COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice, State healthcare leaders provide update on “Saving Our Care” initiative

10/7/2021

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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.
“SAVING OUR CARE” UPDATE
During Thursday’s briefing, Gov. Justice was joined by DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch and executives representing several hospital systems across West Virginia to provide an update on the progress being made to stand up the Governor’s recently announced “Saving Our Care” initiative.

The program will provide financial and staffing support to ensure the stability of hospitals and nursing homes to avoid the need for rationing care.

“This program is going to do incredible stuff for our hospitals and nursing homes,” Gov. Justice said.
“We had a meeting with hospital folks last week and sorted out a methodology so we can be sure we’re eliminating any overlap of funding,” Secretary Crouch said. “DHHR will provide support, covering some of the hospitals’ additional costs and staff hired through staffing agencies, overtime for existing staff, and some of the retention efforts that hospitals have entered into to try to keep the staff that they have.

“I want to thank all the hospitals who have struggled throughout this pandemic, and the hospital staff who have consistently, as the Governor says, run to the fire for 583 days now,” Secretary Crouch continued.
Gov. Justice and Secretary Crouch were joined Thursday by Albert Wright, president and CEO of the West Virginia University Health System; Dave Ramsey, president and CEO of Charleston Area Medical Center; and Kevin Yingling, CEO of Mountain Health Network and president of Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center.

“This current surge has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever seen in my 25-year career,” Wright said. “We appreciate the efforts of Secretary Crouch and especially the efforts of Governor Justice to recognize the challenges we’re facing in this current surge and to help with some resources and funding.”
“I just have to applaud Governor Justice and his team of advisors for the great job they’ve done in leading the state through the COVID pandemic,” Wright continued. “I speak on behalf of all of our employees and lots of hospitals around the state in saying that we’re very pleased and thankful for the Governor's leadership.”

“I wanted to just extend a thank you to the Governor,” Ramsey said. “What you’re doing today with ‘Saving Our Care’ is very meaningful to CAMC and hospitals across the state. The recognition of how important hospitals are to the fight against COVID and the challenges we face caring for all West Virginians, day in and day out, is really very important to us.”
“I also want to thank you for all you’ve done over the past 20 months,” Ramsey continued. “We’re still fighting the good fight, and we will get through this with your leadership and the team that you pulled together.”

“The first thing I want to thank you for is your effective leadership and for bringing vaccination opportunities to every citizen in West Virginia,” Yingling said. “Additionally, your efforts in identifying the crisis within the hospital systems is absolutely essential.”
“There’s actually some similarity between being a governor and being a physician,” Yingling continued. “A governor is expected to make diagnoses and prescribe treatments, and I want to commend you, Governor Justice, on the fact that you identified that the ‘Saving Our Care’ model was necessary. That’s your diagnosis. And the therapy for that is to address the crises within our hospitals.”

“I truly am humbled just to think about all the great work that the people in our hospitals have done,” Gov. Justice said. “All the folks that have gone right into the fire, every single day, to protect and look after each and every one of us, the stuff they’ve done is unbelievable.

“I say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Gov. Justice continued.
ACTIVE CASE NUMBERS, HOSPITALIZATIONS, AND SEVERE CASES CONTINUE TO DECLINE; DEATHS STILL SURGING
Also on Thursday, Gov. Justice reported that there are now 11,629 active cases statewide; down by 655 cases since the Governor’s previous briefing on Monday.

The active case count is down by 18,115 cases since peaking just three weeks ago, dropping more than 60% in that timeframe.

COVID-19 Dashboard | Coronavirus.wv.gov

Meanwhile, the state continues to see a steady downward trend in the number of severe COVID cases. The number of hospitalizations, patients in ICUs, and patients on ventilators have all dropped between 9.7% and 14% since peaking in the final week of September.

The number of hospitalizations is now 870; down by 45 since Monday and down 14.0% since peaking at 1,012 on Sept. 24.

The number of patients in ICUs is now 255; down by 14 since Monday and down 13.9% since peaking at 296 on Sept. 29.

The number of patients on ventilators is now 176; down by one since Monday and down 9.7% since peaking at 195 on Sept. 25.

