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Justice raises stakes on his get-vaccinated plea: Mom tells story of her MMA-fighter son who refused vax, is now on ventilator

MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice aimed to up the impact of his ongoing plea to get vaccinated, drawing on the testimony of a Kanawha County mother and a prominent physician during his Monday COVID-19 briefing.

Linda Lanier appeared via Zoom and told the story of her son, Joey Goodnite: a well-know barber, general manager of the Kanawha Falls Public Service District and MMA fighter, a big man, age 40, in great physical shape.

On July 16, she said, they took a trip to a crowded setting where — this was before the big Delta surge — no one was wearing a mask. Lanier, her husband and Joey all subsequently got COVID, but they were vaccinated and Joey wasn’t.

“Joey chose not to be vaccinated because he listened to all the negative and false accusations about vaccinations,” she said.

He’s still hospitalized, still on a ventilator, sedated and fighting for his life, she said. Before he got so sick he couldn’t talk, he urged everyone he talked to to get vaccinated.

“This COVID is a monster,” she said, urging people not to rely on social media and hearsay to get their information about vaccines. Talk to your physician or people who know the facts.

Joey’s physician is Dr. Tom Takubo, who is also a conservative Republican and state Senate majority leader. Takubo was with Justice at the briefing.

Takubo said Lanier’s story is not unique. Doctors and nurses have had to live it over and over again.

“This is a pandemic primarily of the unvaccinated,” he said.

He echoed Lanier’s message: Be careful about what information you take in; talk to the people who know. “The media is so toxic these days. … The one thing I’m seeing is the vaccine does work.”

In Justice’s regular reading of the COVID deaths, he made special note of the youngest victim on Monday’s list: a 29-year-old woman from Fayette County. COVID is no longer a disease primarily affecting the elderly anymore, he said.

While upping the stake on his vaccination plea, he again said he won’t issue any mask or vaccine orders. “I’m adamantly against mandating.”

Monday’s numbers showed 27,607 total active cases, with all-time highs for hospitalizations, ICU beds occupied, and people on ventilators: 852, 267 and 162, respectively. Turning to the county map, he pointed out, “For the most part our whole state is blazing red.”

Takubo took another turn, saying many people fear vaccination side effects. But he and his colleagues have seen no vaccine-related issues, while people who’ve had COVID are seeing effects lasting as long as five months, and the long-term effects of COVID are still unknown.

The Dominion Post raised the question of prominent doctors and political figures supporting the anti-vax message on national media, and asked Justice how he can fight that.

“All I can possibly do is come here and tell you over and over what I know is the truth,” he said. His COVID team speaks during every briefing, urging vaccinations. “I don’t know how you do it any other way. … It is terribly frustrating. It’s either throw in the towel and wish everybody good luck or keep coming before you and telling you what is the truth.”

He said that just outside his office, a group of people was protesting the Biden mandate in favor of free choice. “I concur 100 percent but that the same time they all need to be vaccinated.”

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh explained a bit more about third doses and boosters as the Sept. 20 date approaches when the federal government will allow boosters of the Pfizer vaccine.

While most use the terms booster and third dose interchangeably, he said, they’re not quite the same.

People who are immunocompromised and need additional protection are now eligible for a third dose, he said. And 10,395 had received a third dose as of Monday morning.

Boosters, he said, will be offered because the data shows that the Pfizer vaccine decreases in potency after about six months. Israel was seeing breakthrough cases among those over 60 after six months, and by providing boosters was able to decrease breakthroughs and the number of vaccinated people getting sick and being hospitalized.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp EMAIL