Governors continue to lay out reopening plans

Published: May. 1, 2020 at 4:36 PM EDT
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Governor Jim Justice opened his daily briefing Friday by lamenting the latest deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, while adding West Virginia continues to trend downward statewide, in the number of positive coronavirus tests.

The percentage-the one he cited this week to allow the state's reopening to begin-remains under 3% for the weeks following the end of March.

But Justice was clearly upset to report the deaths of five more West Virginia residents-of varying ages-from the virus.

"Nothing about that is good in any way," Justice said. "All the numbers, all the charts and everything else really don't make a hill of beans when I'm sitting here and telling you we've lost five West Virginians."

Justice also announced the states tax revenues for the month of April was $198 million below estimates, and down more than $205 million for the fiscal year ending June 31.

He continues to maintain-in spite of U.S. treasury guidelines saying otherwise-that defecit can be covered by expected federal relief money.

In response to reporters' questions, Justice said if that remains uncertain by the end of May, he could call a special session of the West Virginia Legislature for June.

Justice's reopening timeline is slightly more relaxed than that of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, also issued Monday.

The Ohio plan allows offices, construction and some retail businesses to open in the first half of May.

Unlike the West Virginia plan, however, there's no timetable for restaurants or salons.

DeWine, in his Friday briefing, said independent groups have been formed to make recommendations on those establishments.

"The goal is to take people who understand that work," DeWine said, "put them together with other experts, come up with a way that will actually work, best practices, so that when you go into that place, you know that the best practices are, in fact, being followed."

Earlier Friday, Ohio changed its "stay at home" order, due to expire at the end of the day, to a "stay safe, Ohio" order.

Like Justice, DeWine is still encouraging residents to help prevent the spread of the virus.

DeWine said he has been asked whether rural counties, with lower positive test numbers, could reopen more quickly than areas with larger populations.

He says the concern is people from those larger areas could travel for services to the rural counties, and spread the virus that way.