CHARLESTON, W.Va. – During his COVID-19 briefing, Tuesday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice sounded the alarm related to the Omicron variant, announced a new program aimed at getting more nurses in the state and spoke out against anti-West Virginia comments made by Bette Midler.

Omicron & hospital system concerns

While there are currently just three documented cases of the Omicron variant in West Virginia, Dr. Clay Marsh labeled it the “most infectious respiratory virus on this planet.”

Gov. Justice cited information from the West Virginia Hospital Association that it expects to approach the highest number of COVID patients since pandemic began, during the holiday season. The vast majority of those hospitalized will be unvaccinated, he said. A national shortage in antibody treatments will limit that as a treatment option, Justice went on.

“Our hospital system won’t tolerate a huge surge,” Dr. Marsh added.

“It’s terrible,” Justice said, after reading the latest COVID deaths in the state. “I don’t know how anybody in the world could think that this is just going to be business as usual and go through life thinking it’s okay for us, every other day, to lose 50, 60, 100 people in West Virginia. It’s not okay and unfortunately, the only thing in the world any of us have now, in order to slow this thing down and stop it, is to get vaccinated,” Justice went on. “Not getting a booster shot is a” bad, bad mistake,” the governor concluded.

Nursing Program Announcement

After reporting that last year 1,700 nurses in West Virginia did not renew their licenses, with 68% of them attributing the non-renewals to being tired, Gov. Justice announced a $48 million program, funded through federal CARES Act funding, that is aimed at recruiting nurses from other states, providing scholarships for nursing students, loan repayments for nursing faculty, as well as expanding capacity in RN and LPN programs at colleges and universities in the state.

Officials from Concord University, Glenville State College and BridgeValley Community & Technical College joined the governor to talk about the program. Justice hopes it will “flood West Virginia with quality, great nurses.” Officials are hoping to get more than 2,000 nurses in the next four years, they said.

Manchin & Midler Reaction

After saying that he had Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath my Wings played at his father’s funeral, Gov. Justice spoke out against derogatory comments Midler made on Twitter, in reaction to Sen. Joe Manchin’s decision not to support the current version of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. so uncalled for Justice described Midler as being a “New York-Hollywood elite,” and called her comments “so uncalled for,” cruel and really, really unfair.” Justice said he would welcome Midler to come to the state and wishes she will apologize.

In terms of Manchin’s decision, Justice said the senator “is doing what’s right” and is “being representative of West Virginians.”