CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia has reached the 2,800 death mark during the coronavirus pandemic, something Gov. Jim Justice lamented Wednesday.
“Who woulda ever believed it? 2,800 people we’ve lost in West Virginia,” said Justice. “We need to continue to test. If you happen to be 50, 60 years old or older, and you have any symptoms at all, you have got to absolutely go, just as if it were a heart attack or a stroke, go get tested as quickly as you possibly can.”
The state has recorded 15 additional deaths since his press briefing Monday.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has recorded 426 positive cases in the past day. The daily percent positivity is 3.83%, while the cumulative percent positivity is 5.20%.
There are 7,293 active cases of coronavirus in West Virginia and 139,795 recoveries, according to the DHHR.
The governor offered an update on vaccination efforts in the state, explaining that two-thirds of residents older than 65 have received both vaccine doses.
Justice also explained that the total population of eligible residents, those who are at least 16 years old, is 1,470,000 people. About 51% of those people have received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine, according to Justice. The percentage of people fully vaccinated is 37.8%.
“The 51% number, we need to get that to 70. Now, if we can get that to 70, we’ll be there. We’ll be there,” said Justice. “We want the age 65 and older to go to 85%. I think right now, we’re at 77% right now.
“Now, what we’ve gotta do is we gotta get our kids on board. We gotta get that 16-to-35 year of age on board, and really then, we start really moving this 50.9% and heading towards 70. When we get to 70, these masks, and all this stuff, will be a memory.”
Justice was asked about 40% of West Virginians not wanting to get a coronavirus vaccine, a reputed figure that he disputes, and when the wearing of masks will no longer be mandated.
“At 1.47 [million] total eligible people in the state of West Virginia, if you’re right and 40% of ’em, 40% of ’em…will not take the shot to be vaccinated, I think that number is…588,000 people. I think that number is, is 588,000 people are refusing to take the vaccine,” said Justice, as he worked out some back-of-the-napkin math.
“That can’t be right. There’s no way it can be right. Because if that’s right, I mean, to be perfectly honest, we’re putting vaccines in somebody’s arm every day, you know. But, if that number’s right, we’re at the end of the rainbow.”
Further, Justice said there is not a specific vaccination percentage goal that would trigger a rescinding of the mask mandate.
“I do not want to be misunderstood and say, ‘We’ve gotta get to 70[%], or I’m not ever gonna release us to be able to…not wear a mask.'”
Justice came up with a new slogan to get his message out to people about the importance of getting vaccinated.
“The note to myself is just this. And, it was ‘BEAT 588 BAD,'” said Justice, as he held up his all-caps scrawl. “My goal now is going to be ‘BEAT 588 BAD,’ because if we don’t, we’re not gonna get rid of these masks. It’s gonna be really, really, really tough, and our experts are gonna be hesitant, and hesitant and hesitant.
“I want the masks gone, but, absolutely, we can’t stand 40% of our folks not wanting to take the vaccine.”
The governor also asked residents to help him convince people to get vaccinated.
“Help me out, West Virginians. I really need you. I need you badly. I need you to encourage the kids, the college students, the absolutely very young that you know that are around you that are workers, get vaccinated,” Justice pleaded.