

Other gatherings like weddings, swimming pool activities, Little League games and other planned events are not impacted.

Justice once again urged residents to wear face coverings in public indoor places, which is a mandate.

“The CDC (Center for Disease Control) followed our lead and is now calling for all Americans to wear facial coverings,” he said. “A cloth face mask is one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow down and stop the spread of the virus.”

Americans have a responsibility to wear them to protect themselves and the community, he added.

Justice mentioned that Walmart and Sam’s Club will start requiring all customers to wear facial coverings starting Monday.

Dr. Clay Marsh, the state COVID-19 Czar, also emphasized the importance of the coverings as well as the trend for the virus to impact younger people, with the 20 to 40 age group now the fastest growing group in the country to test positive.

Marsh said some may believe young people don’t really get sick, but that is “not true at all.”

The death rate is starting to rise in that age group, he said, and some end up in ICUs.

“Don’t be fooled or confused,” he said of the myth they can’t get sick.

Justice also said a program to give small businesses money to help them is almost ready to be up and running.

With $150 million being dispersed to 15,000 small businesses (up to 35 employees), Justice said it has been a challenge to set the application system up to avoid fraud and to make sure those who own their business but not technically listed as an employee can receive benefits.

Each business can get up to $10,000, with $5,000 the first round and the remainder divided among those that qualify.

On the political front, Justice rejected a call from some legislators to have a special session related to spending the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act money, which is $1.25 billion.

“It’s a political move, that’s all,” he said, adding that he has not heard any citizens asking for it, and that residents don’t care about politics, but do care about the impact of the virus and what is being done about jobs, schools and protecting themselves and their loved ones.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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