CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday said he believes the county school superintendents who declined his offer to test their football teams for COVID-19 made a bad decision that could lead to deaths.
Justice admitted Kanawha, Logan and Fayette county superintendents were not included in the “thousands of phone calls and thousands of meetings” it took to come up with the plan for testing high school football teams, which began to develop Saturday afternoon. He said the plan came together quickly and there wasn’t time to consult “anybody and everybody.” He compared himself to a police officer facing a mass shooting.
On Monday, Justice announced at his 12:30 p.m. briefing that the three — at the time — “orange” counties (their color code on a statewide map of active cases) could test their football teams for COVID-19. If they were all negative, they could play. By the end of the day, all three county superintendents had declined the offer.
“Bad decision,” Justice said Wednesday. “We could have helped. We could have saved somebody’s life, without question.”
Justice said testing the players would have prevented them from spreading what they may have to someone else. He also said it would have helped those counties go down on the scale.
“It was misconstrued in so many ways. ‘What if we come up with false positives? It would ruin our whole season,’” Justice said. “We even have parents saying, ‘We should have a choice in this.’ You do. The choice is this: The county is orange. You are going to have to do something or not play. What else can we do? Go ahead and say go play? That wouldn’t be smart. We are trying to do the right thing. School, education — that’s what it’s all about.”
When asked why not find a way to test all high school football players in the state, Justice said while he was always a proponent of more testing, he didn’t think that would be feasible due to turnaround time for results and the need to do it weekly.
On Twitter, Chapmanville Regional High School football head coach James Barker said even if his team had been tested, they couldn’t play regardless due to practice requirements.
“You didn’t give us that option when we were a red county to just practice,” Barker said in a series of tweets. “I would’ve GLADLY tested to practice on August 3rd. But that would’ve been a ‘reward’ for being responsible and doing the right thing in getting that (testing) done for a ‘red’ county. But testing right now didn’t help us from a practice standpoint and was actually a ‘punishment.’ I want all my players and their family to be healthy. But the color coded map has actually created a double edged sword and encourages people to NOT get tested to keep numbers down, which doesn’t show you trends or provide the data that is necessary to help control this virus.”
Teams in green and yellow counties are preparing for the first games of the season as spread of the virus has increased once more. Justice reported the state’s reproductive level was the third highest in the nation, though a model used by health officials shows West Virginia in fourth.
There were 135 new positive cases reported Wednesday, for a total of 10,642, with a daily positive percentage rate of 4.93%. Eight new deaths related to COVID-19 were reported: an 88-year-old woman from Kanawha County, an 83-year-old woman from Taylor County, an 84-year-old woman from Taylor County, a 72-year-old man from Ohio County, a 67-year-old woman from Logan County, a 67-year-old woman from Nicholas County, a 73-year-old woman from Harrison County and an 88-year-old man from Jackson County.
Cases per county are: Barbour (34), Berkeley (808), Boone (143), Braxton (9), Brooke (95), Cabell (555), Calhoun (10), Clay (27), Doddridge (6), Fayette (365), Gilmer (19), Grant (141), Greenbrier (105), Hampshire (92), Hancock (121), Hardy (75), Harrison (272), Jackson (204), Jefferson (365), Kanawha (1,515), Lewis (33), Lincoln (123), Logan (501), Marion (219), Marshall (133), Mason (109), McDowell (71), Mercer (318), Mineral (144), Mingo (250), Monongalia (1,209), Monroe (126), Morgan (37), Nicholas (53), Ohio (289), Pendleton (45), Pleasants (15), Pocahontas (43), Preston (140), Putnam (294), Raleigh (372), Randolph (227), Ritchie (5), Roane (33), Summers (19), Taylor (106), Tucker (11), Tyler (15), Upshur (45), Wayne (259), Webster (7), Wetzel (46), Wirt (8), Wood (309) and Wyoming (67).
The Cabell-Huntington Health Department reported 211 active cases. Cabell County, as well as Putnam County, is nearing the orange range of the coding system.
Marshall University reported 23 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus between Aug. 23 and 29, three being employees. There are 10 students in isolation/quarantine on campus and 69 students in isolation/quarantine off campus.
In Ohio, the Lawrence County Health Department reported 14 new positive cases of COVID-19, with patients’ ages ranging from 3 to 96, including one child. There are 126 active cases out of a total 491. Six people are hospitalized, with one in intensive care.
Statewide, 1,157 new positive cases were reported, for a total of 125,767, and 11 new deaths, for a total of 4,176.
In Kentucky, the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department reported eight new positive cases of COVID-19: a 42-year-old man, a 36-year-old man, a 27-year-old man, a 16-year-old girl, a 46-year-old man, a 47-year-old woman, a 30-year-old woman and a 46-year-old woman, all isolating at home.
There are 50 active cases in the county out of a total 265.
Statewide, 816 new positive cases were reported, for a total of 49,991, and 18 new deaths, for a total of 966. Gov. Andy Beshear said during a briefing the total included 116 school-age children.
Across the U.S., there have been 6,047,692 cases of COVID-19 reported as of Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 295,039 new cases reported in the past seven days. There have been 184,083 deaths related to the virus.
The Associated Press reports that for most people, the novel coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.