CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice continued his series of coronavirus press briefings on YouTube Wednesday, providing updates on the state’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a shocking discovery by the WV Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), the state’s death toll attributed to COVID-19 has not been reported accurately to date. The governor announced Wednesday morning that 70 healthcare facilities across 30 counties have failed to report all their COVID-related deaths that have actually occurred. “This is totally unacceptable,” Justice stated. “On Friday, I will honor all these great West Virginians that were unreported… I think there are 168 deaths that were not reported by these facilities.”
Gov. Justice said he would make sure to “get to the bottom of this.” State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad explained that the majority of the offenders were hospitals and nursing homes, adding that state officials were “very disappointed” and will be reaching out to these facilities to help them facilitate the registration of death certificates and associated reporting. She also stated that the reporting period for these deaths will be decreased from biweekly to weekly, in order to catch errors more effectively.
“As the governor stated, this is unacceptable to us at the DHHR, and we apologize for that, and we are going to honor all of these individuals on Friday,” Dr. Amjad assured. She also said that, on the COVID-19 vaccination phoneline, there had been complaints of an individual staffer who had “not been answering questions properly” and stated that that individual had been removed. “We do want people to feel comfortable when they call our call line,” Dr. Amjad expressed, “so we did take care of that situation.”
Justice remarked on the restrictions that were lifted last Friday, allowing restaurants, bars, small businesses, retail stores, gyms, fitness centers and others to operate at 100% capacity while still mandating face coverings and social distancing. These lessened restrictions also allow for social gatherings of up to 100 people and traveling youth sports in any “non-Red” county, though Justice once again emphasized the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing. “I don’t like them any more than you do,” Justice said, but he urged, “let’s not try to run before we learn to crawl and walk.”
The state’s current statistics, as of 10 a.m. Wednesday on the coronavirus.wv.gov dashboard were as follows: There were 5,360 active cases, with 302 new cases reported in the last 24 hours. The governor read five additional deaths, bringing the state death total to 2,330. The Cumulative Positivity Percent was at 5.36% and the Daily Positivity Percent was at 3.19%. The Rt rating was at 0.94. There were 178 daily hospitalizations and 54 ICU cases. On the County Alert Map, there were zero “Red” counties, five “Orange” counties, five “Gold” counties, 12 “Yellow” counties and 33 “Green” counties. The state had reportedly administered 346,363 first doses of vaccine and 219,306 people had been fully vaccinated. There were five outbreaks in long-term care facilities reported, as well as three church outbreaks—one each in Monongalia, Raleigh and Nicholas counties—and 223 inmate cases with 13 staff cases in correctional facilities.