Shortly before midnight on the evening of Tuesday, January 11, a written statement was released which confirmed that West Virginia Governor Jim Justice had tested positive for COVID-19.
According to the statement, “Upon recommendation from his physicians, the Governor will be receiving a course of monoclonal antibody treatment tonight. He is being treated by several physicians, including Dr. Clay Marsh, MD, the State COVID-19 Czar.”
The statement also included a message from the governor, which said, in part, “While I was surprised that my test results came back positive, I’m thankful to the Lord above that I’ve been vaccinated, I’ve been boosted, and that I have an incredible support system, especially my loving family.”
Justice reported feeling “extremely unwell,” with symptoms including headache, fever, congestion, raised blood pressure and elevated heart rate.
Of the governor’s prognosis, Dr. Clay Marsh had this to say: “I have full confidence that Governor Justice will recover quickly, and it’s because he chose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and his booster shot. Without the immunity afforded by those vaccines, his outcome could be much worse.”
On Wednesday evening, Justice had been scheduled to deliver his 2022 “State of the State” address before the Legislature. However as a result of his diagnosis, and for the first time in West Virginia’s recorded history, the sitting governor has delivered the “State of the State” address by written message.
“In times the likes of which we have never seen before, and with this message being conveyed in a manner it has never been before, I am happy to report to you that the State of our State has never been stronger,” Justice’s message began.
The governor explained that his message would include his proposed budget for fiscal year 2023, which he described as “essentially flat,” and further apologized for not being able to deliver his remarks in person before before touching on the main points of his address.
“We have proved that the rocket ship ride I promised the people of West Virginia is real,” Justice wrote. “We have set records with our revenue growth. Our employment numbers are the best they have been in state history. Tourism in West Virginia is exploding – every travel publication says our state is the place to be. And we have accomplished all this while responding to a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
People are more excited than ever to be in West Virginia. From April 2010 to July 2019, more than 43,000 people moved out of the state. But things are changing. [ ] From 2020 through 2021, net migration is up in West Virginia for the first time in decades, with over 2,000 people moving into our state, making West Virginia one of the top states in the entire nation that people are moving into on a percentage basis.
We are shedding our image of being uneducated, dusty, poor, and backward. We are shedding our image of being bankrupt and a place business cannot operate because of our legal system. Together, we will continue to shed the dead weight that has been holding us back for years so we can continue to climb higher and higher on our journey to prosperity in West Virginia.”
Justice went on to highlight the state’s $43 million surplus at the conclusion of the 2021 fiscal year, as well as well as a 3.1% decrease in unemployment since last January. At an even 4.0%, West Virginia’s unemployment rate is not among the lowest in the nation, according to Justice.
“In 2021, more than $1.1 billion was invested in West Virginia by 39 different companies through Economic Development efforts and activities,” Justice continued. “This led to the creation of more than 1,330 new jobs, while retaining more than 6,400 additional jobs in the state. In the calendar year of 2021 – the first year of the Department of Economic Development – total employment in West Virginia has increased by over 36,000 jobs.”
Justice then cited the Nucor Corporation, the GreenPower Motor Company and Owens & Minor as the latest industrial giants to make substantial investments within the Mountain State. In announcements made earlier in the day, it was confirmed that Nucor will be investing more than $2.7 billion into a new Mason County facility, and GreenPower will begin manufacturing “zero-emission, all-electric school buses” in South Charleston later in 2022. It was also announced that Owens & Minor, a medical supply provider, will be expanding upon their arrangement with West Virginia University in a move that will create more than 125 new jobs in the Morgantown area.
“These announcements are historic,” Justice’s statement continued. “But incredibly, they are just the beginning. West Virginia is finally competing on the world stage and we are all witnessing the result firsthand.”
From there, the governor targeted his comments on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However despite his own positive diagnosis and his recent letter to President Joe Biden requesting that West Virginia be authorized to offer a fourth vaccine dose, Justice remained firm in his opposition to vaccine mandates.
“I stand rock-solid behind our people being able to make that important medical choice for themselves in consultation with their doctor,” the governor wrote. “I do not believe that anyone should be required to get vaccinated to continue collecting a paycheck and put food on the table for their family. Instead of forcing people to get the vaccine, we created incentives to excite people and get them across the finish line.”
Justice concluded his address with: “I hope this provides a picture of all the incredible things we are achieving, and will continue to achieve. But our accomplishments in West Virginia – the rocket ship ride that continues every day – cannot be captured in a few short pages. That is why I would like to humbly and formally request [ ] a joint session of your bodies at a later time after I have completed my recovery when I can deliver my full address in person and we can all celebrate the incredible State of our State together.”
While the written statement submitted by Justice has now satisfied the constitutional-requirement, the governor’s remarks have indicated his continued desire to address the lawmakers and residents of West Virginia face to face. The West Virginia Daily News will provide updates regarding a potential rescheduling of the governor’s address as additional information becomes available.