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The news that Gov. Jim Justice has contracted COVID-19 is cause for concern. He started feeling poorly earlier in the week and, by Tuesday night, he was down with the virus.

Brian Abraham, Justice’s chief of staff, has been in frequent phone contact with the governor. During an appearance Wednesday on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Abraham was candid about Justice’s condition.

“He’s not doing well. He’s very ill,” Abraham said. “He continues to suffer, as I can hear through the phone ... severe congestion. He still has elevated blood pressure. He’s uncomfortable.”

He was so ill, in fact, that Justice postponed the State of the State speech scheduled for Wednesday night and canceled an appearance in Mason County, where Nucor Steel announced a $2.7 billion investment in a steel sheet mill.

As of Wednesday, Justice, who is 70 years old, was still being treated at home. The governor, who is a big man, often jokes about his weight, but that is an additional risk factor for him.

Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s COVID-19 Czar who has worked closely with Justice during the pandemic, suggested that the governor could be in worse shape had he not gotten the vaccine and the booster.

“Without the immunity afforded by those vaccines, his outcome could be much worse,” Marsh said. “I strongly encourage all West Virginians to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and get boosted when it’s time to do so.”

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“Everyone is susceptible to this infection,” Marsh continued. “And, with cases in the U.S. and in West Virginia at all-time highs, there has never been a more important time to get yourself and your family vaccinated.”

COVID-19 infections are trending upward again in West Virginia, and that is even before omicron has peaked here as it has in other states. COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising — up to 861, as of Thursday.

Hospitals need help caring for the sick because of staffing shortages. Justice has ordered the COVID-19 Interagency Task Force to review and approve requests from hospitals for National Guard troops to provide extra staffing.

Meanwhile, the state is running short of monoclonal antibodies used in treating some COVID-19 patients. The government continues to request more doses, but there is a nationwide shortage.

Justice has been a steady leader throughout the pandemic. He has consistently listened to his medical team and pushed out good advice. His “Do it for Babydog” campaign to encourage vaccines seemed silly, but many West Virginians warmed to the idea and got a kick out of the governor’s lovable English bulldog.

Now, Justice can use the thoughts and prayers of West Virginians, regardless of political affiliation. Justice exuded confidence in a statement released late Tuesday night. “I’ll be back in front of you in-person before you know it.”

We hope so.

Hoppy Kercheval hosts “Talkline,” on MetroNews.

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