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Officials still searching for ‘hero pay’ info

ELKINS — Randolph County officials said Friday that determining exactly what the $100,000 COVID-19 response grant given to each West Virginia county can be used for has been “sticky.”

“The $100,000 ‘hero pay’ that the governor talked about is actually not ‘hero pay,’ which is unfortunate (…) It’s got to fit the FEMA guidelines,” Cindy Hart, executive director for the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management, said during a conference call among county leaders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic Friday afternoon.

Hart emphasized that she is currently working with the Randolph County Commission to learn exactly what is eligible to be paid by the public assistance grant.

“The county commission is not hoarding the money; they’re not picking and choosing who gets it. There are such strict strict guidelines on what they can and cannot use it for, and it absolutely cannot be used on bonuses or extra pay or time and a half unless it’s COVID-related only,” said Hart.

“It’s a sticky subject, and I know they’re taking a lot of heat on this, which is very unfair,” she added.

Randolph County Commissioner Mark Scott stated that the commission has received guidance from the West Virginia State Treasury as to the ways the grant funds may be spent.

“It’s very restrictive, but we are still soliciting (information),” he said, adding that agencies who believe they have incurred costs that could qualify should remember that they must be directly involved with the mitigation of COVID-19.

“That’s where we’re getting stuck,” Scott said. “Mostly, it’s a lot of expenditures that have been asked (but) cannot be directly related to the coronavirus. We’re probably up to half a dozen requests now that we’ve had to deny from different agencies and municipalities.”

“We’re not trying to hoard the money, but we’re just trying to find those expenditures that can be covered by this grant,” Scott explained.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, West Virginia had a total of 181 COVID-19 testing sites statewide, with 1,010 positive cases of the disease, and 32 deaths. A total of 32,419 state residents have been tested, with a 3.12% positive test result rate.

In our region, Randolph, Barbour, Tucker and Upshur counties each had four confirmed cases, Hardy and Pendleton counties had three, and Grant County had one. Pocahontas County had no reported cases.

Hart noted during Friday’s conference call that statewide there have been 380 recoveries, and that there are 12 quarantined first responders in West Virginia.

“With the governor issuing all the nursing homes and staff to be tested, they’re expecting a 20% increase in the positives,” Hart said.

Also during the call:

• Hart noted there continues to be a PPE (personal protective equipment) locally.

“We’re getting supplies in, but they’ve been kind of scattered,” she said.

• She noted that MedExpress is now offering testing for COVID-19.

• Bonnie Woodrum, an infectious disease nurse with the Randolph-Elkins Health Department, stated that in Randolph County, 195 individuals had been tested for COVID-19 outside of nursing homes, while four have tested positive, 181 have tested negative and 10 tests were pending.

“We expect to find more positives; we’re hoping we do not. We hope it’s winding down in the state and are starting to encourage people to think about how they will reopen or resume services,” said Woodrum.

“We’re encouraging businesses, service personnel and people at home to think through how they will rejoin society while maintaining the precautionary measures that they have learned.

“Even though it feels like things are pretty good around here, we still need to be cautious,” she said.

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