Gov. Jim Justice remained on the defensive Monday over the forced resignation last Wednesday of Dr. Cathy Slemp, the former state Public Health Officer, reiterating that he had lost confidence in her leadership after discovering that the state COVID-19 dashboard had over-reported current active cases of coronavirus.
“It is imperative to me that our numbers be right,” Justice said Monday during the state’s COVID-19 briefing.
Justice said DHHR had failed to remove nearly 300 people who had gotten well from the list of active COVID-19 cases.
As of Monday morning, the state had 2,849 total cases, and 627 active cases, according to the dashboard. On June 21, the number of active cases had been listed as 778.
“I am not going to tolerate people who are somewhat asleep at the switch,” he said of delays in DHHR detecting the clerical error.
Asked if she was forced to resign for calling for a slowing down of the state’s reopening, Justice said, “That’s not fair. That’s not fair to do.”
He added, “The bottom line to the whole thing is somebody’s got to be responsible. There’s a multitude of things that surely led to my lack of confidence.”
Asked if Slemp’s comment during the June 22 briefing — the last before her forced resignation — raising concerns over a 28% increase in COVID-19 cases in two weeks had led to her termination, Justice said, “Not to not answer your question, but I don’t see that there was truth to that.”
He also brushed aside a question as to why Slemp was terminated for clerical errors, while there has been no disciplinary action over a $567,000 no-bid contract awarded by the Department of Homeland Security for 100,000 N95 respirators, half of which turned out to be counterfeit.
“I think Secretary [Jeff] Sandy has addressed that over and over,” Justice said.
Sandy acknowledged that N95 masks with ear loops do not meet Centers for Disease Control and NIOSH standards, but has denied the masks are counterfeit.
Also during Monday’s briefing, Justice:
- Confirmed West Virginia’s 93rd COVID-19 death, an 82-year-old Greenbrier County man who also is the first death linked to a coronavirus outbreak at the Graystone Baptist Church, outside Lewisburg.
Again expressed reluctance to mandate mask wearing in public places but said he would not rule it out if COVID-19 cases spike around the state.
“It’s surely still on the table,” he said. “It has not left the table.”