Justice urges West Virginians to hold on until covid treatment emerges

Gov. Jim Justice is urging West Virginians to embrace caution and personal responsibility while also describing light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

“Just use good West Virginia smarts,” Justice advised during a news briefing today.

Justice described his own hope that some sort of medical treatment will be available in “two or three or four months” to counter the effects of covid-19.

Anthony Fauci

But testifying before the U.S. Senate this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases suggested medical treatment or a vaccine is unlikely to be achieved by the end of summer.

The context of his comments was whether school could reopen in the fall like normal.

“In this case, the idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of bridge too far,” Fauci said.

“Even at top speed that we’re going, we don’t see a vaccine playing in the ability of individuals to get back to school, this term. What they really want is to know if they are safe.”

Fauci did express optimism that a vaccine could be found for the coronavirus within a year or two.

Justice, speaking toward the end of a news conference Wednesday, expressed hope for a medical solution in the near term.

“All we’re doing is bridging ourselves to where we get a drug that will stop this thing right in its tracks,” he said. “That bridge is not going to be forever. It’s just a matter of two or three or four months. Maybe four months. We ought to have a drug in the U.S. that minimizes this killer from a killer to maybe a bad, bad cold.”

He acknowledged, though, that the virus is a fact of life for now.

“This virus isn’t going anywhere. I mean, it’s right here. It could be right on this desk,” he said, gesturing at the desk where he was seated.

He advised West Virginians to social distance, wear a mask in public, take care of senior citizens, wash hands and keep your hands away from your face.

“What we’ve got to do is we’ve got to do everything we possibly can to minimize the risk. That’s all we’re doing. Minimize the risk. Push it away from us.”

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner who has been a mainstay on news analysis of coronavirus response in recent weeks, today on CNBC expressed hope for a therapeutic response to coronavirus to “lessen the sting.”

“The therapeutics when they come to the market aren’t going to be foolproof,” Gottlieb said. “But hopefully they’re going to be effective enough when used in combination that we’re going to see reductions in mortality and reductions in hospitalizations and reductions in ICU stays.

“So it’s going to take some of the sting out of this disease and make it a more livable pathogen. Still something that we’re going to be very worried about but perhaps not as fearsome as it is right now because we really don’t have effective therapeutics.”

Justice continued to urge caution while saying West Virginia has to continue easing economic restraints.

“We’ve got to be careful,” he said.

The governor, somewhat unexpectedly, announced one more sector of life where restraints can be eased.

People flooded his office with calls about tanning beds, he said.

“I never dreamed in all my life that we’d gotten all these calls in regard to the tanning businesses or tanning beds, so I am announcing today that our medical experts believe we’re good to go,” Justice said.

So tanning bed facilities may resume operations May 21, the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend when a variety of other activities are resuming.

Justice was also asked about another popular activity in West Virginia — yard sales.

“Whew,” he said in response to a question he hadn’t anticipated.

An aspect of the question was whether yard sales could be conducted at individual locations or as part of broader community efforts.

Justice said his administration would have to give that more consideration, but in the mean time advised adhering to the broader guideline of keeping groups below 25 people.

The governor recognized there are still many other activities wondering when they’ll receive the OK to resume.

“I want you to know, if you’re one of the businesses or whatever out there that’s still closed, I would ask that you would please try to be patient,” he said.

“We’re working it. We’re working as diligently as we possibly can. We’re doing so in absolutely trying to do the obvious — and that is, no question, bring us back from the standpoint of economics and all that, but we’ve got to remember we really need to take baby steps in this.”

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