CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday mandated coronavirus testing at assisted living facilities and daycare centers as he moves forward with his reopening strategy.
The Republican governor has made lifting virus restrictions at daycares a priority of his plan to get the state’s economy moving again. He said at least four daycare staffers in Kanawha County have tested positive.
“We need them to be able to take care of our children as our workers go to work,” he said. “But we absolutely cannot risk anything to our children.”
Justice this week slowed his reopening plan so officials could monitor the state’s caseload. He is allowing drive-in movie theaters and physical therapy centers to open next Monday, though his original plan called for offices, gyms, restaurants and other businesses to start opening the same day.
The governor has eased the criteria for lifting restrictions without explanation. His plan hinges on having the state’s positive case rate stay below 3% for three consecutive days, reversing a previous goal of having new cases decline for two weeks.
Clay Marsh, a West Virginia University official leading the state’s virus response, has said the state has enough downward trend lines to warrant reopening. Though on Wednesday he said the virus’s transmission rate in the state has risen in the last few days.
“We’re starting to be cautionary because as we come out we know other states are starting to have more cases and more deaths and across the country we’ll see that as people open back up again,” Marsh said.
So far, Justice let hospitals resume elective procedures and allowed the reopening of small businesses, outdoor dining restaurants and barber shops.
State officials have not not given clear benchmarks on what kinds of testing capacity and safety equipment inventory it wants to have as part of the reopening strategy.
At least 50 people have died and around 1,200 have tested positive for the virus, according to state health officials.
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