Governor Jim Justice’s fight against the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was the headline of the governor’s Monday, January 17, press briefing.
The briefing was Justice’s first after coming down with COVID-19. On January 11, the night before the State of the State address, Justice’s office announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Justice used experience to emphasize the ongoing pandemic.
“Omicron still continues to run rampant, for all practical purposes,” Justice said. “With all the testing they did with me, that’s exactly what I had. We’ve told you over and over how contagious it is. … If I can end up with it, you can end up with it, I promise you that.”
In a return to form, Justice set up his office with a camera to give the briefing and spoke to his experiences with the virus:
“It’s been a little bit difficult, that’s for sure. … It was really bizarre to tell you the truth. I was writing the State of the State address and really looking forward to doing that. … Somewhere around noon … I had gotten up feeling a little scratchiness in my throat, maybe a little bit of congestion, but then all of the sudden I started to feel like I had a headache … and chilling. … I immediately called to get tested.”
“While we’re waiting on the results of the rapid test, I was just thinking ‘this feels different.’ … The rapid test came back negative and I thought ‘good!’ … By five o’clock, things started really turning south. I had a pretty significant fever. … My blood pressure was through the roof and my heart rate was way way up, double what it would normally be. Next thing, you come back with a positive test.
“It took probably about four or five hours for me to [get] the anti-bodies. Through those first couple of days, it was really nasty stuff. There is no point about acting macho about it, [it was] really tough stuff.
“I was vaccinated completely and had the booster shot. With all that, there is no doubt that, combined with the antibodies, … God had given us the ability to have medicines to try to save our lives. … I encourage you to go and get vaccinated if you’re not vaccinated and, God-sakes-a-livin’, you’ve got to get your booster shots.
“I can’t tell you what it meant to my family, Cathy and I, … especially to me, all the well wishes and everything because it really meant a lot. The prayers meant even more. At the end of the day, no way on Earth I’ll ever forget it.”
Justice also noted the would continue to oppose vaccination mandates.
“I am rock solid with being respectful of people and their wishes and their feelings about whether or not they’re going to get vaccinated or not,” Justice said. “I think that ought to be their choice wholeheartedly. I don’t think there ought to be mandates or anything like that at all.
He continued on, however, to say “these vaccines are safe and they could very well save your life. Me being here talking to you may be testimony to exactly just that.”
As of January 17, there have been 5,535 COVID-19 deaths in West Virginia, 20,392 current active cases, a 22.51% daily percent positivity, and a total number of 390,788 COVID-19 cases in West Virginia since the beginning of the pandemic. Of those lost, 90% were vaccinated.
Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s COVID-19 Czar, also highlighted a disturbing fact.
“In our country, we just passed 850,000 deaths, which is really quite extraordinary, and we are well on our way to 1,000,000 deaths,” said Marsh. “We are averaging over 800,000 cases a day for the last week. Prior to the Omicron variant, [the] maximum of cases we reported in a single day was 303,000.”
Justice, as in previous briefings, encouraged masking. He used the opening of the briefing to make a demonstration of precaution.
“You can see that, with the protocol and everything, I’m supposed to wear a mask … for up to 10 days from when all of this started,” Justice explained. “We’ve gotten set up in my office, and there’s no one in my office at all, so I’m going to take my mask off and do the briefing.”