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Active COVID cases below 2K; Justice spends most of briefing railing against reporter

For the first time since summer, West Virginia has fewer than 2,000 active coronavirus cases.

During his Monday briefing, Gov. Jim Justice said the state clocked in at 1,909 active cases — with 1,085 new since the Department of Health & Human Resources’ last update on Friday.

The news was good, he said, a sign that the recent omicron surge is coming to its end. There are 404 people hospitalized — down from a peak of 1,098 last month. Of those, 100 are in ICUs and 50 on ventilators.

Justice reported 12 additional deaths since the last update, bringing the state’s toll to 6,452.

With cases easing, along with the strain to West Virginia’s hospitals, Gen. James Hoyer said National Guard members will end their mission as support staff, effective Friday.

The guard will be largely removed from COVID-related orders overall by the end of the month, he noted, with a few exceptions. They will move on to other non-pandemic missions here and abroad, he said.

Public health information took a back seat Monday to Justice’s fuming against an opinion piece by reporter Phil Kabler — with whom Justice has a long history of confrontation — in Sunday’s Charleston Gazette.

In it, Kabler places at least some of the blame for the state’s climbing death toll at Justice’s feet, maintaining the lack of mask mandates, required proof of vaccination and other measures has led to more fatalities than if those precautions had been taken. Justice’s “wishy-washy” messaging — you should get vaccinated, but I support you if you don’t — is partly responsible for the 5,340 deaths the state has seen since vaccines became readily and widely obtainable.

Justice said during the briefing that he plans to sue Kabler and the Gazette over the assertions.

He also said he wishes the train Kabler recently traveled on to California had been hijacked and Kabler kept in the Golden State.