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Gov. Jim Justice said Friday he will ask for punishments to be handed down to anyone trying to game the criteria for allowing prep sports in counties with high rates of COVID-19 spread.

Questions were asked in previous COVID-19 briefings this week concerning rumors that people who were not infected with the virus were taking multiple tests to drive down the positive test rate in red or orange counties.

“We have investigated it, with 2,000-plus tests. We found 13 instances of this type of behavior, where we threw out 13 tests,” Justice said.

The governor said it could not be confirmed if the multiple tests were just people being cautious or if they were people intentionally taking tests to drive down the numbers. Justice said during the briefing he is going to ask Bernie Dolan, president of the Secondary School Activities Commission, to create a punishment for coaches or student athletes who try gaming the system.

“I’m going to ask Bernie Dolan to come up with some level of suspension and/or punishment for those coaches and/or athletes, because it’s the wrong message that we ought to be sending,” Justice said.

Justice said if this is happening solely for the sake of playing sports, while West Virginia continues to record COVID-19 deaths, there must be consequences.

“If we’re going to do that then I’m very hopeful that Bernie will come up with the proper punishment — and I would hope that it would lead to suspension of games and whatever it may be,” he said.

There were zero West Virginia counties in the highest-risk red category on the color-coded school reopening map Friday, following additional tweaks to the map made in recent weeks to give schools an easier chance of reopening.

Kanawha County turned gold Friday morning. If the county remains gold on the Department of Education’s reopening map released at 5 p.m. Saturday, Kanawha County public schools will be permitted to hold in-person classes for the first time this school year on Monday.

Also Friday, Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state public health officer, gave Justice a flu shot during the briefing as the governor encouraged all state residents to get vaccinated.

Reach Joe Severino at, 304-348-4814 or follow @jj_severino on Twitter.