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Gov. Jim Justice stands firm on not mandating vaccines

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 6:59 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held a news briefing Monday to update the public on the state’s latest pandemic response efforts.

Gov. Justice has continually preached he doesn’t believe in vaccine mandates.

In a WSAZ exclusive interview, we asked the governor why it’s not the right decision.

“You could [mandate vaccines], but with all that what would happen in fragmentation of the state, you can’t imagine. We don’t need that in this country, like it or not, we’re founded on our freedoms. We have a right to everything, and certainly, people have the right to chose a vaccine,” Justice said.

Politics aside, Justice says a mandate is not out of the picture.

“You can never say never in this pandemic. The first thing you got to realize is that we’re free. Mandates to me are not possible today, but we don’t know what’s going to happen with this pandemic. This pandemic could get so bad that we’ve got to do it [mandate vaccines]. Really and truly on the horizon that we have right now, no mandates with me. "

While Justice said he isn’t ready to require shots, the governor did acknowledge hospitals are being stretched to the max across the state.

“Our hospitals are on the verge of being overrun to the point where, if we don’t act right now, we could awaken to a situation where we’re basically rationing care,” Gov. Justice said.

To help struggling hospitals and nursing homes, Justice introduced the ‘Saving Our Care’ initiative. It will provide staffing assistance and financial help to hospitals and long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities to keep workforce levels up. The program will also provide financial assistance to hospitals that have to defer elective procedures.

“We’re going to pour the money into the hospitals. No matter what we got to do, we have to keep our hospitals functioning,” Justice said.

The governor added that with case numbers now on the decline for the first time in months, and with hospitalizations and deaths expected to soon begin decreasing, as well, he hopes the Saving Our Care initiative will only need to be in place for the next three to six weeks.

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