CHARLESTON — During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Jim Justice announced the launch of an initiative that will provide a $150 voucher for back-to-school supplies to all vaccinated grandfamilies in West Virginia, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
Grandfamilies are families where grandparents are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren.
“If you’re a grandfamily, and the grandparents have been vaccinated, and you’ll just help us get the kids across the finish line, we’ll give you $150,” Gov. Justice said.
West Virginia State University’s Healthy Grandfamilies program – which provides information and resources to grandparents who are raising one or more grandchildren – will assist in the administration of the school voucher incentive.
“Governor, thank you so much. This is a really big announcement for the grandparents who are raising grandchildren in West Virginia,” said Healthy Grandfamilies co-director Bonnie Dunn. “In the mix of all these grandfamilies, we’re looking at about 19,000 children in those families. What if our grandparents began dying off due to COVID because they didn’t get vaccinated? What would we do in West Virginia with 19,000 homeless children?”
“Our whole goal is to encourage our grandfamilies to get the family, as a whole, vaccinated,” Dunn continued. “We want you to stay happy, healthy, and well, so you can continue to raise these grandchildren until they become functioning adult citizens.”
Registration for the school voucher incentive will begin next Tuesday, Sept. 7.
To qualify, all vaccine-eligible members of the grandfamily – including grandparents and grandchildren ages 12 and older – must have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The family must also be enrolled in the Healthy Grandfamilies program.
For information on how to enroll, visit healthygrandfamilies.com.
“We’ve been working every day to save our wisdom,” Gov. Justice said. “Now, we’re hoping our wisdom will help us save our youth; save our future.”
Once again Monday, Gov. Justice reported another large jump in COVID-19-related hospitalizations across the state, with 640 West Virginians now hospitalized; up from 579 as of the Governor’s previous briefing Friday last week.
Of the patients currently hospitalized, 203 are in the ICU. West Virginia’s all-time record of COVID-19 patients in the ICU at one time is 219.
The total number of active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia has now reached 16,372; an increase of over 2,600 new cases since Friday last week and the state’s highest number of active cases in nearly seven months.
The County Alert System map now shows that 53 of the state’s 55 counties are either in the Red or Orange categories. A total of 35 counties are currently Red and 18 are Orange.
“We have a lot, lot, lot to look at and be concerned about,” Gov. Justice said. “There is no other pathway out of this other than to be vaccinated.”
Gov. Justice reported that over 7,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered since Wednesday last week.
Additionally, the Governor noted that West Virginia has achieved its goal of vaccinating 85% of individuals ages 50 and older with at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re at 71.9% of our total eligible population now that’s been vaccinated,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re getting there. But it’s too slow. And as we’re getting there and it’s too slow, we keep reading death after death after death.”
Last week, the U.S. FDA officially gave its full stamp of approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 disease 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.
Gov. Justice once again echoed his recent announcement that he has directed State pandemic response officials to continue their push to expedite approval from the federal government to allow West Virginia to begin administering an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccines to the state’s most vulnerable citizens, including residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, who were among the first people in the nation to be vaccinated.
“We’re pushing the federal government as hard as we possibly can,” Gov. Justice said. “The second we can go ahead, we’ll take off. We led the nation getting out of the gate and now we need to lead the nation with our booster shots.”
Meanwhile, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch announced Monday that the DHHR has updated its COVID-19 Dashboard to include additional data on breakthrough cases, breakthrough deaths, and more case and lab trends.
Also on Monday, Gov. Justice reported that, per the West Virginia Department of Education, there are 20 active outbreaks within the state public school system.
There are six active outbreaks associated with churches throughout West Virginia. The churches are located in Barbour, Doddridge, Kanawha, Mason, Taylor, and Wayne counties.
Additionally, there are now 43 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state.
Meanwhile, there are now 104 active inmate cases and 46 active staff cases across the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation system.
Additionally, Gov. Justice took time to announce that a State of Preparedness is currently in effect for all 55 counties in West Virginia ahead of the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
Gov. Justice issued the State of Preparedness on Sunday.
Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast as a Category Four storm, with remnants predicted to reach West Virginia by Tuesday evening.
West Virginia will see the bulk of rainfall from Hurricane Ida on Wednesday and into Thursday.
With as many as five-plus inches of rain possible over the next five days, emergency management officials are performing around-the-clock monitoring of weather and water levels in rivers and streams.
The West Virginia Emergency Management Division’s (WVEMD) Watch Center will notify leaders if local emergency management agencies request assistance, and the National Weather Service will hold daily briefings with state leaders and emergency management personnel for the duration of the event.
All West Virginians should remain attentive to weather conditions through local media reports and be sure to follow any instructions issued by emergency officials.
For updates, follow the WVEMD on social media at facebook.com/WVEMD and twitter.com/WVEMD.
Information provided by the office of Gov. Jim Justice.