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Cabell County Schools employees 50 and older receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 7 at Huntington High School.

CHARLESTON — With state COVID-19 death rates hitting or approaching daily records, officials on Friday urged senior West Virginians to get vaccinated when they are called.

“We need each person in West Virginia to get your vaccine when it’s your time,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president of health sciences at West Virginia University and state COVID-19 czar.

Marsh reiterated statistics showing that infected individuals 75 and older have exponentially higher rates of hospitalization and death. Currently, the state is implementing a program to get vaccines to members of the general public age 60 and older, currently focusing on those 80 and older.

West Virginia is seeing a surge of some 500 COVID-19 deaths in three weeks, which state Public Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad attributed to the aftermath of Thanksgiving holiday gatherings and travel.

“We are expecting more, unfortunately, incidents following the Christmas holiday season,” she said.

Also during Friday’s state COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Jim Justice said generally that insurgents who stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday should be prosecuted and sent to jail, but said he could not comment specifically on the actions of incoming Del. Derrick Evans, R-Wayne, who was arrested by federal authorities Friday afternoon on charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct.

“I think it’s terrible,” he said generally of Evans’ storming of the Capitol. “I think it’s a scar on West Virginia.”

Justice also downplayed President Donald Trump’s role in inciting the insurrection, stating, “I know President Trump, and I know his family through and through. There’s no way they condoned this.”

Justice also took umbrage with Capitol protesters demanding that he withdraw a postponement to March 1 of interscholastic sports.

“They’re insinuating I’m the one holding them back,” Justice said of the “Let Them Play” protesters. “I guess I am, from the standpoint of being governor.”

However, Justice was adamant it is not safe to proceed with indoor sports such as basketball, particularly with spectators present.

“They can yell and howl at the moon all they want, but I will tell you without question we’re doing the right thing,” he said of the protesters.

Justice on three occasions also lectured state media outlets for failing to adequately report positive aspects of the state’s COVID-19 response, alluding to pending national coverage that he said will more adequately portray those successes.

“It’s pathetic, if you think about it, that we’ve got to have the national news tell us how good we are,” Justice said.

Reach Phil Kabler at,

304 348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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