CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice expressed concern Friday about the state’s “alarming” number of coronavirus cases as he announced an initiative with schools to get more people vaccinated.
There were 1,328 new cases of COVID-19 reported in West Virginia in the last 24 hours, pushing the total number of active cases in the state to 13,766, according to figures from the state Department of Health and Human Resources. The number of confirmed positive cases surpassed 1,060 on back-to-back days for the first time since the most serious surge of the pandemic in mid-January.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch joined Justice to announce that schools across the state would offer vaccine clinics this fall.
“Everyone is committed to one thing and that is getting our people vaccinated,” Justice said, noting that he wants to see more young people getting vaccinated. “We’ve all got to know, hands down, that vaccinations are the ticket to stop this thing.”
The clinics are a continuation of a summer initiative that provided vaccines in communities at central locations such as at high schools, Burch said. He said the fall vaccine clinics would work in a similar way and that each county would choose schools or other locations that would provide the biggest impact. Many schools plan to not only offer the vaccines to students, but to the community, he said.
Getting students vaccinated is about protecting lives and keeping kids in classrooms, said Cardona, who appeared virtually.
“When we say we’re going to increase our vaccination numbers, what we’re saying is we’re going to do our very best to make sure that students can get on the field, that they can have in-person learning, that they can enjoy those experiences that we all know are so important for school success,” he said.
Meanwhile, Justice said some local health departments have gotten death threats due to school mask mandates that the agencies don’t even control.
“For God sakes a living, death threats over a mask?” Justice questioned. “Do we really need to get to this? I mean this is an absolute shame and surely to God above we’ll stop threatening the very men and women that work so hard to save our lives.”