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Sep. 13—CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held another news briefing today to update the public on the State's latest pandemic response efforts.
According to a news release from the governor's office, on Monday, Gov. Justice announced that 852 West Virginians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19; breaking the all-time record high number of active hospitalizations for the entire pandemic.
The number of West Virginians in ICUs has once again set a new record high of 267 patients. Meanwhile, the number of West Virginians on ventilators reached a record high of 164 patients yesterday.
The statewide death toll from COVID-19 reached 3,238 on Monday, with 31 more deaths being reported since the Governor's previous briefing just three days ago.
The total number of active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia has now reached 27,607; an increase of more than 3,000 new cases since Friday last week.
Meanwhile, the County Alert System map now shows that 47 of the state's 55 counties are now in the highest-risk Red category. (Editor's note: Mason County is currently designated "Red.") Another five counties are one step below in the Orange category.
The governor was also joined for Monday's briefing by Linda Lanier, a West Virginia mom whose son, Joe Goodnite, is in a fight for his life against COVID-19.
"He decided not to get vaccinated," Lanier said. "I hope by sharing his story, it will change some people's minds."
Lanier says her son, who is known by many locally as an MMA fighter and who has two young boys of his own, recently began his seventh week on a ventilator battling the disease.
"Joey chose not to be vaccinated because he listened to all the negative and false accusations about the vaccination," Lanier said. "Being in the medical field myself, I tried my best to convince him. However, it didn't work."
After developing severe symptoms while on vacation, Lanier says her son sought medical attention upon his return home and was admitted immediately.
"The next morning I received a call from the doctor," Lanier said. "He said, 'Your boy is in trouble.'"
Before long, Lanier says Goodnite was on an ECMO life support machine.
"The ECMO was removed after about five weeks, but he's still sedated, on a vent, and we're now heading into seven weeks," Lanier said.
"Before Joey got so sick that he couldn't talk, he told people, 'Get vaccinated. You don't want this stuff,'" Lanier added. "If you have questions, go to a physician. Go to someone that knows. Let them answer your questions because that's where the true answers are. This COVID is a monster. I mean, if it can take down my son, the MMA fighter...what's it going to do to the average person? What's it going to do to your children? You need to take this very serious."
"If this dreaded disease can take down this tremendous athlete, a man that is strong beyond belief, and very young in years, can it not take us all down? That's what this testimony is all about," Gov. Justice said. "By having the courage to share this story, this is a family that has absolutely stepped up to try to help all of us."
The Governor was also joined by West Virginia Senator Dr. Tom Takubo, who happens to be serving as Goodnite's pulmonologist.
"Linda, thank you for getting that message out," Takubo said. "We'll certainly keep Joey in our prayers and we're going to continue to fight for him just as hard as we possibly can."
"Linda's story is not unique," Takubo continued. "Since the beginning of this pandemic, we've had to, as medical workers — the nurses and respiratory therapists, the physicians — we've had to relive this over and over and over, time and time again.
"What we're seeing now is that this is a pandemic, primarily, of the unvaccinated. Be careful about what you're reading on social media, what you're reading on the internet. Listen to your local providers, they're seeing this firsthand.
"The one thing I'm seeing is that the vaccine does work. Eighty-eight to 95 percent of all patients being admitted are unvaccinated. So you have to look at the real numbers."
"Doc, thank you and Linda, thank you," Gov. Justice said. "Please tell Joe that we love him and we're going to continue to pray in every way."
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is fully FDA-approved for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.
All West Virginians interested in being vaccinated are encouraged to visit Vaccinate.wv.gov or call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965. The info line is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Information provided by the office of Gov. Jim Justice.