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Gov. Jim Justice said Friday that West Virginia has not been mentioned in discussions with the Trump White House as being part of the country that could resume normal operations as soon as April 12.

“There’s been no conversations with me and anyone in the White House or the president with regard of anything to do with reopening back up West Virginia,” Justice said, saying he personally opposes the idea, given the state’s high percentage of high-risk people.

Justice said that, while the Donald Trump administration has discussed lifting restrictions in parts of the Midwest and Western states with low caseloads of COVID-19 — a proposal that has been criticized by health care professionals — he said West Virginia has not come up in those discussions.

“There’s absolutely not been any mention of West Virginia and, to be perfectly honest, it would not be the right measure to take at this point,” he said.

Justice reiterated concern Friday that people from COVID-19 hot spots, such as New York City, might be looking to ride out the pandemic in West Virginia.

“We understand there are people who are looking at West Virginia as a place to go to get away from the really big-time issues where they’re at,” he said. “That really concerns us.”

Justice called on people visiting from out-of-state hotspots to self-isolate for 14 days, and he said his administration is looking at ways to enforce that self-quarantining.

Justice also expressed his anger at two erroneous reports to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources about coronavirus fatalities.

“Surely to the Lord above, we can get it right that somebody has passed on or not,” he said.

DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said his agency is changing protocols to assure verification of positive cases and of any fatal cases of COVID-19.

“As the governor has said, we can’t tolerate these kinds of mistakes,” Crouch said, regarding the erroneous announcement Friday morning of the death of an infected resident of the Sundale Long-Term Care Center in Morgantown, which he blamed on a misidentification at the local level.

Also during the daily briefing Friday:

  • Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president of health sciences at West Virginia University and the state’s COVID-19 czar, said the percentage rate of positive cases had remained unchanged for a second day, providing additional evidence that the number of positive cases in the state are not increasing exponentially.

“It means we as a state are doing the right things at a personal level to protect ourselves, our neighborhoods, our communities,” he said of efforts regarding social distancing and hygiene.

Although the trend is encouraging, Marsh said, “It’s really time to double down, and not be complacent.”

  • Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy said that, as of Friday morning, there have been no positive cases reported among correctional officers or inmates at West Virginia prisons.

He also said the Division of Corrections has released 70 nonviolent offenders who were nearing the end of their prison terms.

Reach Phil Kabler at

philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220

or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.