Gov. Jim Justice unveiled plans to reopen the state on Monday providing three consecutive days of positive novel coronavirus results under 3 percent was maintained. That condition was met Wednesday evening and plans for Week One officially went into effect Thursday morning.
Providing this trend continues, Justice’s plan for reopening the state — West Virginia Strong: The Comeback — will continue to unfold in the coming weeks. Week Two will start on Monday with Weeks Three through Six occurring on each consecutive Monday. Specific openings and their respective guidelines will be announced the week prior to the changes being implemented.
“This is a remarkable day,” Justice said. “It is a new chapter for us to reopen. We now are now making our comeback.”
Justice said that attempting to restart the state’s economic engines come with a lot of difficult questions and will be a balancing act based on changes that occur in West Virginia’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We will listen to our experts as we move forward. We will not put anyone in danger,” Justice said. “There will be risks. There are always risks, but we can’t not reopen. We can’t sit on our hands and do nothing.”
Justice said that West Virginia’s ability to begin the reopening process is a direct result of residents having followed the strict COVID-19 restrictions. Statistics show the state trends are reducing daily.
“We have been constantly watching a 4 percent rate of positive test results and now we are starting to see that trend lines are getting better and better and better,” Justice said. “We are now under 3 percent.”
Wednesday’s official results show a positive report of 2.59 percent. That number was at 2.69 percent on Monday and 2.66 percent on Tuesday, according to Justice.
He said West Virginia’s restart plans are based on science, research and mathematical formulas.
According to Justice the main priority is to reopen the state’s medical facilities both in terms of being able to provide needed healthcare treatments and as the healthcare industry being one of the state’s chief economic drivers. The first week of his plan saw the reimplementation of general care and elective procedures at hospitals.
Week One also included outpatient healthcare providers such as primary care, dentistry, physical and occupational therapy and mental health services. Criteria for these services will be determined by professional boards and associations.
In addition to healthcare, Justice also included testing for daycare workers and the reopening of childcare facilities.
Week Two will see the reopening of small business with ten or fewer employees and restaurants with outdoor dining spaces.
Also professional services such as hair salons, barbershops and pet groomers will be able to open to the public. However, these services must be by appointment only, anyone waiting must do so in their cars and proper PPE must be worn by both staff and patrons.
Churches will be allowed to conduct services and public funerals can be performed. These activities will be conducted with limited gatherings based on facility capacity, seating in every other pew, social distancing will remain in effects and face coverings are to be worn.
Week Three will reopen remaining small businesses, dine-in restaurants, specialty retail stores, parks, gyms, hotels, spas, and casinos. All of these must continue to practice increased cleaning protocols and social distancing. Also, they will serve the public on a reduced capacity.
Justice said there is no current timeframe for the reopening of nursing home visitation, entertainment venues such as theaters and sporting events or for gatherings larger than 25 people.
During the reopening process, Justice issued a warning that changes to the current trend would result in a reevaluation of the plans as outlined. He said the main metric being used for The Comeback is the percentage of positive COVID-19 test results. If those numbers rise above the 3 percent threshold, the plan could be slowed, stopped or even revered.
Because of the this, the governor said that all West Virginians should continue to practice social distancing, wear face coverings in public, follow all stay-at-home orders until they are lifted, follow all county health department regulations, practice increased sanitation and cleaning protocols and to telework whenever possible.
Officials have developed a comprehensive plan to reopen Mingo County in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a document released Wednesday by the Mingo County Health Department.
"As we started our education on social distancing, moving into business closing with only essential businesses operational and our fellow community members finding the themselves unemployed, it has created a dynamic with enormous impact in the fabric of our daily lives," the released stated. "As we transition into the reopening of our business community, the Mingo County Commission and the Mingo County Local Health Department stand as a resource to our business partners, our healthcare partners, county and municipal governments, first responders, and all our community members."
Officials said the plan for reopening is "an appropriate and reasonable process" by which businesses can reopen in accordance with federal and state guidelines and "ensure as much mitigation of the transfer of COVID-19 as possible."
To see the Mingo County plan in its entirety, visit mingomessenger.com.