West Virginia Gov. Justice, a vaccine advocate, feels 'extremely unwell' amid COVID-19 battle

He is enduring a high fever and a skyrocketing blood pressure and heart rate.

January 12, 2022, 10:37 AM

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican who's strongly advocated for vaccines, has tested positive for COVID-19, enduring a high fever and extremely elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

Justice, who is vaccinated and boosted, said he sought out tests Tuesday following a "sudden onset of symptoms."

The governor's office described his symptoms as "moderate," but Justice -- who was set to give his State of the State address Wednesday -- wrote that he feels "extremely unwell."

"I feel extremely unwell at this point, and I have no choice but to postpone my State of the State address to the Legislature," he said in a statement Tuesday. "I woke up this morning with congestion and a cough. A little while later, I developed a headache and fever, so I decided to get tested right away."

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice celebrates his reelection at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Nov. 3, 2020.
Chris Jackson/AP, FILE

"The rapid test that I took came back negative, but by the late afternoon, my symptoms were still getting much worse," the governor said. "My blood pressure and heart rate were extremely elevated, and I had a high fever. Finally, my PCR test results this evening confirmed I was positive."

Justice, one of many West Virginia residents testing positive amid a surge the state health department called "unprecedented," has long pushed for vaccines and boosters, but is against mask mandates.

Last week, as COVID-19 cases in West Virginia skyrocketed, Justice said, "I absolutely do not think it's time to put in a mask mandate," according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

In this Jan. 8, 2020 file photo West Virginia Governor Jim Justice delivers his annual State of the State address in the House Chambers at the state capitol, in Charleston, W.Va.
Chris Jackson/AP, FILE

But last week, Justice continued his endorsement of vaccines, telling reporters he sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allow West Virginia to immediately start offering fourth doses to some at-risk residents.

"First of all, it'll save a bunch, bunch, bunch more lives. That's all there is to it," Justice said. "But secondly, right behind that, we're going to end up with a run on our hospitals like you can't imagine ... without any question, we're going to have people sitting outside the emergency room in their cars, with a stroke or a heart attack, that can't even get into the hospital."

Justice has also denounced conspiracy theories. In September 2021, Justice gave his microphone to a mother who said her son was hospitalized because he listened to misinformation "garbage."

As Justice battles COVID-19, he's now isolating at home and receiving a monoclonal antibody treatment per his doctors' recommendation, his office said.

Everyone in close contact with the governor is being notified and West Virginia First Lady Cathy Justice tested negative Tuesday evening, his office said.

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