CHARLESTON – West Virginia Governor Jim Justice doubts there will be a federal government shutdown as Congress debates a federal spending program.
However, if applicable, he has promised West Virginia will continue to pay its National Guard troops and keep them on the job as the COVID pandemic continues.
“It won’t affect our National Guard – that’s all there is to it,” Justice said. “I won’t let this happen… there is no way on earth.”
He said a federal government shutdown would not reduce training, benefits or salaries for members of the National Guard.
“If we’re going to step up as a state and cover this until our government in Washington finds a way to walk up the stairs and chew gum at the same time… we’ll cover it,” Justice said.
“This is the sixth time in the past three or four years that we’ve had the same exercise. Then at the 11th hour, DC decides ‘we’re going to fix it,’ or they’ll put a bandage on the cancer. what you’re talking about.
He praised the state National Guard for stepping up and doing a great job over the past few months.
At the start of the pandemic, National Guard troops trained medical staff and first responders on how to use personal protective equipment and disinfection efforts to combat the spread of the virus.
Since then, they have been called upon to take on many other roles in the fight against COVID. They deployed teams to help disinfect schools, government offices and first responder vehicles. The soldiers have also been involved in COVID testing sites and in the distribution of vaccines.
“How the hell do we put them through this – all the people? I just don’t get it,” Justice said.
Justice told state reporters in a virtual briefing on Wednesday that the state may have peaked in the total number of COVID cases, but concerns remain.
“We are going through the eye of the storm right now,” Justice said. “We think we are at the highest level where this push could very well begin, and we are optimistic that it will happen.
“At the same time, we know that at any peak level we are losing people.”
It reported that 74 people had died from COVID in West Virginia since Monday, bringing the total number of COVID deaths in the state to 3,642. Other indicators remain stable or show slightly increasing data.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus is now less than 1,000, at 974, while the number of people in intensive care units is at a record 298, according to Justice.
He said there were also 187 COVID patients on ventilators across the state.
“We are currently at the peak of the boom,” he said. “We’re going to lose some more people, West Virginia. There’s no question about that.”
West Virginia coronavirus czar Dr Clay Marsh also predicted that the number of COVID cases will decline in the days and weeks to come.
“We think that looking at the metrics we’re following we’re at the top of the inverted V-shaped curve and hopefully going down,” he said.
The number of daily COVID cases reported by each county has declined statewide over the past week, but the numbers also indicate a need for COVID booster vaccines to prevent COVID cases, Marsh noted.
He said about 20% of people currently hospitalized with COVID have been fully vaccinated, and fully vaccinated people also make up about 6% of people who have died from COVID in West Virginia. In addition, 80% of those vaccinated and who died from COVID were over 70 and were vaccinated first, according to Marsh.
He said the numbers show the immunities provided by vaccinations wane over time, and he encouraged vaccinated West Virginia people, especially the elderly, to get the booster shot.