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CHARLESTON — Free COVID-19 testing from the state will be offered for Cabell County residents at 16th Street Baptist Church in Huntington on Friday and Saturday as part of West Virginia’s effort to provide testing for vulnerable communities.

The Department of Health and Human Resources and county health officials, along with support from the West Virginia National Guard, will conduct the testing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 22-23. An ID or proof of residency is required, and those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Symptoms of COVID-19 are not required for testing.

This is the second round of free testing being offered in counties with higher transmission rates of the virus. It targets residents who have struggled to be seen by a physician or do not have insurance to pay for testing.

The free testing is part of the plan to address disparities among the black and minority populations in the state. Though only making up 3.6% of the population, 7.4% of all cases in the state are black West Virginians and 30.4% of those patients have been hospitalized, compared to just 15% of white COVID-19 patients. In Cabell County, 16.36% of all cases are black or other than white, despite making up only about 5% of the population.

Testing will also take place this weekend in Kanawha, Marion and Monongalia counties.

On the eve of the biggest round of business reopenings in the state, including dine-in restaurants, Gov. Jim Justice continued to stress the importance of West Virginians taking precautions such as wearing a mask and social distancing. He said it is up to individuals to reduce their exposure to the virus.

Dr. Clay Marsh, state coronavirus czar, said a new study found if 80% to 90% of the population wears face masks, infection rates drop significantly. Marsh said he is worried what will happen if West Virginians forgo masks or face coverings and physical distancing.

Justice said he doesn’t want to mandate that masks be worn or other precautions be taken, but that he will if he has to. He also said reopenings could slow down, stop or a stay-at-home order reinstated if cases begin to significantly rise again.

“What in the world does it hurt to wear a mask?” Justice said.

One new death related to COVID-19 was reported Wednesday, a 75-year-old man from Kanawha County. The total number of fatalities in the state is now 69.

There were 53 new positive cases reported statewide out of 2,732 test results received, for a total of 1,567. The percentage of cumulative positives was 1.93% as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Confirmed cases by county are: Barbour (seven), Berkeley (245), Boone (nine), Braxton (two), Brooke (three), Cabell (55), Calhoun (two), Clay (two), Fayette (39), Gilmer (nine), Grant (six), Greenbrier (nine), Hampshire (12), Hancock (12), Hardy (33), Harrison (37), Jackson (135), Jefferson (115), Kanawha (205), Lewis (five), Lincoln (five), Logan (15), Marion (48), Marshall (25), Mason (15), McDowell (six), Mercer (13), Mineral (34), Mingo (three), Monongalia (118), Monroe (six), Morgan (17), Nicholas (nine), Ohio (37), Pendleton (five), Pleasants (two), Pocahontas (10), Preston (15), Putnam (30), Raleigh (14), Randolph (nine), Ritchie (one), Roane (eight), Summers (one), Taylor (eight), Tucker (four), Tyler (three), Upshur (six), Wayne (96), Wetzel (seven), Wirt (four), Wood (48) and Wyoming (three).

In Ohio, there were 434 new positive cases reported, for a total of 29,436, and 61 new deaths, for a total of 1,781. There was no press briefing Wednesday by Gov. Mike DeWine.

In Kentucky, 166 new positive cases were reported, for a total of 8,167, and 10 new deaths, for a total of 376.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 23,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. on Wednesday, for a total of 1,528,235. There have been 91,664 deaths related to the virus.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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