CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “This disease attacks our elderly. They are our wisdom and we’re losing them.” Those were the words of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice as he read through the 77 most recent deaths at the start of Wednesday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing.
WV’s Vaccination Efforts:
On Tuesday, the state received an additional 34,960 COVID-19 vaccine doses and will begin dropping the state’s age requirement from 80 to 70, the governor announced. Those doses should all be used by Monday, the governor said. As soon as more doses become available, the age will be dropped to 65, Justice said.
The state is working on a mobile vaccination effort to get the vaccine to homebound residents, state officials said, but did not offer a timeline for it to be put in place.
The governor said U.S. Health and Human Sec. Alex Azar asked him to be on a call with all the other governors to explain the success of West Virginia’s vaccination efforts.
A high percentage of teachers and school personnel, age 50 and over, who have been offered the vaccine, have taken it, Justice said.
Back to School:
In response to a question about counties that have decided not to go back to in-person learning on January 19, Gov. Justice again reiterated that counties that do have in-person schooling will not be allowed to play sports and encouraged parents to voice their concerns to their local school board.
After mentioning on Monday that the state may again change its color-coded map, Justice said a potential modification is still possible, but for now it is staying the way it is.
Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program:
Justice also announced the creation of the Mountaineer Rental Assistance program which will provide direct financial assistance to renters affected by the pandemic. The program, which will be administered by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund is not open yet. The funding, which is expected to come in late January, will come from the federal government.
“The president that we have today is going to be gone in six days. Why in the world are we occupying time with that? It is a waste of time in my book,” Justice said, loosely referencing unrest in Washington, D.C.
There are currently “no credible threats” related to state buildings, state legislators or the upcoming governor’s inauguration, said West Virginia Department of Homeland Security Dep. Sec. Thom Kirk.