The County Alert System map now shows that 46 of the state’s 55 counties are in either the highest-risk Red category or one step below in the Orange category. Meanwhile, five counties are Gold, two counties are Yellow, and two counties are Green.
However, Gov. Justice noted Thursday that the statewide death toll from COVID-19 has now reached 3,866, with 97 more deaths being reported since his previous briefing on Monday; the most ever reported at a single briefing.

“Our numbers are getting better, which leads us to believe wholeheartedly that we have passed through the eye of the storm,” Gov. Justice said. “But, in getting to where we were at the peak, many of these folks were hospitalized and we lost a lot of them. We're going to continue to lose some more. We continue to pray that God above will get us through this.”
HHS REPORT: VACCINATIONS HAVE SAVED OVER 200 WV SENIORS’ LIVES THIS YEAR ALONE
Also on Thursday, Gov. Justice announced that a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that COVID-19 vaccinations may have helped prevent roughly 1,400 new COVID-19 infections and 200 deaths among seniors in West Virginia during the first five months of 2021.

The study also found that, nationally, vaccinations were linked to a reduction of approximately 265,000 COVID-19 infections, 107,000 hospitalizations, and 39,000 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries between January and May 2021.

“This just adds to the pile of information and proof that vaccines work,” Gov. Justice said. “I continue to encourage all West Virginians to choose to get vaccinated.”
GOV. JUSTICE URGES RESIDENTS TO GET BOOSTER SHOT IF ELIGIBLE
With the percentage of fully vaccinated residents hospitalized for COVID-19 slowly creeping higher in recent weeks, Gov. Justice took time during his briefing to encourage all West Virginians to determine if they qualify for a booster dose and then get one if they are eligible.

West Virginians who received specifically the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine  may qualify for the booster shot if it has been at least six months since their second dose.

The CDC recommends that:
  • People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings SHOULD receive a booster shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their second dose of Pfizer.
  • People aged 50–64 years with *underlying medical conditions SHOULD receive a booster shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their second dose of Pfizer.
  • People aged 18–49 years with *underlying medical conditions MAY receive a booster shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their second Pfizer dose, based on their individual benefits and risks.
  • People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting MAY receive a booster shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their second Pfizer dose, based on their individual benefits and risks.
* = Underlying medical conditions: State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh noted that the list of underlying medical conditions that would qualify an individual to receive the booster shot is extremely broad and includes anybody who is overweight, has high blood pressure, is a current or former smoker, has heart or lung conditions, is diabetic, is pregnant, has liver or kidney disease, has received a transplant, has cancer, has substance use disorder, has HIV, has had a stroke or other brain disorder, has dementia or other neurologic disease, has Down Syndrome, has sickle cell anemia, and more.

Click here to read more (via CDC)
If you are eligible for the booster shot, you can go to any location offering COVID-19 vaccines with your vaccination card to receive the booster. If your card has been lost, you can request a new one from the DHHR.
FIND A VACCINE NEAR YOU
DO IT FOR BABYDOG ROUND 2: FINAL WEEK’S PRIZES TO BE AWARDED BEGINNING FRIDAY, OCT. 8
Additionally Thursday, Gov. Justice reminded all West Virginia residents that he will be giving away a 2021 Chevrolet Corvette through his “Do it for Babydog: Round 2” vaccination sweepstakes tomorrow evening, Friday, Oct. 8, at the Charleston Rod Run and Doo Wop on Kanawha Boulevard – the largest car show in West Virginia.

“Babydog is going to come,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re going to ride around and say hi to a bunch of people and then we’re going to give away a grand spanking new Corvette.”
In addition to the car giveaway, the Joint Interagency Task Force is working with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to offer a free vaccine clinic at the car show. They will be offering 1st, 2nd, and booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. They will also be offering flu shots. The clinic is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 7-8, on Kanawha Boulevard, downtown.

“I appreciate everybody working together,” Gov. Justice said. “I encourage everyone at the show to stay safe. I hope we’ll have a really good time.”

Additional “Do it for Babydog: Round 2” prizes – including five full ride college scholarships valued at over $100,000 each, a custom boat, a dream wedding valued at $150,000, free gas for 10 years, premium ATVs, top-of-the-line zero turn lawn mowers, WVU and Marshall University football or basketball season ticket packages, and season passes to West Virginia ski resorts – will be announced next Tuesday, Oct. 12.

Although registration for “Do it for Babydog: Round 2” is now closed, Gov. Justice continues to urge all West Virginians to get vaccinated.

