CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “It’s staggering,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said at the top of Friday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing, as he prepared to read through 110 COVID deaths, for the third time this month.
“We will continue to lose people for a period of time,” Justice said, noting that 92.2% of West Virginia’s COVID-19 deaths have been among the unvaccinated. “We do not have a high enough population that is completely vaccinated to really, really slow this thing down,” Justice continued.
The governor’s comments were followed up by Ret. Major Gen. Jim Hoyer, who pointed out that the state is still seeing a high percentage of unvaccinated patients in ICUs and on ventilators.
“Everybody should try to get vaccinated,” Justice said, but quickly defended his vaccine exemptions bill, explaining that he had been vindicated by a temporary restraining order issued in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., for the time being, preventing military members from being fired for not taking the vaccine.
State health officials are hopeful that vaccinations may be approved next week for five to 11-year-olds and encouraged parents to get their kids vaccinated to avoid the risk for potentially long-term effects for the children, Dr. Clay Marsh said.
Justice pointed to seven “green” counties that now appear on the state’s COVID map, as a positive sign. The counties, Doddridge, Lewis, Monongalia, Ritchie, Tucker, Tyler, Wirt are all in north central part of the state, Justice pointed out.
The governor also took several moments to mention a recent recognition, by Lonely Planet, of West Virginia being a top 10 place to visit in 2022. “Who would’ve thought five years ago?” that this could happen, Justice asked.
In an even lighter moment, the governor brought a Charleston middle school student, who was dressed as Justice for Halloween, onto the briefing. You can read and see more of that here.