Gov. Jim Justice confirmed Monday that state legislators are being given priority for COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of the start of the 2021 regular session.
“It is just offered as part of our plan for continuity of government,” Justice said during Monday’s state COVID-19 briefing.
“We’ve got to have our legislators to continue to move forward on all the things we’re doing,” he added.
Legislators will convene in a one-day session on Wednesday, and then will recess until Feb. 10, as the state Constitution mandates in post-gubernatorial election years, when the Legislature will resume the remaining 59 days of the regular session.
Spokespersons for the House of Delegates and Senate declined to disclose how many legislators have received COVID-19 vaccinations to date, citing federal medical privacy laws.
They also referred any questions about prioritizing legislators to the governor’s office.
However, Senate spokeswoman Jacque Bland stated, “The Legislature falls under the governor’s plan in Phase 1-D, Community Infrastructure and Resources, which includes but is not limited to utilities, transportation, and associations, higher education and K-12 faculty and staff, and continuity of government.”
At Monday’s briefing, Justice aired an interview that had been broadcast earlier Monday on CNBC touting West Virginia for having the highest percentage of COVID-19 vaccinations administered in the U.S.
Also Monday, Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch unveiled an addition to the DHHR’s COVID-19 dashboard providing a summary of vaccinations.
The weblink shows numbers of doses received, number distributed, and number administered, both for first and second doses of vaccines. It also provides breakdowns of persons vaccinated by age and sex, but not by race.
Even though the 80%-plus administration rate leads the nation, to date fewer than 100,000 West Virginians have received vaccinations, according to the DHHR, or less than 6% of the population.
Currently, there have been issues vaccinating West Virginians age 80 and older, and teachers and school service personnel age 50 and older “because of our limited number of resources,” Justice said.
Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president of health sciences at West Virginia University and state COVID-19 czar, on Monday told West Virginians who aren’t high on priority lists, “We already have the equivalent of a vaccine and that is a mask.”
Also during Monday’s briefing:
n Marsh said that the CDC has projected that a post-Christmas/New Year’s Eve holiday surge of cases will make Jan. 21 the worst single day in the pandemic to date.
“It takes about two to four weeks after these events to really see the maximum impact,” he said, adding, “We’re very worried about that.”
n Justice said there will be heightened security at the Capitol complex, but otherwise downplayed reports of an FBI memo to law enforcement agencies warning of possible armed protests at all 50 state capitols beginning Jan. 16 and running through inauguration day on Jan. 20 as it pertains to the state Capitol.
“Our people are good,” he said.