Gov. Jim Justice announced a new, online registration system for covid vaccinations, aiming to get a handle on lengthy waits. And the governor also described early communications with the incoming Biden administration with the hope of increasing vaccine supply.
His comments this afternoon came shortly before new President Joe Biden made his own national comments on the covid fight, promising a “full-scale, wartime effort.”
“We’ve got to get behind the efforts of our new president and try with all in us to make things better and better for the great people of West Virginia,” Justice, a Republican, said today.
The governor said he’d already been on a call with the nation’s new coronavirus czar, Jeff Zients, about an hour after the new Democratic president was sworn in Wednesday. “He seemed like a really go-getter kind of guy,” Justice said.
The governor said he underscored that West Virginia can use vaccine supplies just as fast as supply can be churned out. “If I had the vaccines I could maybe save somebody’s life today,” Justice said he told Zients.
Justice also recounted saying, “You’ve got to some way get more vaccines.”
West Virginia has ranked at the top of the nation in terms of the percentage of its available doses being used.
State figures show 137,068 West Virginians receiving vaccinations so far. That’s out of the state’s 1.79 million population.
Biden, in his own comments this afternoon, promised a range of actions but also assessed, “We didn’t get into this mess overnight.” He added, “While the vaccine has provided so much hope, the rollout has been a dismal failure thus far.”
Biden soberly projected the United States will surpass 500,000 deaths next month. “Let me be very clear,” he said. “Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.”
One of the major challenges is ramping up national manufacturing capacity.
“The brutal truth is, it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated,” Biden said.
The new president signed 10 executive orders this afternoon aimed at boosting availability of tests and vaccines, as well as making schools and travel safer. He also promised more financial support for states.
“To a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point: Help is on the way,” Biden said.
Biden said the administration directed FEMA to establish a covid response liaison for each state, “which means every state will have a point person at the federal level to maximize cooperation between the federal government and the states.”
“We’re going to take immediate steps to partner with governors, mayors and other officials we’ve been talking to all along who are on the front lines of this fight,” he said.
This afternoon, I’ll be taking decisive action to change the course of this pandemic and get COVID-19 under control. Tune in. https://t.co/v23hhuTktf
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 21, 2021
During his regular briefing, Justice focused on trying to ease bottlenecks in West Virginia’s response.
West Virginia has announced residents 65 and older are eligible for vaccinations, in accordance with federal guidelines. But many have wound up on lengthy waiting lists or experiencing repeated busy signals while trying to call.
“I know people are calling like crazy and can’t get through and everything. I just ask you to be as patient as you possibly can,” Justice said.
“We do not have enough doses of vaccine for all West Virginians age 65 and above at this time.”
The governor announced West Virginia will roll out an online vaccination appointment system through a company called Everbridge. State officials said that will cost $760,000 this year, an amount that is likely to be covered through federal relief funds.
West Virginia officials are aiming to have the system publicly available by 8 a.m. Monday. Justice said older residents who are not comfortable online may still call for appointments. And those who are already on waiting lists will not be bumped because of the new system, officials said.
“This will keep people from having to call time and time and time again,” Justice said. “I hear you, and I don’t like the fact that you’re having to call and call and call and call.”
Speaking today on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Kanawha-Charleston health department health officer Sherri Young described the vaccinations of 7,000 individuals so far, along with second doses starting.
But she said the county could distribute more if it just had greater supply. “We just want more vaccine so we can put more vaccine in arms,” she said.
Young said the local call center has been flooded with demand. “We could make a thousand appointments for next week,” she said. “We don’t know how many vaccines we’re going to get. That’s part of the issue.”
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) January 21, 2021