CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “Today is going to be a terrible day from the standpoint of what I have to report to you,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said at the beginning of Monday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing.
Justice announced that there have been 17 additional COVID-19 deaths in the state since Friday and that investigations have shown that 27 additional deaths from throughout the pandemic are now being added to the state’s total, which stands at 530. State health officials said they hoped to not find any further unreported COVID-19 deaths, but said they working to do further double-checking and are reminding local health departments and other entities of proper reporting procedures.
The WV DHHR’s COVID-19 dashboard is experiencing a technical issue, so the latest COVID-19 data has not been released to the public.
Saturday’s WV Department of Education map, which determines which counties can go hold in-person schooling and which teams can participate in athletic events, was delayed to allow metrics to be double-checked, Justice said.
Reacting to concerns about high school athletics, particularly football playoffs, Justice said “it’s high time West Virginia, that we absolutely realize that sports are important but they absolutely have to be laid to the sidelines just a little bit. School’s more important and surely to goodness, if we can’t go to school, we don’t need to be playing.” The governor continued: “absolutely they cannot play if they are in the ‘orange’ or the ‘red’ and it doesn’t matter if it’s football, it doesn’t matter if it’s volleyball.”
The alternatives to the current maps are to have no maps and for all counties to go to school or to use the Harvard Global map, which would shut down half the state, Justice said in response to a question about criticism of the state’s maps.
Gov. Justice again said counties are “red” or “orange” because not enough residents are getting tested and went on to defend state health officials’ efforts. “If we don’t go and get tested, we’re going to lose more than we should, that’s all there is to it,” said Justice. Driving home his point on the importance of testing, Justice said: “People will say, ‘well I don’t like to be called a spreader’, well I don’t like to be called heavy, but it’s just fact you know if you’re asymptomatic and you don’t know that you have this then you’re spreading this. Now if you wanna be called ‘Bo Peep’ or something like that, we’ll call you that instead of ‘spreader’. But for crying out loud we’ve got to identify these people!”
The governor also discussed reports of successful testing of a COVID-19 vaccine. “I’m not tooting anyone’s horn, but you’ve got to give President Trump a lot of credit,” Justice said.
If the vaccine is 90% effective, “it will allow us to eradicate this” Gov. Justice said. He believes it will be available en masse by February, he said.
“If they check it out, I will gladly be the first one to take it,” Justice proclaimed, suggesting that not getting the vaccine would be a mistake.
State residents will have to “bridge the gap” to the vaccine by getting tested, wearing masks and social distancing, Justice said. “For crying out loud, we’re so close, just buckle up, just for a little while West Virginia and really try hard,” he urged.
After a positive case was found in a staff member, a full round of testing is being done Monday at the West Virginia Veterans Nursing Facility in Clarksburg, Justice said.
Gov. Justice also mentioned that the Virgin Hyperloop completed its first passenger ride at its test site in Las Vegas. Last month, Virgin announced that it was planning to add a test site in Tucker County.