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Coronavirus Update: Governor’s briefing sheds light on plan to slowly reopen W.Va.

By Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Much of Tuesday’s West Virginia COVID-19 briefing was devoted to clarification of details of a plan unveiled a day earlier to reopen much of the state in as little as six weeks.

As Gov. Jim Justice put it, “No matter what we say, there’s always a thousand questions that come up, no matter what path we take.”

Clarification was offered Tuesday by state COVID-19 czar Dr. Clay Marsh. He explained why the threshold for beginning reopening has gone from 14 consecutive days of declining cases to eight to 14 days, and then to the new standard of three consecutive days of positive COVID-19 tests accounting for less than 3 percent of total tests performed.

Marsh said the ability to move to a less-stringent requirement has been made possible by positive trends statewide, including having positive tests drop below 3% of total testing — well below the national average of nearly 20% — and having an R0 rate that has dropped below 1, meaning that each existing infection will cause less than one new infection.

“Ultimately, I felt that was a sign in which we had this good window, along with the declining rate of positivity,” said Marsh, who also is vice president for health sciences at West Virginia University. …

Meanwhile, Justice addressed confusion over when the six-week plan actually begins.

He said Week 1 began Tuesday, with the previously announced resumption of elective surgical and medical procedures at hospitals and clinics, and Week 1 will continue Thursday, with authorization for outpatient care providers, including primary care physicians, dentists, physical and occupational therapists, to reopen their practices.

Week 1 also includes reopening of day care centers, primarily to accommodate the thousands of furloughed hospital employees who are returning to work….

Justice said each subsequent week will begin on Monday — if West Virginia has had three consecutive days in the prior week when the percentage of positive cases remained below 3% of total tests each day.

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