CHARLESTON — As 10 counties have now moved into the orange zone on the state’s County Alert System and with positive COVID-19 cases rising, Gov. Jim Justice said again Friday a return to some previous restrictions in those counties is being considered.
“We are looking at more restrictions in orange counties,” he said. “Adults are spreading the virus.”
Justice said it is a “crying shame” kids cannot go to school because of that spread, and adults “can be doing better.”
Further measures to help bring down the community spread of the virus in these counties may include shutting down indoor dining, bars and hair salons again.
“We don’t have to do that yet,” he said. “I don’t want any part of shutting things down.”
But he said the state is “dealing with life and death here,” and if everyone would help by wearing a mask, “we will shut this thing down.”
“We have got to step up,” he said. “This is going the wrong way. All of us have got to take responsibility… follow the guidelines.”
On Friday, 10 counties, including Monroe County, were orange, which means no in-person instruction in schools next week if that color remains when the updated County Alert System map is posted today at 5 p.m.
“If you go orange, we are not going to school,” he said. “We are putting our kids in danger.”
During his pandemic briefing, Justice also tweaked the orange zone again by saying any contact sports practice cannot take place, with conditioning only. The orange zone and red zones now have few distinctions other than the number of positive cases on a rolling seven-day average.
On Wednesday, he changed it to not allowing in-person instruction in orange at any time, regardless if the county had once been green or yellow.
More tweaks are coming, he said, taking into consideration the schools, sports as well as the economic and travel aspects.
“We have got to turn the tide because now is the time, the quiet before the storm,” he said of the possible continued spread.
West Virginia also now ranks number one as having have worst “RT” number, which represents how many other people one positive person infects. At one time the rate here was less than 1, but now is 1.46, which means each person that is positive passes it on to an average of one and half people.
“That is surely alarming,” he said.
The state had 157 new cases in a 24-hour period on Thursday and 2,849 active cases.
Justice said the statistics show the importance of getting tested so any positives, especially asymptomatic ones, can be found and then contact tracing completed to avoid spread.
“The more testing, the more the numbers will go down,” he said.
During the briefing, Justice was asked about some criticisms related to whether county school boards should be able to make decisions about in-person instruction and sports.
But Justice said those state decisions are based on input from various experts and from educators.
Many people who are on “top of their game” are trying to make the best decisions possible to protect all citizens, he said.
Mercer County had been in the orange zone but has moved to yellow this week. If that stands today, students will be back in classrooms on Monday
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com