COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice: Number of COVID-hospitalized West Virginians on ventilators reaches all-time high


More “Do it for Babydog” Vaccination Sweepstakes prize winners introduced
CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held another news briefing today to update the public on the State’s latest pandemic response efforts.
During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice reported that 111 West Virginians who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 are currently on ventilators; a new record high for the entire pandemic.

“If you're not vaccinated, you're taking one hell of a chance,” Gov. Justice said. “I don't know how many times we're going to have to say it, but there is nothing in your life as important right now as getting vaccinated. Nothing. You need to run to the fire and get yourself vaccinated because this situation is really serious.”
A total of 714 West Virginians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19; the highest number of hospitalizations in over seven months. Of the patients currently hospitalized, 206 are in the ICU; another number that is rapidly approaching an all-time record high. The number of ICU patients topped out at 219 in January.

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Retired Major General Jim Hoyer, now the director of the state’s Joint Interagency Task Force on COVID-19, underscored the increasing seriousness of the strain being put on West Virginia’s hospitals.

“We're putting significant stress on our hospitals and our healthcare system, and we need to address this right now,” Hoyer said. “We are hitting a peak in the hospitals in West Virginia that is going to be a significant challenge to us.”
“The bottom line is that people are going to the hospital faster. They’re sicker and they’re younger,” Hoyer continued. “Eighty-two percent of all the people in West Virginia hospitals now with COVID are unvaccinated. We've got to address that.”

The total number of active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia has now reached 19,434; an increase of over 1,700 new cases just since the Governor’s previous briefing two days ago and the state’s highest number of active cases in over seven months.

The County Alert System map now shows that 53 of the state’s 55 counties are either in the Red or Orange categories. A total of 36 counties are currently Red and 17 are Orange.
Gov. Justice went on to report that over 4,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the past two days alone. Still, with cases surging at rates never seen before, the Governor continued his calls for more West Virginians to get vaccinated.

“Four thousand people is significant, but it’s not enough. We may have saved some lives, but we have to do more,” Gov. Justice said. “This disease is everywhere. It’s around us all. And the best protection is to get yourself vaccinated. It’s not fail-proof, but it’s a whale of a lot better than sitting around unvaccinated and taking your chances of getting sick or dying.”

The U.S. FDA has officially given its full stamp of approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

All West Virginians interested in being vaccinated are encouraged to visit or call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965. The info line is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Gov. Justice also recapped his journey across the state yesterday to surprise some of the biggest winners from the first week of prize giveaways as part of his “Do it for Babydog: Round 2” Vaccination Sweepstakes.

Gov. Justice provided a life-changing opportunity to two West Virginia students when he and Babydog surprised them at their schools and revealed that they had each won a full ride college scholarship through the sweepstakes.

First, the Governor visited George Washington High School in Kanawha County, where he announced that Keira Smith of South Charleston had been drawn as one of this week's scholarship winners.
The Governor then made his way to Princeton Middle School in Mercer County, where he announced that Jeremiah Harding of Princeton had also been drawn as one of this week's scholarship winners.
“We didn’t expect anything like what happened at Princeton,” Gov. Justice said. “They had a celebration and all the folks around that community came out. They even brought their cheering squad out, because they knew how important it was to Jeremiah and his family. They not only deserved this, they needed this, because this could be the springboard that really helps this young man’s future.”
“This was America at its best; West Virginia at its best,” Gov. Justice continued.
Three additional West Virginia students won full ride scholarships yesterday as well, including Rocco DiGiandomenico of Wheeling.

During his briefing Friday, Gov. Justice spotlighted a feature news story by WTRF-TV on Rocco’s reaction to winning one of the scholarship prizes.
Screenshot courtesy WTRF. To watch the story, CLICK HERE
Also yesterday, Gov. Justice provided two additional West Virginians with life-changing surprises through the sweepstakes.

