June Leffler Published

Justice Launches Investigation As More Unreported COVID-19 Deaths Emerge


Gov. Jim Justice announced more unreported COVID-19 deaths at a virtual briefing Friday, and said he’s beginning a complete investigation into the problem, which the state became aware of last week.

Initially, the state realized 70 hospitals and other health providers undercounted 165 COVID-19 deaths. The state became aware of the issue after death certificates arrived at vital statistics, a process that takes several weeks.

Justice says that’s too long of a window to wait on the necessary data that health providers are responsible for providing in a timely manner.

“We are disrespecting great West Virginians, and there is no excuse for that,” he said.

Friday he confirmed another 20 deaths in an undercount, though that number could be as high as 50.

“I will absolutely get to the bottom of the ‘why,’ because there is no excuse why,” he said.

On the vaccine front, West Virginia continues to get and administer more doses than ever before.

While most people 65 and older have gotten at least one dose, the state wants to ramp up its Save Our Wisdom effort — the state’s campaign name for vaccinating West Virginia’s eldest and most vulnerable. The Joint Interagency Task Force will stand up three large-scale, permanent clinics for seniors specifically. Justice hasn’t confirmed where those will be or when they will open.

“And if that doesn’t work, we’re going to go up every holler, anywhere and everywhere we can. And we’re going to get you,” he said.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department opened two lines Friday specifically for seniors.

Justice has set a goal of vaccinating at least 85 percent of seniors.