Will Gov. Justice break Covid chains?

So, here are the two takes, from two different members of the same pandemic team here in West Virginia, one from a politician (whether he wants to admit it or not) and one from a doctor.

“There are signs of real improvement,” Gov. Jim Justice said about pandemic statistics that have shown a dramatic decrease in the number of cases, hospitalizations, deaths and other key indicators from highs of one month ago.

The governor, eager to help small businesses and stoke the state’s economic engines, is thinking about lifting some restrictions on restaurants and schools. It should be noted in any such discussion that the governor owns The Greenbrier, a fancy resort that is home to a handful of restaurants. 

Dr. Clay Marsh, on the other hand, is the state’s Covid-19 czar and vice president and executive dean for health sciences at West Virginia University since 2015.

Questioned during the press briefing on Wednesday about coronavirus mutations that are spreading in the U.S., Marsh said residents must remain vigilant.

“It is not the time to let our guard down,” Marsh said.

For the record, The New York Times has reported that British government scientists now believe the more contagious variant that is ravaging Britain is also “likely” to be deadlier than earlier versions of the virus. An earlier assessment on a smaller scale warned last month that there was a “realistic possibility” the variant was more lethal. It is spreading now in the U.S.

Meanwhile, scientists in the U.S. are finding a number of new variants that seem to have originated right here in the good ol’ US of A – and many of them may pose the same kind of extra-contagious threat as the U.K. variety.

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Meanwhile, the number of active Covid cases in the state fell to 10,522 in Wednesday’s report by the Department of Health and Human Services. That’s is down from over 29,000 the second week of January but still ahead of every daily total prior to Nov. 14.

Hospitalizations are down to 320, off its record of 219 on Jan. 6, but again ahead of every daily total prior to Nov. 12.

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You may want to check your online voter registration. Secretary of State Mac Warner, who made his distaste for mail-in balloting as clear as President Trump did this past election season, announced Wednesday that he, with the help of county clerks, had removed 253,263 voter files statewide in his four years in office.

To check on the status of your voter registration, go online to GoVoteWV.com and click on the “Check Your Voter Registration Record.”

Or give your local county clerk a call and have them check for you.

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You have to admit that the governor, a Republican, sometimes talks like a Democrat – especially when it comes to tapping the federal government for pandemic assistance. He just loves President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion relief package.

While fellow Republicans, like Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, are urging restraint, the governor says now is the time to go big.

You may remember, Justice won the governor’s office in 2016 as a Democrat. Just saying.

Well, on Wednesday, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) – a think-tank, government watchdog and advocacy group for fiscally conservative causes – named Justice as its February 2021 Porker of the Month for, as stated in a press release, wanting “to throw away nearly $2 trillion of the taxpayers’ money.” 

 CAGW points to a Feb. 1 CNN interview of Justice in which the governor said, “We need to understand that trying to be, per se, fiscally responsible at this point in time, with what we’ve got going on in this country – if we actually throw away some money right now, so what?”

And like a lot of Democrats in the state – those that remain, anyway – CAGW points to the $688 million the governor has yet to spend from the $1.25 billion the state received from the feds under the CARES Act last spring.

CAGW President Tom Schatz said Justice’s “fiscal irresponsibility is an insult to every West Virginian. Asking taxpayers across the nation for more money is outrageous when West Virginia has not spent even half of the Covid-19 relief money it already received.”

— J. Damon Cain is editor of The Register-Herald. To reach him, email dcain@register-herald.com.

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