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Coronavirus Press Conference (copy)

Then-West Virginia state health officer Dr. Cathy Slemp talks about the coronavirus at a news conference Wednesday, March 11, in the Governor’s Office.

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice remained on the defensive Monday over the forced resignation last Wednesday of Dr. Cathy Slemp, the former state Public Health Officer, reiterating that he had lost confidence in her leadership after discovering that the state COVID-19 dashboard had over-reported current active cases of coronavirus.

“It is imperative to me that our numbers be right,” Justice said Monday during the state’s COVID-19 briefing.

Justice said DHHR had failed to remove nearly 300 people who had gotten well from the list of active COVID-19 cases.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, the state had 2,870 total cases, and 581 active cases, according to the dashboard. On June 21, the number of active cases had been listed as 778.

“I am not going to tolerate people who are somewhat asleep at the switch,” he said of delays in DHHR detecting the clerical error.

Asked if she was forced to resign for calling for a slowing down of the state’s reopening, Justice said, “That’s not fair. That’s not fair to do.”

He added, “The bottom line to the whole thing is somebody’s got to be responsible. There’s a multitude of things that surely led to my lack of confidence.”

Asked if Slemp’s comment during the June 22 briefing — the last before her forced resignation — raising concerns over a 28% increase in COVID-19 cases in two weeks had led to her termination, Justice said, “Not to not answer your question, but I don’t see that there was truth to that.”

He also brushed aside a question as to why Slemp was terminated for clerical errors, while there has been no disciplinary action over a $567,000 no-bid contract awarded by the Department of Homeland Security for 100,000 N95 respirators, half of which turned out to be counterfeit.

“I think Secretary (Jeff) Sandy has addressed that over and over,” Justice said.

Sandy acknowledged that N95 masks with ear loops do not meet Centers for Disease Control and NIOSH standards, but has denied the masks are counterfeit.

Also during Monday’s briefing, Justice:

  • Confirmed West Virginia’s 93rd COVID-19 death, a 82-year-old Greenbrier County man who is also the first death linked to a coronavirus outbreak at the Graystone Baptist Church outside of Lewisburg.
  • Again expressed reluctance to mandate mask wearing in public places, but said he would not rule it out if COVID-19 cases spike around the state.

“It’s surely still on the table. It has not left the table,” he said.

Cases per county (case confirmed by lab test/probable case): Barbour (15/0), Berkeley (436/18), Boone (20/0), Braxton (4/0), Brooke (8/1), Cabell (118/4), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (10/0), Fayette (66/0), Gilmer (12/0), Grant (15/1), Greenbrier (58/0), Hampshire (41/0), Hancock (19/3), Hardy (42/1), Harrison (60/0), Jackson (143/0), Jefferson (219/5), Kanawha (300/9), Lewis (17/0), Lincoln (8/0), Logan (23/0), Marion (53/2), Marshall (41/1), Mason (17/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (37/0), Mineral (54/2), Mingo (15/3), Monongalia (157/14), Monroe (11/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (9/1), Ohio (89/0), Pendleton (12/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (23/1), Preston (62/15), Putnam (52/1), Raleigh (51/1), Randolph (155/1), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (11/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (15/1), Tucker (6/0), Tyler (4/0), Upshur (18/1), Wayne (110/1), Webster (1/0), Wetzel (10/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (78/8), Wyoming (7/0).

Ohio has 47,524 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday, and 2,818 total deaths. Pop-up testing continues to be offered in the state, and on Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the question of whether the increase in cases is because Ohio has ramped up testing.

“If the spread of this virus remained at a low level, more testing should show a lower positivity — there simply wouldn’t be as many cases to pick up with testing,” he said. “Instead, the creeping up of our positivity rate even as we are doing more testing means that we are likely picking up signs of broader community spread.”

All 120 of Kentucky’s counties now have logged at least one positive case of COVID-19, as Gov. Andy Beshear noted one new case from Robertson County. As of 4 p.m. June 29, there were at least 15,347 coronavirus cases in the state, 117 of which were newly reported Monday.

As of Monday, there have been at least 394,773 coronavirus tests performed in the state, with at least 3,939 residents recovered from the virus.

Beshear also reported two new deaths Monday, a 67-year-old woman and an 83-year-old man, both from Jefferson County, raising the state’s death total to 560.

“This is a reminder that no matter how much progress we’ve made, this remains a very challenging disease,” the Governor said. “Practicing social distancing, limiting contacts and especially wearing a cloth mask can greatly reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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