CHARLESTON — To be in line with the federal stay-at-home order in effect through April, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday extended the closure of K-12 schools and postponed the state’s primary election nearly a month.
Last week, Justice extended the school closure to April 20, but then extended it again to the end of the month. He said he still has hope students will return to classrooms this year, even if it’s just for a few weeks.
He also postponed the May 12 primary election to June 9.
“I was hopeful and supportive of having the election May 12, but it’s clear now that is the wrong thing to do,” Justice said, adding his health officials gave him an unequivocal “no” when he asked if May 12 was possible.
Delaying the election also will push back early and absentee voting. Absentee ballots will still be sent to all West Virginians who are registered to vote. The new deadline to register to vote is May 19, and the deadline to request an absentee ballot is June 3. Early voting will be from May 27 through June 6 in-person at county courthouses.
Justice said he hopes this results in the state’s highest voter turnout ever.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources on Wednesday confirmed 29 new cases of COVID-19, making the total positive case count 191.
DHHR also confirmed the second death in West Virginia related to COVID-19, a patient from Jackson County who had underlying health conditions.
As of Wednesday, 4,575 residents have been tested for COVID-19, with 4,384 negative.
Confirmed cases by county are: Barbour (one), Berkeley (21), Cabell (one), Greenbrier (three), Hancock (six), Hardy (one), Harrison (14), Jackson (11), Jefferson (nine), Kanawha (37), Logan (three), Marion (eight), Marshall (four), Mason (three), Mercer (two), Monongalia (32), Morgan (one), Ohio (11), Pleasants (one), Preston (three), Putnam (five), Raleigh (three), Randolph (one), Roane (two), Tucker (two), Upshur (one), Wetzel (two), Wirt (one) and Wood (two).
Citing a model from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, state coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh reported the state is on track to hit a surge in the hospital system May 3. The model estimates the state will be in need of 32 intensive care beds to meet demand and 183 ventilators. It also predicts just under 500 West Virginians will die.
“The next couple of weeks are going to be pivotal and tough for America, period,” Justice said.
Overall, the state’s percentage of positive cases compared to the number of tests performed is maintaining at 4%, but on Monday, the state experienced a 6.7 percentage.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Wednesday that Ohio now has 2,567 positive cases, with 67 deaths.
Both DeWine and Justice reminded citizens that those numbers are considered low because both states are rationing tests for those with the most risk.
DeWine has ordered all non-testing hospitals to send their samples to the state or hospitals with capability, not private labs. He said the turnaround for private labs was unacceptable. He said the state will begin using rapid testing as it becomes available.
He also signed an order to provide mortgage relief for landlords in an attempt to prevent evictions.
The IHME model predicts a surge in Ohio’s hospitals April 19 and found the state does have a shortage of beds in that instance.
“I wish I could give you hope about your summer, but the truth is if the curve peaks in May — it will be a slow process to get to the end of the curve,” said Dr. Amy Action, director of Ohio Department of Health.
Also on Wednesday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced there were 680 confirmed cases, with 20 deaths. He said 10,000 tests have been performed, though the number listed on the Kentucky COVID-19 dashboard reported just 7,900 had been done.
The Ashland-Boyd County Health Department announced five new cases in the county, making the total 12. The new patients are a 29-year-old male, a 43-year-old male, a 52-year-old male, a 55-year-old female and a 59-year-old female. All are self-isolating at home.
The Greenup County Health Department announced the county’s first positive case, a 27-year-old female who is self-isolating at home. It did not appear this case was included in the state’s Wednesday update.
Beshear said he was working to increase hospital capacity, and in particular, get more ventilators. The IHME estimates the state needs 187 more ventilators. The peak, as predicted by this model, would be May 16.