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Joint Interagency Task Force, COVID leaders receive authority to approve staffing requests

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Joint Interagency Task Force and coronavirus pandemic leadership can now review and approve requests from West Virginia hospitals to provide additional staffing support as many facilities deal with shortages.

Gov. Jim Justice, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, announced this authority on Wednesday. Members of the West Virginia National Guard received training earlier this month in case hospitals needed the assistance.

Hospital leaders must file a request with a local emergency manager if extra staffing is necessary. The manager will contact the Joint Interagency Task Force, which will contact partners about coordinating assistance.

Charleston Area Medical Center and Grafton City Hospital have already filed requests.

“The West Virginia National Guard is fully prepared to assist our hospital partners who have been at the frontline of this pandemic,” state Adjutant General Bill Crane said.

“A team of liaison officers and representatives from our JIATF have been conducting assessments today with our hospitals that are in need. The National Guard is ready, as always, to support the State of West Virginia at the Governor’s direction.”

Joint Interagency Task Force Director James Hoyer told MetroNews he wants guardsmen to be in positions to relieve health care workers stressed by treating coronavirus patients and other people.

“There may be some facilities that are using nursing assistants and LPNs [licensed practical nurses] to do screening for patients coming into facilities,” he said. “If a guardsman can take on that role and those people who have that other medical training can go back into direct patient care, then that helps relieve pressure on those folks.”

Hoyer, the state’s former adjutant general, said guardsmen will be in facilities within the next few days.

“Most of my career has been focused on responding to emergencies or helping the state recover from emergencies, and this is absolutely by far the most complex thing that I have ever been involved in in my career,” he said.

West Virginia and other states are also experiencing a shortage of monoclonal antibody treatments. State coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh noted on Wednesday’s “MetroNews Talkline” the shortage is tied to the rise of the omicron variant; the strain is more resistant to Regeneron and Lilly antibodies.

“We are trying to work with our federal leaders, our legislative leaders, and we have acquired relative proportional more monoclonal antibodies in West Virginia,” he said. “We still lack the number that we need for the volume of people that are getting affected with COVID-19.”

The state Department of Health and Human Resources on Wednesday reported 843 West Virginians are hospitalized with the coronavirus, including 216 people in intensive care units.

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