COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice announces program to improve education, retention, and recruitment of nurses


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 Tuesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia will invest $48 million in a new program to improve and expand nursing education, retention, and recruitment in the state.

“We have a shortage of nurses right now in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “Last year alone, 1,700 West Virginia nurses didn’t renew their license, and 68% of them said the reason they didn’t is because they were just plain tired.

“Our hospitals are overrun and understaffed,” Gov. Justice continued. “That’s why we need to start this program to aggressively recruit, staff, and train more and more nurses.”
The initiative will tackle the recent nursing shortage on multiple fronts.

The program will expand nursing programs and increase scholarship opportunities for both faculty and students at three West Virginia institutions – Concord University, Glenville State College, and BridgeValley Community and Technical College – while also continuing work to expand similar programs at other West Virginia institutions.

The program will also incentivize West Virginia’s current workforce of nurses and evaluate scope of practice to alleviate burdens and provide new opportunities for skilled workers.

Additionally, the program will expand the nursing workforce by recruiting healthcare professionals from surrounding states and major metropolitan areas to work in West Virginia.

“Not only will this give us a boost in West Virginia, but it could very well set an example across our entire country,” Gov. Justice said.

The Governor was joined for the announcement by Dr. Cynthia Persily of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, Glenville State College President Mark Manchin, Concord University President Kendra Boggess, and BridgeValley Community and Technical College President Casey Sacks.
“It’s been especially visible and true over the last few years that nurses are the heart of our healthcare system. Their work and dedication are invaluable. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical shortages of nurses that we have, both in West Virginia as well as across the nation,” Dr. Persily said. “Governor, we would like to thank you for this remarkable investment. We are ready to get to work and we believe this is a tremendous way to strengthen our West Virginia nursing workforce for the future and to secure the health and well-being of all West Virginians.”

“No words can adequately describe how I feel about today,” President Manchin said. “We’re excited about this opportunity, and I want to say ‘thank you’ to Governor Justice for taking this initiative. It’s going to make a real difference.”

“As we all continue to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, the demand for healthcare workers is greater than ever. Concord University is very grateful for the opportunity to serve the region and the state by establishing a nursing program,” President Boggess said. “I cannot tell you how excited we all are. I want to thank you especially, Governor Justice, for making this happen.”

“Thank you so much, Governor Justice. This is a really big deal for BridgeValley. We thank you for selecting us,” President Sacks said. “Our nursing faculty are absolutely some of the very best in the state, and we’re all really excited to be able to expand the program and do more good work for the people of West Virginia. So we greatly appreciate your faith in us and we are excited to work with the state to be able to expand this important program.”

Gov. Justice went on to spotlight a recent statement released by the West Virginia Hospital Association that underscores the concerns caused by the nursing shortage.
“Projections show that for the 2021 holiday season, we will approach the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in West Virginia since the pandemic began. The vast majority of patients in the ICU and on ventilators are unvaccinated and the national shortage of monoclonal antibodies has greatly restricted access to an effective treatment option. In addition, we are seeing high numbers of patients with other medical conditions requiring hospital care such as flu, heart diseases, cancer, and trauma. This combination has strained the health care system and now after nearly two years, the system is nearing a breaking point as health care workers are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted.”

Click here to view full WVHA statement
“Is this not testimony to exactly what we ought to be doing?” Gov. Justice said. “Absolutely, we want to commit in this direction right here; to give our hospitals within this state the adequate staffing that they truly need.”
Free COVID-19 vaccinations are available for everyone ages 5 and older.

West Virginians interested in being vaccinated or having their children vaccinated are encouraged to visit or call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965.

Free booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are available for all West Virginians ages 18 and older.

A booster dose is recommended if at least six months have passed since you received your initial two-dose series of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccines or if at least two months have passed since you received your initial one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

West Virginians can go to any location offering COVID-19 vaccines with their vaccination card to receive their booster.

If your card has been lost, you can request a new one from the DHHR.
On Tuesday, Gov. Justice renewed calls asking for West Virignians to consider donating blood and plasma through the American Red Cross.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there remains a widespread shortage of blood and plasma across the nation.

“Really and truly, the Red Cross needs you to step up right now and donate,” Gov. Justice said.

For more information, visit or call the local American Red Cross offices at 304-340-3650.
Online registration is now open for Do it for Babydog: Senior Center Edition.

Individuals ages 50 and older who have been fully vaccinated and who choose to receive their booster shot on or after Dec. 7, 2021 are eligible to receive a $50 prepaid visa gift card as an additional incentive to continue protecting themselves from COVID-19.
Additionally, four senior centers across the state with the highest overall vaccination rates will win a $100,000 grand prize and receive a visit from the Governor and Babydog.
On Tuesday, Gov. Justice reported that there are now 8,598 active cases of COVID-19 statewide.

The cumulative percent positivity rate stands at 6.37%.

A total of 1,092,815 West Virginians – 64.3% of the eligible population ages 5 and older – have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Booster doses have now been administered to 297,589 people – or 32.6% of West Virginians who have received both doses of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine series or their dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

COVID-19 Dashboard |
Gov. Justice also reported that, per the West Virginia Department of Education, there are currently 24 school outbreaks in 16 counties with 280 confirmed cases.

COVID-19 Outbreaks in State Public Schools (WVDE)
Additionally Tuesday, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks on COVID-19 to offer his prayers and condolences after the passing of Madrith Chambers.

Chambers, who was 86 years old, was the first Black woman elected to Beckley Common Council and served as the Ward 5 representative for 12 years.

Gov. Justice presented Chambers with a “Distinguished West Virginian” award in August 2020.

“To say that she worked tirelessly up to her death would be the biggest understatement of all time. She was a fireball,” Gov. Justice said. “Anybody that’s been in Beckley knows just what incredible contributions she made to that community. To Madrith Chambers and all of her family, I can’t tell you enough how much we’ll miss her. We need many, many more people like Madrith Chambers.”
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