CHARLESTON, W.Va. – After reporting that the state’s COVID-19 death toll has crossed 2,800(now 2,807), West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice began Thursday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing by asking residents who haven’t been vaccinated, “are we not turning our back on these people who passed away? In respect for all these we’ve lost, we need you to step up and get that vaccine.” “It is so safe, it is off the chart,” Justice continued.

Gov. Justice said he will be naming the state’s COVID-19 vaccine sweepstakes: “Do it for Babydog, ‘Save a life, Change your life'”. Holding Babydog’s paw, Justice said, “You can’t possibly turn her down.” Online registration for the sweepstakes will start at 5:00 p.m. Friday, Justice said. A web address for the registration site has not yet been released. The governor said that state employees, except for people who work for his office or for the West Virginia Lottery Commission, will be eligible for the sweepstakes.

Justice also announced that later on Thursday, he will call a special session of the state legislature for Monday at Noon, which is during regularly scheduled interims. The special session will be used to ask legislators to commit an additional $150M in state surplus funds, to the road maintenance program. Plans for the money include 402 projects in all 55 counties, paving 742 miles, fixing 17 slips, repairing 40 bridges and going toward 111 other projects, the governor said.

The governor also called for prayers for Trenten Dille, a 26-year-old coal miner from Littleton, Wetzel County, who died on the job earlier this week at the Marion County Coal Resources Mine.

Justice expressed his pride in 73 graduates from the Mountaineer Challenge Academy, at Camp Dawson, in Preston County. The cadets come from 23 counties, with 90%of them receiving high school diplomas, Justice said.