Dave Mistich Published

Justice Again Tweaks School Reopening Metrics, Color-Coded Map Now Covers Nursing Homes


Gov. Jim Justice has once again revised a set of metrics that will guide school reopenings and, now, some operations at nursing homes. That change comes as West Virginia hits high marks in the number of coronavirus hospitalizations. 

In a virtual news briefing Friday, Justice said counties with populations under 16,000 will be evaluated on a 14-day rolling average, while those with more than 16,000 will still be evaluated on a 7-day rolling average.

Those variables will help influence metrics on a color-coded map that will guide school reopenings.

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Sec. Bill Crouch said the same map will now help decide whether nursing homes can allow visitations. Justice issued an executive order earlier this month that banned visitations at those facilities but said he would work to find a system to allow visitations where it is safe to do so.

“This map will be used for different purposes now, rather than just the school alert system,” Crouch said. “We had been working previously on the alert system for nursing homes that would allow them a way to gauge community spread in their counties and their communities to guide them with regard to visitations.”

Crouch said the Department of Education will post next week a separate map for school athletic and extracurricular activities. Schools are slated to reopen for in-person and virtual learning on Sept. 8. 

Justice also announced that school children in grades three and above will now be required to wear a mask in certain settings if their county is in the green, yellow and orange levels. A red level means that a county school system will operate in a fully virtual setting. 

According to data from the DHHR, the state hit record numbers Friday in key metrics that track the virus’s impact. The number of patients hospitalized is now 146 and the number of those in ICU is at 54. While not a record, the number of patients on ventilators stands at 24 — one of the highest numbers recorded during the pandemic.

Despite those record numbers, Justice said the state’s hospitals remain ready to handle more cases should the need present itself.

“As we move up in hospitalizations, they look like they’re alarming. But capacity of hospitalizations is much, much, much, much greater,” Justice. “So, we’re in great shape.”

As of Friday morning, the DHHR reported 160 deaths from COVID-19 and 9,066 total cases of the coronavirus. State health officials are currently reporting 1,756 active cases.