Though lacking detail, Gov. Jim Justice said Friday he believed the state was moving forward with a plan to begin vaccinations for people incarcerated in West Virginia jails.
Justice did not expand on what the plan would entail, or any time frame for these vaccinations to be completed.
According to the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 989 inmates had received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Friday.
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, there were nine active COVID-19 cases among inmates at state correctional facilities, and 12 active infections among staffers, according to data provided by the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Throughout the pandemic, 3,310 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in West Virginia inmates, about 35% of the state’s total correctional facility population not accounting for double infections. Ten have died.
As of Friday, there are 142,653 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia, 6,642 of which are active. There have been 2,688 COVID-19 related deaths, according to the state.
There are currently seven active outbreaks at West Virginia churches in five counties, totaling 98 cases, Justice said.
Outbreaks at West Virginia schools are on the rise. There are currently 89 active outbreaks in state schools, with more than 420 individuals testing positive for COVID-19, according to the state Department of Education.
More than 30 of these outbreaks were reported in the past week. The Department of Education defines school outbreaks as two or more COVID-19 cases among students or staff from different households.
Also Friday, Justice said health science students at state colleges and universities were being trained to help staff COVID-19 vaccination clinics. One-hundred students have already completed the training, Justice said, with more in the works.
Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar, warned residents Friday of the threat posed by different strains of the virus. Marsh said the U.K. variant is reported to be at least 50% more lethal and more infectious than the common variant.
Marsh said while vaccine rates are high in West Virginia — the state has distributed more than 92% of the vaccine doses it has received, with 343,000 people fully vaccinated and 518,000 partially vaccinated — there is still work to be done.
Justice reminded unvaccinated residents to call their local health providers or the state hotline (1-833-734-0965) to book a vaccination appointment. He also said churches or groups that want to hold their own vaccine events can do so by calling the hotline.
While vaccinations continue, Justice said residents must continue wearing face coverings and following social distancing guidelines.