Skip to main content

State officials meet with White House coronavirus response coordinator

The Journal

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice, state health and education officials and Republican members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation met Wednesday with the federal official overseeing the national coronavirus response.

Dr. Deborah Birx met with state officials at the Culture Center and the governor’s mansion to hear about the ways West Virginia has attempted to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a news conference, Birx said other states could adapt West Virginia’s color-coded map for public schools.


The alert system on the state website is a clear guide, she said.

“It’s practical. It is something every county in every state can do. It’s understandable,” she said. “And most importantly, it’s implementable.”

Birx spoke with Justice, officials with the Departments of Education and Health and Human Resources, State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer with the West Virginia National Guard, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and 2nd District Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va. Other state and local officials were also part of Wednesday’s events with Birx.

“She’s amazing, she’s absolutely stuck on ‘on,’” Justice said. “I can very proudly say she was tickled to death with the things we’re doing in West Virginia.”

Capito and Mooney joined Justice in the governor’s reception room for Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing. Capito praised Birx for coming to West Virginia.

“We had an incredible experience this morning hearing from Dr. Birx,” Capito said. “She said she was thrilled with coming to West Virginia, because we are a green state. She hasn’t been able to see too many green states. She wanted to know what the key to our relative success was, and I think she came away with a couple of things about our governor’s leadership.”


Justice and Capito said Birx was pleased with some of the innovations in manufacturing face masks and other personal protective equipment by the National Guard, as well as the new color-coded school reentry metrics developed by state health officials for the Department of Education.

“(Birx) was just very very pleased with West Virginia to say the least, pleased about our ability to innovate and created our own PPE, to doing all the stuff with the color-coding for how we’re going to go back to (school), to our numbers that we already have,” Justice said. “It was a really great visit.”

“(Birx) was particularly interested in the color-coded system for the reopening of schools,” Capito said. “She recommended that it’s going to be part of her governors report where they share best practices with all the other governors from around the state. She warned the governor that he might get 49 other governors calling him to find out.”

“(Birx) thinks we can be safe and go back to school and have that choice if you want or choose online learning,” Mooney said. “She was happy to see we are taking precautions here and seem to be doing better.”

The state was praised for its efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, for maintaining a low cumulative percent of positive cases, testing more than 20% of the state’s population and bringing the state’s Rt value, the measure of how quickly the virus can spread to other people, to .90, which was the ninth best rate in the country.

“(Birx) understands that there is no absolute playbook for this,” Marsh said. “This is a generational event and having a team that can adapt very quickly, that is agile, that is learning as we go, using best practices and working together are real hallmarks for success. She also understands that we are not finished with this event and it’s much different than anything we’ve seen before, so she was appropriately cautious.”

Birx was appointed as the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force by Vice President Mike Pence, who also was in West Virginia Saturday to meet with Justice and state officials prior to a political fundraiser at the Justice-owned Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. Birx has worked as an ambassador-at-large and the United States Global A.I.D.S. coordinator for Trump and former President Barack Obama.

According to DHHR, West Virginia saw an 11% decrease in active COVID-19 cases since Monday, with 1,726 active cases reported as of Wednesday. The state saw 70 new coronavirus cases between Tuesday and Wednesday, with the state’s daily percent of positive cases sitting at 2.14%.