CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice resumed his series of coronavirus press briefings on YouTube Monday, providing continual updates on the state’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor took a moment to address the success of the state’s early vaccination efforts, revealing via footage of his interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box that all of West Virginia’s first doses have either been administered or are assigned to be administered in the next few days. Justice credits this success to swift, decisive action.
He said the longer that vaccines sit on shelves while a plan is being developed, the more people will die, and that the hardest hit demographic, senior citizens, need to be vaccinated first. This led to the implementation of Operation “Save Our Wisdom,” which continues to vaccinate senior citizens from oldest to youngest, both within long-term care facilities and among the general public across the state. He also added that he hopes other states will see what West Virginians have done and try to do the same, as he mentioned that North Carolina and New York have started taking steps in that direction.
Justice also deeply thanked all frontline workers, healthcare specialists, first responders and National Guardsmen for the work they have been doing as part of the Operation, saying that they are improving how the world sees West Virginia.
Additionally, Justice issued a proclamation in accordance with that of President Trump for United States and state flags at all state-owned facilities to be flown at half staff until sunset on Wednesday. The flag order is in honor of Capitol police officers Brian D. Sicknick and Howard Liebengood who died in the wake of the assault on the Capitol last Wednesday.
When asked on Squawk Box about his response to the event, Justice said that while he is a friend of the Trump family and “understands the frustrations of the president” and his supporters, he described the attack on the Capitol as “despicable.” He asserted, “We have got to step back and take some deep breaths and realize that we’re Americans first and foremost.” The governor continued, “We aren’t Democrats or Republicans first and foremost, we’re Americans, and for crying out loud, this makes us look terrible beyond belief.” Justice also added that while he did not personally know Delegate Derrick Evans, a newly elected lawmaker from Wayne County who livestreamed himself storming the Capitol, he stood by his condemnation of the mob’s actions and said that they should face any legal consequences leveled at them. Evans was arrested on January 8 for his involvement in the riot and issued his resignation the following day.
Justice read 40 additional deaths that occurred over the weekend, bringing West Virginia’s death toll attributed to the virus up to 1,594. He added that the West Virginia National Guard would be organizing 12 “regional community vaccination clinics” at National Guard armories across the state, with more details to be released on Tuesday. Regarding the beginning of winter sports in March, the governor shared that practices would be allowed to begin on February 14 if the county is in session for in-person learning. “When you go back, you have to have 14 practices before you can play,” Justice explained. “This gives us, I think, 16 days that we can practice and get our 14 practices in.” However, if a county is in the “Red,” or is holding virtual-only learning, they will not be permitted to play.
The state’s current statistics, as of 10 a.m. Monday on the coronavirus.wv.gov dashboard are as follows: There were 29,257 active cases, with 1,070 new cases reported in the last 24 hours. The Cumulative Positivity Percentage was at 5.38% and the Daily Positivity Percentage was at 8.77%. There were 755 daily hospitalizations with 212 ICU cases. The Rt rating was at 0.96%, placing West Virginia at #48 on the national scale. A total of 92,070 first doses of the vaccine had been administered, and 13,469 people had reportedly been fully vaccinated. On the County Alert Map, all counties were in either in the “Red” or “Orange,” except for Clay and McDowell Counties in the “Gold.” There were 111 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, 14 outbreaks in churches across nine counties and 404 inmate cases in correctional facilities with 57 staff cases.