CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials Friday for his latest daily press briefing regarding the state’s COVID-19 response.
During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice took time to honor 165 West Virginians who had passed away from COVID-19 over the previous several months, but whose deaths were not properly reported by several healthcare facilities across the state to the West Virginia DHHR as being COVID-related.
The Governor announced the DHHR’s discovery during his previous briefing on Wednesday, less than one hour after first being made aware of the discrepancy himself.
“This situation is totally unacceptable to me in every way,” Gov. Justice said on Friday. “We owe these people all the respect in the world, and I’m honored to be able to read through all these deaths, because we owe these great people that.” The Governor then read the ages, genders, and home counties of each of the individuals affected.
“I hate like crazy that mistakes were made and loved ones were not respected like they should have been,” Gov. Justice said. “I do not understand the mistakes, nor do I think they’re acceptable, but it was an honor reading those people and I ask that you’ll please keep all of them in your prayers and reach out to these families and let them know how much you love them.”
The Governor said that 84% of these deaths occurred in the months of December 2020 and January 2021.
After a quality assurance review, the DHHR updated the number of improperly reported deaths to 165 from a preliminary count of 168 on Wednesday.
The DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health will be investigating each non-reported death to determine what occurred.
“We do want to reassure everyone that we are going to take the time to go through the death certificates with the facilities to make sure that these are fully-vetted properly going forward,” said State Health Officer and Commissioner for DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health Dr. Ayne Amjad. “We also want to make sure that we’re very transparent with the public; to make sure that we’re properly reporting the information to the public accurately. Getting proper information to the public and being transparent is what we strive for, and we also want to make sure that we get this out there as quickly as possible.”
Also, Gov. Justice made mention that Friday and Saturday mark the one-year anniversaries of several notable moments in West Virginia’s early pandemic response efforts.
“We’re at the one-year anniversaries of when I announced that we were closing our schools. I also closed the state high school basketball tournament, restricted visitation to our nursing homes, and mobilized the West Virginia National Guard to respond to this COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Justice said. “I could never be more grateful to all the people that have stepped up and shown their leadership, their bravery, their courage, and their dedication to their state and their jobs. All the great work the National Guard, our great healthcare community, our first responders, and so many others have done is amazing.”