West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Friday once again called on West Virginians to get tested for COVID-19. He said his administration and health officials would do more to make testing more accessible across the state.
The governor identified the 15 people who died of the novel coronavirus in the past day, telling West Virginians they have “got to show up” for testing with the goal of providing more data to track and, hopefully, prevent the spread of the virus.
The 15 people who died were six residents of Wetzel County, three of Kanawha County and two each of Cabell, Fayette and Monongalia counties.
There were 524 new cases of the virus in the 24 hours leading up to Friday’s news conference, with Justice saying increased testing likely helped diagnose cases in which some people weren’t even experiencing symptoms at the time they were tested.
At the time of the news conference, 240 people were being treated in hospitals across the state. The reproduction rate for the virus was 1.1, the 17th highest in the country.
There were 4,987 active cases of the novel coronavirus in West Virginia on Friday.
Justice’s call for more testing came one day after the United States reached its single-day record for new cases of the virus. On Thursday, at least 89,940 new cases of the virus were diagnosed across the country, a point West Virginia coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh used to encourage West Virginians to commit to getting tested for the virus.
Marsh, West Virginia University’s vice president of health sciences, called on the altruism and service of West Virginians to one another.
“We need to answer the call together,” he said. “If we don’t, I’m very worried that dark days are coming.”
Justice pointed out that Walgreens and Fruth pharmacy locations are offering drive-thru testing in partnership with the state.
He initially said the pharmacies couldn’t “handle the capacity” when trying to encourage people to find one of the state-sponsored free testing locations. When questioned by reporters, though, Justice clarified that he meant he had been told that one Walgreens location had the capacity to test only 36 people in a day.
Justice said he understands that a lot of the state-sponsored free testing sites have hours that are limited to during business and school hours, with a single location per county, making it difficult for people to get tested there.
Justice said he appreciates all the work being done by local health officials, pharmacy employees and the West Virginia National Guard, but warned that “we’re just not getting there” when it comes to getting enough tests to more accurately track the virus.
“We’ve got to make it more accessible,” the governor said. “We all know how hard everybody’s worked, but that’s just not good enough for me. That’s just all there is to it.”
Justice said the National Guard will dedicate more resources to offer more opportunities for people to get tested, particularly in counties that have been classified as red, orange or gold on the state’s color-coded COVID-19 risk assessment map.
He compared the 15 COVID-19 deaths in the past day to the deaths of the 12 men who died in the 2006 Sago mine disaster, saying the state “poured out our hearts and love and our support for days.” The governor said West Virginians are now doing that every day, in terms of how many people are dying from COVID-19, closing the point by saying, “Come on, West Virginia. You have got to get tested. You’ve got to show up.”