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West Virginia to re-open outpatient health services today

CHARLESTON — Outpatient health services in West Virginia can now join approved hospitals in opening their doors as the total positive coronavirus cases compared to total tests remains below 3 percent.

Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday evening that businesses listed on week one of the “West Virginia Strong: The Comeback” plan can begin operations today. These include outpatient health care providers, such as primary care, dentists, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists and mental health professionals and other health care providers regulated by Chapter 30 of state code.

The announcement from Justice came as the state had three consecutive days of positive coronavirus cases compared to total tests coming in below 3 percent, the metric the Justice and state health officials are using as a guide. Wednesday’s rate was 2.6 percent. If positive tests come in at more than 3 percent, it would cause a pause in re-opening and possible require businesses to close again.

“Today is a remarkable day in that we’ve been through a really tough time; a pandemic, something no one has seen before in our lifetimes,” Justice said. “As we re-open right now, we’ve had three days where we’ve had a barometer, a metric.”

Justice signed an executive order Monday allowing the re-opening of outpatient health care providers. Justice previously allowed hospitals to re-start elective medical procedures as long as they had approval from the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Starting Monday, May 4, businesses on week two of the Governor’s Comeback plan can re-open as long as the rate of positive cases remains below 3 percent. These include small businesses with less than 10 employees, outdoor dining, churches and houses of worship, hair and nail salons, barbers and dog groomers. All of those businesses and entities would be required to maintain social distancing and maintain proper sanitation.

“We are moving towards week two,” Justice said. “We’ll give you guidelines and the whole bit.”

Weeks three through six will begin on the following Mondays starting Monday, May 11. Justice said the green light will be given to those businesses one week before.

Justice thanked the public for following his executive orders since March and staying at home, maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and face coverings in public, washing hands and avoiding unnecessary travel. Justice encouraged all West Virginians to keep following this guidance even as the state re-opens until there are treatments or a vaccine.

“This is West Virginia’s second chapter and we’ve knocked it out of the park,” Justice said. “We witnessed a miracle in West Virginia and the miracle was you…I now ask you as West Virginians, do as you have done.”

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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