West Virginia eases reopening plan to observe caseload

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia has scaled back its plan to lift coronavirus restrictions to gauge how current reopenings will effect the state’s caseload, officials said Tuesday.

Republican
Gov. Jim Justice has announced that the third week of his plan will
begin next Monday with the opening of physical therapy centers and
drive-in movie theaters. His original strategy sought to have offices,
gyms, restaurants and other businesses start resuming operations in the
third and following weeks.

“This week we have reduced the aggressiveness of some of the reopenings. We’re going to let things kind of play out for a week or so,” Clay Marsh, a West Virginia University official leading the state’s virus response, told reporters.

Justice
has so far let hospitals resume elective procedures and allowed the
reopening of small businesses, outdoor dining restaurants and barber
shops. The physical therapy centers and drive-in theaters can open
Monday.

The
governor has loosened a key testing benchmark to accommodate his
reopening strategy without explanation. His plan hinges on having the
state remain under a 3% positive test rate for three days, reversing a
previous goal of having new cases decline for two consecutive weeks.
Marsh previously endorsed the two-week criteria but now says the state
has enough downward trend lines to warrant lifting restrictions.

The
Justice administration has not given clear benchmarks on what kinds of
testing capacity and safety equipment inventory it wants to have as part
of the reopening strategy.

At least 50 people have died and about 1,200 people have tested positive for the virus, state health officials said.

Associated Press file photo

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Source: Mountain Top