Justice said it’s like a scary movie
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has a message about the coronavirus pandemic: It’s like a scary movie.
In an apparent attempt to sooth a nervous public, Justice, in a statewide address Saturday night, offered a rambling response to the virus in which he declined to order a broad lockdown, issued dire warnings about New York state, urged people to follow existing protocols and admitted that perhaps his speech could have waited until Monday.
“It’s like we’re all lost in a movie that we can’t relate to in any way,” he said during the roughly 25-minute address that left many on social media scratching their heads.
He asked people to search their souls to ask if they believed it’s possible for thousands of West Virginians to die. He fell back on platitudes. He stumbled through math equations.
“If we don’t act and we don’t act as strongly as possible right now we’re going to lose lives and lots of lives,” the Republican governor said, just minutes after he said he wasn’t ordering a a widespread shutdown similar to those in New York, California and Illinois.
West Virginia has at least 12 confirmed cases of the virus as of Saturday night, according to health officials who said there have been 385 negative tests and one still pending. There are two positives in Jefferson County, one in Kanawha County, two in Marshall County, two in Mercer County, two in Tucker County, one in Jackson County, one in Putnam County and one in Monongalia County.
West Virginia was the last state in the U.S. to report a confirmed case of the virus — a fact that drew praise from President Donald Trump — though Justice and others had said that was because the state had only tested 12 people while repeatedly warning residents that the virus was going undetected.
Testing numbers in West Virginia have recently increased with the addition of drive-thru sites and other measures across the state, though a lack of testing remains a problem nationwide.
The governor previously issued a state of emergency and ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, casinos, gyms, health clubs, recreation centers, barbershops, nail salons and hair salons. He has closed lodges and the famous Hatfield–McCoy Trails. Schools are closed until at least March 27.
In his speech Saturday, Justice told people to take the virus seriously, especially in a state where many are elderly and many others have existing health problems. About 20% of West Virginia residents are age 65 or older.
“If you don’t do anything today — it really would have been easier maybe to wait in some ways and come and sit with you again on Monday. If you don’t do anything today the statistics bear out and tell us ironclad for every day we wait, especially if the tsunami comes, we have a 40% greater infection rate than what we have every 24 hours we wait. If in fact, if in fact, we can become New York, and we can, many, many, many will die if I’m not in front of you tonight,” Justice said.
Even for some in the governor’s own party, the message came out garbled.
“I am officially endorsing Woody Thrasher to be West Virginia’s next Republican governor because he can actually speak in coherent sentences,” Republican Del. Joshua Higginbotham wrote on Twitter after the speech.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority recover in several weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe illness, including pneumonia