CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday resumed his weekly briefings on the coronavirus, six days after he tested positive for COVID-19.
Justice’s return coincided with the state surpassing 20,000 confirmed cases of the virus over a one-week period for the first time.
The Republican governor, 70, developed a headache and high fever and was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Jan. 11, forcing him to call off his State of the State speech to the Legislature the next day. Justice, who is fully vaccinated, received a monoclonal antibody treatment as recommended by his physician.
“At my age and weight and whatever it may be, you know, I’ve always been healthy as a horse but, you know, to be perfectly honest, this could have been really, really bad,” Justice said at the briefing.
People who were in close contact with Justice were notified. His wife, first lady Cathy Justice, and the governor’s office staff tested negative.
“Through those first couple of days, it was really nasty stuff,” Justice said. “There’s no point in acting macho about it, … it was tough. It was really tough stuff.”
For the week ending Sunday, West Virginia reported more than 20,200 positive COVID-19 cases, 18% higher than the record of about 17,100 confirmed cases set the previous week. There were 854 people hospitalized for the virus Monday, according to health figures.
Justice has constantly pushed residents to seek vaccines. Soon after they were approved for use a year ago, West Virginia briefly led the nation in getting people the shots. But only about half of the state’s 1.8 million residents are fully vaccinated.
Justice opposed the federal government’s attempt to force employees at large businesses to get a vaccine or test regularly. He pushed a bill through the Legislature in October to allow certain medical and religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates of companies.