CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice had fewer COVID-19 deaths to read through during Wednesday’s virtual briefing, than he has in his other recent briefings.
Justice also reported that COVID-19 cases have dropped from above 29,000 to 9,703, during the most recent surge. However, COVID hospitalizations remain high, with 80% of patients unvaccinated, the governor said.
A high percentage of grandparents and parents, in the state, are fully vaccinated and younger people need to follow their lead, Justice said.
The governor also announced that he has added a bill to the current special session of the West Virginia State Legislature that would allow for medical and religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Justice described the bill as a “clarification,” as federal law already allows for the exemptions, he said. The bill only applies for COVID-19 and does not affect other required vaccinations, like shots for measles, mumps and Rubella, Justice went on.
Gov. Justice said the bill is not a contradiction to his previous statements that he did not believe in mandating against mandates, and understands that “with some” it may not be a popular decision.
WVU Medicine quickly issued a statement opposing the proposed bill:
“WVU Medicine opposes the COVID-19 exemptions bill in its current form. We would urge the Legislature to push the pause button and work with key stakeholders and employers across West Virginia to ensure this bill does not unintentionally derail their efforts to protect their employees and the broader public.”WVU Medicine statement
Justice chose not to comment on the WVU Medicine statement, when asked.
Also, when reporters asked for a medical opinion, on the bill, from the state’s coronavirus “czar,” Dr. Clay Marsh, Gov. Justice stepped in and did not allow Marsh to answer.
Later in the briefing, Marsh was allowed to speak, but he deferred to WVU Medicine President and CEO Albert Wright.
Gov. Justice also recounted Tuesday’s announcement of the final winners of round two of the “Do it for Babydog” vaccine sweepstakes. Since the beginning of the sweepstakes program, more than 200,000 additional people have gotten vaccinated, Justice said, while admitting that not all of those vaccinations could be directly attributed to the lottery.