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Justice: COVID ‘disease of the unvaccinated’

WHEELING — The COVID-19 virus has become “the disease of the unvaccinated,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday.

Justice reported another 58 West Virginians have been added to the list of state residents succumbing to COVID, bringing the state’s number of deaths related to the virus to 3,296.

Justice and other state officials noted that most dying from COVID had not been vaccinated for the virus. Justice quoted state Sen.Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, a physician and pulmonary specialist, as saying, “COVID has become the disease of the unvaccinated.”

Data pertaining to the number of West Virginians currently hospitalized due to COVID were updated during Justice’s regular briefing session with state media on Wednesday. The data report 893 hospitalized, 275 in intensive care units and 160 on ventilators in West Virginia.

James Hoyer, state director of the joint interagency task force, said West Virginia hospitals this week have been receiving calls from hospitals as far away as North Carolina who have limited health care resources due to COVID. They are inquiring about the possibility of transferring critically ill patients from their state to West Virginia.

“But our hospitals don’t have the capacity to take on additional ill patients from other places,” Hoyer explained. “If we get to a capacity point – which we are close to – we will not have the ability – or will have difficulties – if we want to transfer patients to other states…

“All of this can be avoided if we get West Virginians vaccinated. We can get through this.”

Justice remains steadfast against issuing any mandates regarding mask-wearing or vaccinations in West Virginia.

“There’s no need in my opinion to even think about… the mask,” he said. “If you mandate masks, you are basically penalizing some. If you’re asking my opinion, I’m still not convinced they are going to really help us in a really significant way.

“I do applaud school systems who have decided to go that way. We really want to protect our kids first and foremost.”

Justice said those not yet vaccinated are running a “big risk.”

“If you’ve chosen to be unvaccinated – in my opinion – it was a bad choice. But it was your choice,” he said. “Jim Justice thinks it’s wrong for President Biden to mandate that our businesses make sure their employees are vaccinated.

“It’s wrong. We don’t need mandates. but we need you to make a great decision right now.”

Justice acknowledged his calls for vaccinations are “falling on deaf ears.”

“That’s your choice,” he said. “And you know what we’re going to be? We’re going to be respectful of that until the cows come home…

“Your governor will stand behind you on that forever. But you can be very helpful. You can really help us.”

Justice also encouraged the organizers of Bridge Day in Fayette County to not cancel the event, scheduled for Oct. 16.

Secretary of Tourism Chelsea Ruby has informed him there are concerns Bridge Day may have to be canceled.

“I guess this decision is made by a committee,” he said. “I said, ‘No way.’ It’s their event, but from the standpoint of government, I think we should move forward with Bridge Day.

“We’re having football games and everything where we have the big gatherings. So why in the world shouldn’t we have Bridge Day. It’s a celebration people seem to enjoy, and it puts a spotlight on our state and an area that desperately needs help,” Justice said.

(King can be contacted at jking@theintelligencer.net)

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