CHARLESTON, W.Va. – While announcing more than forty additional COVID-19 deaths in the state, which now total 778, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wondered why the deaths are not garnering the same level of other tragic situations, like the Sago Mine Disaster or the Marshall plane crash, during Wednesday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing.
Justice also announced new record highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations(622) and patients in ICU(164), in the state.
“If what I’ve told you so far doesn’t really get your attention, I hope and pray this does,” Gov. Justice said before reading statistics put together by the West Virginia National Guard:
- The number of COVID-19 cases in the state have increased by 91% since Halloween
- 49% of the cases in West Virginia, since the beginning of the pandemic, have happened in last 30 days
- 50% of total deaths have happened in the last eight weeks
- There has been a 73% increase in deaths in the last month
- 47% percent of total deaths have happened in nursing homes or assisted living facilities
- The state is averaging 13,300 tests per day. “It’s not enough to just continue to test more and more and more,” Justice said.
No new closure actions announced:
After saying Monday that he may announce more stringent closure actions, on a county-by-county basis today, the governor said that he hasn’t found anything yet that would make enough of a difference without having an adverse economic impact.
In-home testing and vaccinations:
Gov. Justice announced that free, in-home saliva testing is now available to all West Virginia residents. The state is looking at a second in-home testing option, which should be announced in the next several weeks, officials said. Accuracy should be comparable to current COVID-19 testing, according to state health officials. The in-home tests may eventually have to be capped, but state officials hope that won’t be the case, they said.
West Virginia coronavirus “czar” Dr. Clay Marsh describes the at-home testing process in the video below:
The state is days away from vaccinations starting, but is months away from them being completed, Justice said. There will be state and federal tracking systems in place to follow those who are vaccinated, National Guard officials said.
Holiday gathering recommendations & blood donations:
State health officials said they do not recommend having any large in-person holiday gatherings this year. They suggested drive-by food distributions and said buffet-style meals should not happen.
The governor also urged residents to give blood, especially if you have recovered from coronavirus.
“I can’t stand this politics stuff,” Justice said in reference to delays in another federal stimulus package.
Justice also addressed the presidential election, acknowledging the results: “the more and more evidence that’s coming in, it surely looks like we’re going to end up with President-elect Biden as our President,” but “there’s still issues out there,” he said. “The transition will take place in an honorable way, at least I hope and pray it will,” the governor concluded.
Charleston Police Officer Shooting:
Gov. Justice also talked about Charleston Police Officer Cassie Johnson, who was shot in the line of duty Tuesday and said he offered the resources of West Virginia State Police to help the City of Charleston.