CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia officials are still discussing plans for reopening public and private colleges in the fall.
“What everyone wants to achieve, myself included, is to bring our kids back to our colleges and our universities safely, so they will be able to continue their education while also protecting their communities, teachers, faculty, and everyone around them at our institutions,” Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday.
“There’s a way to do it and we all need to try to find the safest and best way possible to pull it off,” Justice said during his Wednesday press briefing.
Justice met with the state’s 27 college and university presidents Tuesday in an online forum.
Each college and university will have a reopening plan that’s tailored for their campus and community.
Justice renewed his call for all students coming into West Virginia from out of state to be tested upon their return.
The governor also advocated for individuals on campuses to wear face coverings and he pledged to provide colleges and universities with additional support they may need to facilitate a safe return.
Wednesday, Justice reported that West Virginia’s case numbers have begun to trend downward.
Thirty new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Tuesday and in Monongalia County, which has seen the highest concentration of cases, active cases had dropped from 394 to 339.
“Our numbers, in the last three days, may be moving back in the direction we want them to move,” Justice said.
The daily percent positive on Monday morning, for example, was 1.06 percent. That was down significantly from other recent days.
The number of active cases has also gone down in recent days. On Monday, that number was 1,576. Wednesday it was 1,480.
Outbreaks are now being reported in seven West Virginia churches, prompting Justice to again stress the importance of face coverings.
“Wear your mask in church. It is the absolute breeding ground for this terrible killer,” he said.
Justice has made it mandatory for persons to wear masks in all public buildings, including churches. The order has been in effect since July 7.
“Now can we attribute all that to the fact that we did a mandatory executive order to make us all wear a mask? We probably can’t. But we can say that something is making this move and move in our favor. And absolutely wearing the mask is absolutely making it move,” Justice said.
Dr. Clay Marsh, Justice’s appointed Coronavirus czar, said case numbers may be declining due to mitigation strategies state officials have implemented.
“This is the timeframe for the mitigation strategies, like the mask order, that we would anticipate that we would start seeing some benefit,” Marsh said.
Greenbrier County reported 11 active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. One person was hospitalized.
In West Virginia, 101 people have died from COVID-19, including three in Greenbrier County. The latest death was a 67-year-old female in Cabell County.