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Gov. Justice: Mercer County nursing home outbreak related to Myrtle Beach

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CHARLESTON, WV Gov. Jim Justice began Wednesday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing by lamenting the most recent deaths in the state, with the total standing at 111.

Justice said while West Virginia COVID-19 numbers are something most other states would be envious of, they are trending the wrong way. The number of active cases in two of the state’s hotspots, Kanawha and Monongalia counties, has dropped, Justice said.

There are 94 people in the state who are hospitalized due to the virus, Justice said.

Justice also provided an update on an outbreak at a nursing home in Mercer County. Two people have died and 23 staff members and 19 residents have tested positive for the virus. Justice and state health officials attributed the original cause of the outbreak as coming from Myrtle Beach.

Everyone at the nursing home is currently being retested for the virus, according to Justice and state health officials.

Justice and state officials addressed the delay in getting testing results back, saying the state’s local lab has improved its turnaround time from eight days to four or five days, while national labs have assured the state they are also improving times.

A lab at West Virginia University should be up and running by the end of August, Justice said.

Justice also talked about school reopening plans. Justice says “nothing is etched in stone” and those local counties will know what is best.

He used Doddridge County, which has three active cases, as an example of a place better suited to have traditional schools, as compared to a place like Monongalia County, which has 136 active cases and a large number of college students set to return.

In terms of the Sept. 8 school opening date, Justice said people will have to be prepared to pivot as we get closer to the date. Justice said he still believes students in the state will be able to go back to school while they, teachers, and personnel are protected.

When asked about the possibility of teacher strikes related to COVID-19 safety concerns, Justice said he hopes “we don’t get to that,” but he understands the concern, particularly with the age of some teachers.

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