(Charleston, WV) – West Virginia Senate Democrats oppose a special session of the West Virginia Legislature banning COVID mitigation efforts, which would undermine public health at the very height of the COVID pandemic.
“Right now, COVID is running wilder than a forest fire across West Virginia. Our transmission rates are the highest in the nation, hospitals are at capacity, and our people are dying,” said Senator Ron Stollings, MD, a physician from Boone County. “Alarmingly, there are 423 babies and toddlers 4 and under who have been infected with COVID in the past 7 days.”
At the COVID news conference on Wednesday, Governor Jim Justice announced that West Virginia has the fastest growing number of new COVID cases in the nation, with 252 patients in ICU, the highest number since the pandemic began. According to the West Virginia DHHR, 87% of new cases have not been vaccinated.
“We are at the point where West Virginians who need the ER after a car wreck or a farming accident could be turned away because our ERs and ICUs are overrun with COVID cases,” said Senator Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier). “Public health and medical leaders need our steadfast support right now.”
While Senate Democrats support enhanced public safety measures, some Republicans in the West Virginia State House and Senate have been pushing for a special session to ban COVID mitigation measures in the state. They advocate for “medical freedom.”
“With freedom comes great responsibility,” said Stollings. “As leaders, we have a responsibility to protect West Virginians who cannot be vaccinated, including our precious children.”
Stollings said that so far, the COVID variants have been sensitive to the vaccine. Yet, the science and history of pandemics show that the more a virus mutates, the more likely it will gain strength.
“The mutations of COVID could easily reach a time where our life-saving vaccines lose effectiveness and then this pandemic will continue,” said Stollings. “We need herd immunity as soon as possible to protect West Virginians, especially our elderly and children.”
Currently, Senate Democrats do not support a special session of the West Virginia Legislature banning COVID mitigation measures.
“We should be calling a special session to support public health and our hospitals, clinics, doctors, and nurses,” said Senator Rich Lindsay (D-Kanawha). “Plus, we should stay out of the way of state business owners who want to protect their employees and customers.”
Stollings said that the vaccines are the best tool we have against COVID. He believes that if given solid medical information, West Virginians will make the right decision for the safety of themselves and their family.
“I tell my patients that every medical decision you make has risks and benefits,” said Stollings. “The risks of this vaccine are exceedingly low, and the benefits are sky-high.”