Justice: Largest WVa county to ‘aggressively’ test for virus

September 28, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia officials have amended guidelines for reopening schools yet again. It aims to restart in-person instruction and sports in more counties.Justice and his advisors unveiled the new changes after an hours-long meeting, late Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (F. Brian Ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP, File)
FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia officials have amended guidelines for reopening schools yet again. It aims to restart in-person instruction and sports in more counties.Justice and his advisors unveiled the new changes after an hours-long meeting, late Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (F. Brian Ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP, File)
FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia officials have amended guidelines for reopening schools yet again. It aims to restart in-person instruction and sports in more counties.Justice and his advisors unveiled the new changes after an hours-long meeting, late Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (F. Brian Ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP, File)
FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia officials have amended guidelines for reopening schools yet again. It aims to restart in-person instruction and sports in more counties.Justice and his advisors unveiled the new changes after an hours-long meeting, late Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (F. Brian Ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP, File)
FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia officials have amended guidelines for reopening schools yet again. It aims to restart in-person instruction and sports in more counties.Justice and his advisors unveiled the new changes after an hours-long meeting, late Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (F. Brian Ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP, File)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice made an impassioned plea Monday for as many people as possible — healthy or otherwise — in the state’s most populous county to get tested for the coronavirus in an attempt to slow its spread.

In announcing plans for “massively, aggressively” testing people in Kanawha County, Justice said at a news conference that multiple testing sites will be available this week.

The county, whose seat includes the capital of Charleston, leads the state by far in active virus cases with at least 980 in a state with nearly 4,000 active cases. The county has at least 77, or 23%, of the state’s 337 virus-related deaths.

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“If we don’t test more people, we’re not going to beat this disease,” Justice said. “I feel in my gut that we have an opportunity here and to be able to put a stranglehold on this terrible killer. I want to stomp it out.”

Four weeks into the public school year, classrooms have yet to open to students in Kanawha County because the rate of virus cases exceeds the state-mandated threshold for in-person classes.

Justice said the goal of the amped-up testing isn’t just to reduce the percentage of positive tests enough to allow students to return to classrooms or to play sports. The Republican governor also stressed that virus testing in general is not only meant for the sick. People who feel healthy should get tested anyway because there’s a chance that someone who is asymptomatic could unknowingly spread the virus, he said.

Justice used a private school in Kanawha County as an example. The Bible Center School in Charleston held in-person classes earlier this month despite a ban on such instruction in the county. The school, which eventually switched to virtual instruction, offered to have everyone tested at the school, including students.

The governor said about 220 people were tested with one coming back positive — someone who, if not tested, could have infected others in a county that can’t seem to slow the virus’ spread.

“As we identify these people that don’t even know they’ve got it, then we’re going to win this battle,” Justice said. “The more we confirm the people that have got this, and we isolate them and let them get well without infecting others, the better we’ll be. That’s the only way to win this.”

Other officials at the news conference, including state Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch and state National Guard adjutant general Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, joined Justice in pleading for residents to get tested no matter their health status.

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“If you’re the significant spreader, we need to get you off and isolated,” Hoyer said.

The virus usually results in only mild to moderate symptoms, but is particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with underlying health problems.

Most of the state’s 55 counties had minimal community transmission of the virus. Still, Justice urged residents there, “don’t drop your guard. (It) doesn’t mean we can all just run through the streets with our mask off.”

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.