After months of battling COVID-19, there is no question that this virus has had a terrible impact on our communities. It has effected every part of our lives and the numbers show this.

More than 113,000 of our fellow Americans have lost their lives due to this awful virus, including 88 West Virginians.  

The official unemployment rate is about 13 percent nationally and over 15 percent in West Virginia.

State and local officials across the country closed much of our economy in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Our goal as a nation was to bend the curve in order to prevent our hospitals and other medical providers from being overrun.

In West Virginia – as in much of the country – we have been successful in bending the curve and reducing the spread of this terrible disease, and we’ve been able to gradually reopen as a result.

It is important that as we now move to responsibly reopen our economy, we continue to follow the guidelines prepared by our public health experts. These guidelines will help protect your health and the health of others in your community. And, by hindering the spread of the disease and allowing for businesses to remain open, following the guidelines will aid our economic recovery as well.

Most Americans understand that there is no way to choose between public health and a strong economy because there is no way to have one without the other:

We cannot have a strong economy if we are not protecting people from becoming sick, and we will not be able to make necessary long-term investments in public health if we don’t have a strong economy.

That is why a responsible, step-by-step approach to reopening the economy that is driven by the data in states and local communities is so important.

West Virginia’s cumulative percentage of positive tests now stands at less than 2 percent – less than 1/5 of the national average. 

Our daily positive tests percentage as of Wednesday is 1 percent.

This is despite the fact that West Virginia has tested a higher percentage of our residents than the national average and all of our neighboring states.

Even more encouraging is that our cumulative percentage of positive tests has remained below 3 percent since April 25, even as we began reopening businesses in early May.

Like the rest of the country, West Virginia has faced its challenges:   

  • Outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Monongalia, Wayne, Jackson, and Kanawha counties have resulted in 43 deaths. Our state responded by testing every resident and staff member at nursing homes in our state. We were the first state in the nation to do this, setting an example that others followed. That response helped to prevent additional spread of the disease both in those facilities and in the broader community.
  • Recently, an outbreak at a prison in Huttonsville, West Virginia, led to more than 100 positive tests. Currently, inmates at other prisons around the state are being tested.
  • West Virginia’s border counties, especially in our state’s Eastern Panhandle have had a higher number of positive tests due to their proximity to hot spots in the National Capitol region.

While we have experienced some challenges, we’ve done our best to address them immediately, and we’ve been successful in these efforts. I am very proud of the way that West Virginians have pulled together during this crisis and tackled these challenges head-on. 

The progress reflected by the statistics are only possible because our state’s residents followed public health guidelines.

We owe so much thanks to our medical professionals, first responders, and front line workers who have gone far beyond the call of duty to protect public health and keep our communities running during this most difficult of times. It’s because of these men and women and others that our communities are equipped with the resources to remain safe and healthy.

Our economy is re-opening in the responsible way, but COVID is still with us and it is still a deadly threat.

We must continue working together and following guidelines from experts so that we can protect both our economy and our health.