Smaller colleges, universities receive help for coronavirus testing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s smaller colleges and universities are receiving financial assistance to conduct coronavirus tests at the start of the fall semester.

Gov. Jim Justice announced the $2.5 million pledge at Friday’s coronavirus briefing, saying the institutions need help to keep campuses safe for in-person activities.

“WVU and Marshall have their own plans and they’re working it and working it great,” he said, referencing the state’s two largest institutions.

Justice said all institutions need to test everyone who will be on campus during the fall semester.

“Anybody that’s coming to any of our campuses. In-state, out-of-state, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We test everybody, including all the faculty and everybody else.”

Fairmont State University Mirta Martin

Fairmont State University President Mirta Martin thanked Justice during the press conference, in which she appeared virtually.

“While this pandemic has been the defining event of our lifetime, you — Mr. Governor — have brought optimism, vision and heartfelt care to West Virginia,” said Martin, also representing the West Virginia Council of Presidents. “Your leadership has guided our state by putting ambition into action, and we’re so very grateful.”

Sarah Armstrong Tucker, the chancellor for the state Higher Education Policy Commission and Community and Technical College System, announced her support for the funding in a statement.

“Our public institutions are working shoulder-to-shoulder with one another, the Governor’s office, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the National Guard, and their local health departments to protect those within and around our campuses,” she said.

“Thanks to this support from the Governor, we will be able to ramp up testing in line with institutions’ fall reopening plans. This accelerated testing, combined with the far-reaching health and safety protocols schools have already activated, will allow students to continue their education – which is critical to their futures and the future of our state – with greater peace of mind.”

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