CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Democratic Senate leaders said Thursday they're against a special session to consider bills that would bar schools and businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations or other measures.
“Our whole health care system is about to implode," said Sen. Ron Stollings of Boone, who is also a physician. "The sense of crisis should be everywhere.”
Stollings, Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin of Greenbrier and Sen. Richard Lindsay of Kanawha held a teleconference to show solidarity with Senate Republicans who they said are quietly opposed to holding a COVID-19 special session, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
“At some point, somebody has to be the adult in the room and stand up for the right thing,” Baldwin said.
Stollings said Boone Memorial Hospital patients have had to be transported to facilities in Ohio and Michigan because intensive care units in West Virginia hospitals are reaching capacity.
Lindsay said he is astounded that some Republicans want to impose their will on private businesses, school systems, and colleges and universities, against the best advice of public health experts.
“All they’re trying to do is protect their customers and students,” he said.
About two dozen Republican delegates wrote to Gov. Jim Justice asking him to call a special session to limit public health mandates, and a handful of senators have made similar requests. Justice has shown no interest in calling the session.
The Department of Health and Human Resources reported 22,972 active COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, with 1,744 new cases since Wednesday, and 3,189 deaths, up 20 from Wednesday. The latest hospitalization figures showed 813 West Virginians hospitalized, just five below the prior pandemic peak in January, with a record 252 in the ICU and 132 on ventilators.
Justice said Wednesday that West Virginia is leading the nation in the acceleration of COVID-19 cases.