Gov. Jim Justice agrees West Virginia would benefit from a laid-out plan with the public health guidelines being used to determine when the state can transition to a more open economy.
But he said such a plan isn’t ready yet, and he needs the latitude to deviate anyway.
“I think you will see it. It will be fluid. It would be changing from time to time,” Justice said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
He later added, “In the very near days you will get more and more and more of a roadmap of where we’re going. But just be prepared, the roadmap has to be fluid and have the ability to pivot all the time because this situation can jump up and bite us.”
Justice has talked repeatedly in recent days about needing to strike a balance between maintaining the health of citizens while also easing the restraints on businesses that power West Virginia’s economy.
Justice’s first step was an executive order laying out the process for elective procedures to resume at medical providers, once they have had applications approved.
But he hasn’t yet provided many specifics on what health standards or testing capacity the state must achieve for other sectors of the economy to begin opening.
Other states are starting to lay out those plans for their citizens
The National Governor’s Association put out a guide for states called “Roadmap to Recovery: A Public Health Guide for Governors.
Among the 10 steps are “Develop a strong and clear communication and public engagement plan,” “create a framework for reopening” and “set the criteria and define the stages for reopening.”
Other governors have started outlining their plans to the public.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican and co-chairman of the National Governor’s Association, says he will provide “Maryland Strong: A Roadmap to Recovery” by the end of this week.
Hogan started by laying out four building blocks:
- Expanding testing capacity
- Increasing hospital surge capacity
- Ramping up supply of personal protective equipment
- Building a robust contact tracing operation
He also has described standards to be met before reopening: 14 consecutive days of declines in the number of deaths, new hospitalizations and new intensive care unit patients.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, is asking businesses to submit plans detailing how they can operate while abiding by guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kentucky’s “Healthy at Work” initiative includes a Phase One to determine whether the whole state has met public health benchmarks such as 14 days of decreasing cases, increased testing capacity and preparedness for a future spike.
Kentucky’s Phase Two asks individual businesses to explain their ability to provide personal protective equipment to employees, adequate access to hand sanitizer and disinfectant and minimal direct contact between employees and the public.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, wants to start easing restrictions May 8 in some areas of the state that haven’t been hit hard by the virus.
Wolf announced a statewide plan on Wednesday evening.
Pennsylvania’s plan calls for a region or county to average fewer than 50 new positive cases of the virus per 100,000 residents for 14 days in order to begin moving out from statewide lockdown.
The plan lays out a phased, color-coded reopening roadmap with all of Pennsylvania now on red. Regions of the state would move from red to yellow, and then, eventually, to green when all restrictions are lifted.
Justice describes a puzzle
West Virginia’s governor, when asked Wednesday when the state would be ready with a public plan, described many factors that must be considered.
“That’s the thing so many people struggle with. They’re looking at three parts to a 35-part puzzle,” Justice said.
“But we’re looking — I’m looking at 32 parts of a 35-part puzzle. There’s three parts that nobody knows anywhere. But we’re taking input from other states. We’re taking input from our federal government. We’re taking input from our experts in every way. And then we’re gauging the progress of what is going on with our curve, and what is going on with different areas of our state.”
He said that might lead to the reopening of areas of West Virginia not considered hot spots before areas that are considered hot spots.
However, areas officially declared hot spots — Kanawha, Monongalia, Harrison and Berkeley counties as examples — are normally among the state’s most economically active.
Counties without a confirmed case — such as Clay, Calhoun, Gilmer, Webster and Pocahontas — have significantly less economic activity.
“So, there’s so many different variables here, that the general public may have figured out — or may think they have it figured out — in looking at three parts to a 35-part puzzle.”
Justice asks for trust from those who want to reopen and those who are more cautious
Justice several times in recent days has described widely divergent viewpoints between those who want to aggressively reopen the economy and those who are determined to stay home to prevent the virus spread.
He did so again on Wednesday, with exaggeration of the positions.
“You know, there’s always factions of us. You may have individuals who are saying, ‘We all need to go on back to work. Let’s all go back to work tomorrow,'” Justice said, waving his hands in the air.
“You see protests you know, in different places of our country: ‘We need to go back to work. In fact, we needed to go back to work weeks ago.'”
On the other hand, he said, “You see others that are saying ‘Oh, whatever we do, let’s don’t do anything. We can’t go back to work and we can’t do anything until September.”
The governor concluded, “In both situations, there probably could be better thought — in both situations.”
He promised that his guidance will be aimed at preventing people from getting sick while also averting economic catastrophe.
Instead of a laid out plan, the governor offered Justice.
“For those of you that may think, ‘Well Justice doesn’t want to put us back to work’ or ‘Justice absolutely wants to put us all back to work tomorrow’ — you can rest assured just one thing: Justice wants to put us back to work and put us back to work now.
“But, Justice wants to put us back in a way that is guided by our experts and guided by what our president is saying and guided by the guidelines that are coming out of D.C. and guided in a way that will make us the safest and the best in the nation that we have already proven to be.”