CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice concluded his series of coronavirus press briefings on YouTube Friday, providing continual updates on the state’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor shared that West Virginia still leads the nation in getting vaccines to its citizens and added that he hopes to “lap the field” through the previously announced Operation “Save Our Wisdom.” To recap, this is the official name for Justice’s plan to vaccinate the elderly population in tiers (80+, 70+, 60+, etc.) as well as teachers and school personnel aged 50 and above. Justice shared photos of parking lots full of vehicles that arrived at one of 10 facilities distributing the vaccine to seniors yesterday and said that the operation is “giving life and hope” to the elderly.
Regarding the imminent reopening of K-8 education on January 19, Justice acknowledged that it has been a controversial decision for some but stood firm on his position that it needs to be done for the educational benefits of the state’s children. “We’ve proven a thousand times over that the schools are safe,” Justice said, referring to the miniscule transmission rate among younger children. “Absolutely, you’re far safer there as teachers or service personnel than you would be at the grocery store.”
The governor further elaborated on the detrimental effects that being out of school for so long has had on students. “We know that a third of our kids are failing core classes, and we know of the problems and deficiencies that we’re having with our special needs kids not being in school, and we know all the potential terrible situations for abuse that we’re missing and not helping our kids with. We know how much of a burden it takes off our families when their kids are in school, and we know how much better that [an in-person learning experience] is for our kids.” Justice also added that if we waited to reopen schools until after teachers and personnel had received their second doses of vaccine and waited the recommended 7-10 days afterwards, students would not be getting back into school until around February 15-20. “I know it’s not perfect,” he said, “but we need to be back in school.”
Justice read 73 additional coronavirus deaths, bringing West Virginia’s death toll attributed to COVID-19 to 1,554. The governor expressed both sadness and frustration as he addressed the people of West Virginia. “For those out there that still believe that this thing isn’t real, for those out there that believe you shouldn’t be wearing a mask or taking the vaccine… for those out there that are encouraging children to come and chant ‘let us play’ and everything… what’s it going to take? What do they really want? Are they willing to say, ‘Let’s just say everybody age 70 or above, they’re all going to die?’ You may think I’m ridiculous, but it’s no fun sitting here reading these names. And these people and their families are crying out to us. And it breaks my heart because they’re great West Virginians. And it breaks my heart for anyone to think that I wouldn’t love to be coaching a basketball game right now… but it’s not the right thing to do.”
The state’s current statistics, as of 10 a.m. Friday on the coronavirus.wv.gov dashboard are as follows: There were 28,189 active cases with 1,896 new cases received in the last 24 hours. The Cumulative Positivity Percentage was at 5.25% and the Daily Positivity Percentage was at 6.72%. There were 787 daily hospitalizations with 208 ICU cases. The Rt rating was 1.06%, the 21st worst in the country. The state has received 109,440 doses of vaccine and 77,156 have been administered. On the County Alert Map, all counties were in either “Red” or “Orange,” except for Clay County in the “Gold.” There were 15 confirmed cases in the public school system, 111 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, 14 outbreaks in churches across nine counties and 355 active inmate cases in state correctional facilities.