During the press briefing on Monday, Oct. 11, Governor Jim Justice read over 100 COVID-19 deaths since last Thursday, though some passed before that and were missed in previous counts.
“You just read through them, person after person after person after person,” said Justice “Great West Virginians we love and we’ve lost. This pandemic has been tough stuff.”
The total number of deaths in West Virginia, as of Monday, Oct. 11, is 3,976. Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus czar, echoed this point while highlighting a grim milestone for the country.
“The governor had read a lot of names for us and that should be sobering for all of us as we approach 4,000 deaths. On this, Columbus Day, our country has suffered 700,014 deaths from COVID-19. While we have see some reduction in the numbers of new cases, we should not lower our focus to make sure we are protecting ourselves and protecting each other.”
Though a new peak of cases from the Delta variant is beginning to decline, hospitalizing and intensive care unit (ICU) rates are still high in the state.
“We were at a peak of hospitalizations of 1,012 and now we’re down to 840. We were at a peak of ICU units at 296 and now we’re down to 250. We were at a peak of people on ventilators at 195 and now we’re at 168. We’ve dropped from the peak from where we knew the surge would go and we hope and pray in every way that it will turn to only get better and better and better.”
Justice continued to encourage vaccinations but stopped short of a mandate similar to one issued by President Joe Biden last month.
“We’ve got to find some way to stop this and right now the only bullet in the gun is our vaccinations. We’ll continue to urge you. We will not infringe upon your freedoms and your beliefs, especially your religious beliefs in any way, but at the same time, you’ve got to realize that we’ve got to someway stop this. Reading 110 great West Virginian that we’ve lost is just terrible.”
About 25 minutes into the briefing, Justice stopped and addressed the voices that could be heard faintly as he was speaking.
“You can probably hear these people that are outside voicing their opinion. There’s probably, I don’t know, 15 or 20 people, here and they are absolutely adamant … they want their choice and the parents choice … to whether or not they should be vaccinated or not.”
Justice agreed, while also encouraging vaccinations.
“For vaccine eligibility for [kids] 12 and above, I need parents and grandparents to help get these kids vaccinated. I’m telling you, without any question, the weather is going to get bad. As the weather gets bad, our kids and schools need to be vaccinated more than anything. We need to get those kids vaccinated. It’s so safe, it’s unbelievable. … The parents should be deciding. Whatever your choices are, we’re going to honor it, won’t we? I’ve said it over and over. We’re going to stand by our freedoms, first and foremost, … but absolutely, I would tell you as a parent, as a loving parent, [you should get] vaccination that we know is incredibly safe beyond belief. … Rethink this whole process. Those kids need to be vaccinated.”
He continued, stating he was against mandates on private businesses, referencing Biden’s mandatory vaccinations for businesses with over 100 employees.
“Our private businesses are our private businesses. We should not be trying to tell a private business what they should do or shouldn’t do, … because if we stand rock solid by our beliefs against mandates, we shouldn’t be mandating what a private business decision should be. From the standpoint of standing behind President Biden’s mandates, I am adamantly against that.”
At the end of the briefing, Justice reflected on the number of deaths.
“We hope and pray it’s going to stop at 3,976, but we all know we’re going to lose more. How many more are we going to lose? Could it be possible we would lose 5,000 people in the state of West Virginia? If I had told you ahead of time, what would we have done to prevent that? We would’ve done almost anything, wouldn’t we have?”