All West Virginians considering vaccination are encouraged to visit Vaccinate.wv.gov 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.
RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM REMINDER
Also on Thursday, Gov. Justice reminded all West Virginia residents that a program developed earlier this year to help renters and landlords impacted by COVID-19 is still open and accepting applications.

The Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program, administered by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund (WVHDF), offers direct financial assistance to renters who have lost their job, had their income reduced, or suffered a significant cost or financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, 9,739 applications have been completed for requested assistance of $46.9 million. However, the program has up to $200 million to spend.

“I want to remind West Virginians that this program is still there,” Gov. Justice said. “If you are a renter and you are struggling to pay your rent or utilities because of financial hardship because of COVID, you’re eligible. You’ve just got to get in touch with us and register.

This program is also for the landlords,” Gov. Justice continued. “If you’re a landlord, and your tenants are struggling with their rent or utility payments due to COVID, you may be eligible for rental assistance as well.”

Click here to learn more
WV RANKS AMONG TOP 10 STATES FOR GDP GROWTH
Gov. Jim Justice announced today that West Virginia now ranks among the top 10 states in the entire nation for GDP growth for Q2.

“This is a giant announcement,” Gov. Justice said. “It just echoes what I’ve said, over and over, about West Virginia killing it, economically, and moving forward through this terrible pandemic.”

According to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, West Virginia’s quarterly GDP growth of 7.3% ranked 10th in the nation – well above the national average of 6.7%. West Virginia’s GDP growth rate is even further ahead of its bordering states, with Kentucky’s 6.5% coming in as the next closest and only two states (Kentucky and Maryland) cracking 6% in GDP growth.

Click here to read more
COVID-19 RESOURCES
SCHOOL OUTBREAK REPORT
On Thursday, Gov. Justice reported that, per the West Virginia Department of Education, there are currently 60 school outbreaks in 24 counties with 697 confirmed cases.

COVID-19 Outbreaks in State Public Schools (WVDE)

A total of 53 county school systems have either face covering requirements or a criteria for requiring face coverings. Only two counties – Pocahontas and Tucker counties – do not have a face covering requirement at this time.

WV Department of Education COVID-19 Updates
GOVERNOR TO CALL SPECIAL SESSION ON REDISTRICTING
Gov. Justice also announced that, tomorrow, he will call a Special Session of the West Virginia Legislature for next Monday, Oct. 11, at 11 a.m.

The Special Session is part of the Legislature’s constitutional duty to redistrict the State of West Virginia.
 
The call will also request that the Legislature appropriate federal money that has been received by state agencies.
GOV. JUSTICE APPOINTS BROWN TO WV SENATE
Additionally Thursday, Gov. Justice took time to announce that he has appointed Owens Brown to the 1st Senatorial District seat, which covers Brooke, Hancock, and Ohio counties, as well as part of Marshall County.

Brown, who is from Wheeling and serves at the West Virginia State NAACP President, will be the first African American to serve in the West Virginia State Senate in over 20 years and will be the first ever male African American to serve in the State Senate.

“I congratulate Owens beyond belief. He will do an incredible job,” Gov. Justice said. “I am so proud of this because we need diversity, we need other opinions. So today is a really good day.

Click here to view appointment letter

Brown fills the seat vacated by Bill Ihlenfeld, who recently resigned from the Senate and was confirmed yesterday by the U.S. Senate as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District.
WEST VIRGINIANS ENCOURAGED TO GET FLU VACCINE
With flu season just around the corner, Gov. Justice and State health officials took time Thursday to encourage all West Virginians to get their flu vaccine.

According to health officials, everyone 6 months and older should receive this vaccine.

In addition to providing protection from the flu, this vaccine helps reduce the burden on hospitals and healthcare systems.
GOV. JUSTICE, WV CURATOR OF THE ARTS CELEBRATE NATIONAL YEARBOOK WEEK
Also on Thursday, Gov. Justice was joined by West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History Randall Reid-Smith to celebrate National Yearbook Week.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared the week of October 4 National Yearbook Week.

In celebration of this year’s National Yearbook Week in West Virginia, the Gov. Justice signed one of his own yearbooks from his high school days, with Curator Reid-Smith highlighting photos of the Governor.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO: Governor commemorates National Yearbook Week
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Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

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