Chris Schulz Published

Gov. Justice Discusses COVID-19, Gun Violence In First COVID Press Conference In Two Weeks

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Gov. Jim Justice held his first COVID-19 press conference in 12 days Tuesday morning, after a tick-related illness led him to cancel last week’s press conference.

Amidst discussions of gun violence and the upcoming publication of the state’s new foster care dashboard, Justice and his advisors expressed wary optimism at the state’s improving COVID-19 effective reproductive value.

However, state COVID-19 czar Clay Marsh pointed to increases in hospitalizations to warn West Virginians that things are not over. Reduced testing appears to be a particular issue.

“For the current surge that is going on around the country and for the increased cases we’ve seen in West Virginia, we have not been able to track that very well,” Marsh said. “We are close to 100,000 average cases a day in the United States. Really smart authorities think that we are picking up probably as few as five to 10 percent of all positive cases that are circulating.”

Marsh noted the state has six times as many COVID-19 cases now than at the same point in 2021.

Gun Violence

The press conference often pulled away from COVID-19-related issues, and much of Justice’s time was spent discussing gun violence.

Justice invited Jeff Sandy, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security to speak briefly about the West Virginia Safe Schools Helpline. The helpline is a non-emergency number (1-866-723-3982) designed to screen calls for information that may have a negative impact on students, staff or property at any school in West Virginia, including gun violence.

Justice commented broadly on the state of the nation’s culture, including pornography and violent video games, that he blamed in part for increased gun violence before discussing gun regulation.

“Do I really feel like that an 18 year old ought to be able to walk in and buy an assault weapon? I don’t,” Justice said. He went on to state that the purchasing age for such weapons should be 21, and that he did not approve of a blanket ban of assault weapons.

Later in the press conference, when asked if he would move to codify an age restriction for gun purchases in the state, Justice expressed skepticism that politicians would allow such a law to pass.

“Until we as people start thinking logically and reasonably as people, and we’re willing to do stuff, instead of looking at how’s this politically going to impact me, it will be a total waste of breath,” Justice said.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.