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Justice "Afraid" and "Alarmed" during COVID Battle as Highly Contagious Omicron Now Dominant in State

By Jeff Toquinto on January 17, 2022 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

In his first press briefing in more than a week due to contracting COVID-19, Governor Jim Justice said during the early days of the virus he was “afraid” and “alarmed,” but that he was not fearful that he was going to die.
 
“From the standpoint of really thinking you were going to die, I don’t know if I progressed to that level. From the standpoint of being afraid or being alarmed, without question I was there,” said Justice, who added his spirits were boosted by confidence in having had the vaccine shots and booster.
 
Justice said medical staff believes he had the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID. Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s COVID Czar, said it is now easily the most dominant strand in West Virginia.
 
“We continue to grow in the number of cases, and we can continue to grow in the number of cases of COVID-19 that we can ascribe to the Omicron variant. In our last sequencing run, we found that 82 percent of our sequenced cases in West Virginia now belong to the omicron variant,” said Marsh.
 
As for determining the percentages through sequencing, Marsh said not every positive test is used. He said the standard is about 10 percent of the state’s positive results are used for sequencing.
 
While that talk dominated large portions of today’s press briefing, Justice started it a bit different. Of course, this was the first time he has held a COVID-19 press briefing after having contracted the virus, and he talked about his experience.
 
“I’ve got to admit, it’s been a little bit difficult. By the blessings of God above … and all your well wishes I’m beyond humbled. Thanks seems almost inadequate,” said Justice. “At the end of the day, it will never be forgotten by me all the well wishes and prayers.”
 
Justice said he was writing the State of the State address last week around noon on Tuesday (Jan. 12) when he felt scratchiness in his throat, congestion, a headache, and a bit of a chill. At that time, he called to get tested, and the rapid test came back negative.
 
“I’ve been tested about 20 times, but this time it felt different,” said Justice.
 
Despite the rapid test result, Justice said things started turning south as he headed home. He said his blood pressure and heart rate numbers were problematic. Eventually, the governor’s send-away test came back positive.
 
“First couple of days it was really nasty stuff. No point in acting macho about it. It was tough stuff,” said Justice.
 
The governor credited getting his vaccines, his booster shot, and having access to the antibody treatment as a reason he’s recovered.
 
“God has given us the ability to try and save our lives. With my age and weight … to be perfectly honest this could have been really, really bad,” said Justice.
 
Justice said the episode with the virus has made him more committed to try to convince West Virginians to get their vaccine shots and their boosters. He added he is still “rock solid” in being respectful for those who do not want a vaccine, but that his situation is proof the shots “could very well save your life.”
 
Justice added that if you didn’t believe him regarding the vaccine then “there’s nothing I can do for you.”
 
Retired National Guard General James Hoyer gave an update on the governor’s call to have the National Guard assist hospitals as they, again, are facing a massive influx of patients. Hoyer said 115 members of the National Guard will begin deploying tomorrow at 13 state hospitals that have requested assistance.
 
Hoyer, like Justice, again emphasized the need for vaccines. He said the overload of seriously sick individuals in hospitals are unvaccinated.
 
“(In the hospitals), 91 percent of the people on ventilators are unvaccinated, 84 percent of those in ICU are unvaccinated,” said Hoyer.
 
Those numbers are available daily on the Department of Health and Human Resources Web site. One thing that has not been available for several weeks now is the color-coded map showing the severity of spread and infection of COVID in each county in the state. DHHR head Bill Crouch said that should be available this week.
 
“We’re trying to be careful and methodical,” said Crouch.
 
Crouch said the “technical issues” listed when clicking on the map deal with changing the formulas for determining the numbers used on the map. He said the CDC changes to various definitions involving COVID has caused a need to completely overhaul the manner in which numbers are calculated for the map and expects that to be ready in “the new few days.”
 
Outbreak numbers of the state’s long-term care facilities, churches, and prisons were not provided. However, the governor did say there were 27 outbreaks in 16 counties in the state’s school systems. He did not provide a number of students that were COVID positive.
 
Early in the press conference, Justice did his standard reading of the ages, genders, and counties of those who have died since his last press briefing, which came two weeks ago. Because of that, Justice read a list of 143 who have died as a result of COVID, bringing the state’s total to 5,535 deaths.
 
Video of today's press conference can be found below.



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