Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia has tested positive for the coronavirus and is feeling “extremely unwell,” his office announced on Tuesday night.
While the governor is vaccinated and boosted, his office said in a statement, he awoke on Tuesday feeling congested, and soon developed a headache and fever. He took a rapid test that gave a negative result, but his symptoms worsened, including a high fever and what Mr. Justice described as “extremely elevated” blood pressure and heart rate. He then underwent a P.C.R. test on Tuesday evening, and when that test came back positive, he began receiving a course of monoclonal antibody treatment, the governor’s office said.
The statement did not indicate which variant of the virus Mr. Justice, a Republican, had. Many monoclonal antibody treatments developed before the appearance of the now-dominant Omicron variant are ineffective against it; those that do work against Omicron are in limited supply across the country.
“I have full confidence that Governor Justice will recover quickly, and it’s because he chose to receive the Covid-19 vaccine and his booster shot,” Dr. Clay Marsh, the dean of health sciences at West Virginia University and the state’s coronavirus czar, said in the statement. “Without the immunity afforded by those vaccines, his outcome could be much worse.”
The positive test result came just before the governor was to give the annual State of the State address to the West Virginia legislature, which will now be delivered in written form.
“While I was surprised that my test results came back positive, I’m thankful to the Lord above that I’ve been vaccinated, I’ve been boosted, and that I have an incredible support system, especially my loving family,” Mr. Justice said.
Though West Virginia set up a sweepstakes to encourage vaccinations, revolving around Mr. Justice’s pet Baby Dog, the state lags much of the country, with only a little more than half the population fully vaccinated. The average number of new cases reported in West Virginia each day has roughly tripled in the last two weeks, and is higher now than at any previous point in the pandemic. Nearly one in five coronavirus tests reported to the state are coming back positive.
The surge has strained hospital staffing to its limits. Members of the West Virginia National Guard are training to help in hospitals where staffing shortages are particularly dire. Since the pandemic began, 5,452 West Virginians have died of Covid-19.