CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s virtual COVID-19 briefing, Monday morning, was delayed by roughly 30 minutes due to an anti-mask protest outside the State Capitol, the governor said.
“This situation is really critical,” Justice said while listing off the eight “red” counties in the state. There are too many “orange” counties(15) to read off, the governor said.
More record highs have been set with COVID-19 hospitalizations(597), with 162 of those in ICUs, Justice reported. “How many of those are going to die?,” the governor asked.
There are currently 91 outbreaks at nursing homes across West Virginia, including nine new outbreaks since Thanksgiving, state health officials said.
WVU Medicine Medicine President and CEO Albert Wright let Justice know that he is “genuinely concerned” that hospitals in the state could be overrun by COVID-19 patients, the governor said. With this in mind, hospitals will be cutting back on elective surgeries, Justice said. State officials did stress that currently, there is still capacity in hospitals.
Gov. Justice also detailed increases in positive cases at state correctional facilities, including 22 at the Pruntytown Correctional Center, in Taylor County.
Justice and state officials are looking “really, really hard” at finding more stringent pinpointed efforts to slow the coronavirus spread. Border counties are a particular concern, according to Gov. Justice. Indoor dining, bars and operating hours that run longer than neighboring states, are some of things being looked at, Justice said. Some of those actions may be announced on Wednesday, said the governor.
“For all those who don’t believe(in masks), what can it hurt? If you wear this mask and it doesn’t help much, but it helps a little, why not do it?,” the governor asked.
“For crying out loud, if you can’t heed these warnings then you’re not listening to even those who are crying from the grave. 735 West Virginians(WV’s COVID-19 death total) are crying out to please try to protect yourself and please stop[ this thing as fast as we possibly can,” Justice continued.
When asked for reaction to state residents who aren’t willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine, Justice said: “We’ve figured out how we can die, now we’ve got to figure out how we can live, the vaccine is an opportunity to live.”
The governor said he is working to try to find a way to help high schools replace revenue lost by sports cancellations. Officials are waiting for Congress to make some changes to the CARES Act to make that possible, Justice said. Basketball looks to be in “real jeopardy,” Justice said.
The governor also commented on Monday’s announcement that the West Virginia Black Bears baseball team will be joining the new Major League Baseball Draft League. Justice said he has been working to keep the state’s minor league baseball teams viable and is hoping for positive announcements about other teams in West Virginia.