Beth Eaves of Branchland in Lincoln County was presented with the keys to a 2021 BMW M240i coupe.
Matthew Hill of Huntington was presented with the keys to a Bennington pontoon boat, complete with a 50hp Yamaha High Thrust outboard motor and an accompanying trailer.
In addition to these giveaways, more than 20 additional West Virginians were also announced as “Do it for Babydog” winners, taking home a variety of exciting prizes, including a dream wedding valued at $150,000, free gas for 10 years, WVU and Marshall University football or basketball season ticket packages, season passes to West Virginia ski resorts, premium ATVs or side-by-sides, and top-of-the-line zero turn lawn mowers.
Vaccinated West Virginians have five more chances to win in Round 2 of the “Do it for Babydog: Save a life, Change your life” Vaccination Sweepstakes.

All West Virginians who have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can register at for an opportunity to join the list of winners. Over 173,000 West Virginians have registered for Round 2 of the sweepstakes to date.

*Those who previously registered for Round 1 of the vaccination sweepstakes are required to register again to be eligible for Round 2*

Online registration to be eligible to win in the next prize drawing will remain open until Sunday, Sept. 5, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Winners will be announced next Thursday, Sept. 9.

Additional prize drawings will be held weekly, with winners being announced each Thursday through Oct. 7.
Due to high rates of community spread and the resulting strain being put on health departments across West Virginia, State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad announced Friday updates to the State’s contact tracing procedures.

“We are going to start having our health departments only contact you if you’re COVID-positive and, if you’re positive, we are going to have you contact the family members in your immediate household only,” Dr. Amjad said. “If you’re COVID-positive, we do want these family members to isolate themselves.”
“Also, if you are positive, please notify your co-workers or anyone that you’ve come into close contact with,” Dr. Amjad continued.

Dr. Amjad noted that the DHHR has published detailed guidance for COVID-19-positive individuals to consult when determining who to contact, when to isolate, when to seek medical attention, and more. Click here to download.
On Friday, Gov. Justice reported that, per the West Virginia Department of Education, there are now 59 active outbreaks within the state public school system.

Click to view: COVID-19 Outbreaks in State Public Schools (WVDE)

There are four active outbreaks associated with churches throughout West Virginia. The churches are located in Barbour, Doddridge, Monroe, and Wayne counties.

Additionally, there are now 52 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state.

Meanwhile, there are now 137 active inmate cases and 58 active staff cases across the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation system. To view the latest DCR case update, click here.
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks about COVID-19 to welcome First Lady Cathy Justice to his briefing to announce that West Virginia Communities In Schools has expanded to eight new counties.

The new CIS counties include Gilmer, Grant, Hampshire, Morgan, Preston, Ritchie, Summers, and Tyler counties.

“I want to thank the people at the State Board of Education,” First Lady Justice said. “They are so great at planning the structure of the program and what counties we need to go to next.”
“I’d also like to thank the people that are ‘boots on the ground’ – the people that are at the schools every day – the site coordinators, the teachers, the principals, the superintendents, and the parents. They are all so great in helping with this program,” First Lady Justice continued. “The Department of Education and the Legislature also know the dire need for Communities In School and our program is evolving like you can’t imagine.”

Four years after starting the program in just three counties, CIS has now expanded into 39 counties and nearly 200 schools across the state.

In total, the CIS program now has the potential to reach over 70,000 West Virginia students.

 “All the great work they’ve done is just amazing,” Gov. Justice said.

The Governor and First Lady also introduced Bobby Blakley, Regional Vice President of Truist Bank, who presented a $15,000 check from the Truist West Virginia Foundation in support of the CIS program in West Virginia.

“When I met First Lady Justice and she explained Communities In Schools, I was really captivated by not only the need, but the response to the need,” Blakley said. “Our purpose at Truist is to inspire and build better lives and communities.”
“We made our first donation last year and we're following up with another donation this year to continue to support the expansion and the good work that's happening,” Blakley continued. “If we're going to change lives and communities, it starts with our kids. And our teachers work so hard, they need extra resources like Communities In Schools.”

“We should all be appreciative because you’re changing lives,” Gov. Justice added. “You’re really stepping up and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Also Friday, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Byrd White plans to retire.

Sec. White’s last day with WVDOT will be next week.

“He has done a wonderful job,” Gov. Justice said. “Byrd has helped oversee billions of dollars of roadwork all across West Virginia. You see your highways getting improved everywhere. What’s happening with our roads across this state is amazing.

“He has plans for his retirement and we wish him and his beautiful wife the very best,” Gov. Justice continued. “We thank him and congratulate him on an incredible job.”
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