West Liberty welcomes Governor Justice and Babydog to campus for surprise giveaway visit


Samantha Snyder

A graphic of the WLU COVID-19 update made by Samantha Snyder.

On Thursday, Sept. 23, West Liberty University (WLU) welcomed West Virginia’s beloved Babydog to our campus and Governor Jim Justice.

With gifts in tow, the gubernatorial duo visited the Northern Panhandle to award WLU freshman, Kassidy Wolfe, a chemistry major, a new luxury sports car, all in thanks to Justice’s “Do it for Babydog” COVID-19 vaccination incentive program. Wolfe was not alone in the surprise gift visit as two other residents of the Northern Panhandle, Homer Pierce of Weirton and Travis Bayes of Wheeling, were lucky enough to receive gifts from the incentive program. Pierce was awarded a cash-prize of $40,000 and Bayes received a Yamaha Grizzly ATV for choosing to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. All three individuals received these prizes at WLU’s track and soccer field.

Justice opened his presentation by addressing those in attendance on the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations and “how equally important it is to not harshly judge those who choose not to be vaccinated,” as stated in an article by the Wheeling News-Register, The Intelligencer. Justice was quoted in saying that while it is ultimately up to the individual if they choose to get vaccinated or not, at the end of the day, it’s a fact of “the more who are vaccinated the less who are going to die.”

In an article published by Eyewitness News, Justice addressed the state of West Virginia and stated that he feels the COVID-19 surge currently seen within the state is at its peak. “I do believe we’re at the peak of the surge, just like being in the eye of the hurricane… but I really believe that there’s a really good chance that we’re going to start down, but we really haven’t started down yet. We’re still really just hanging in there right at the peak,” said Justice.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 29, WLU reported that 86% of its faculty and staff, encompassing all employed by the university, are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with 53% of the student population having been fully vaccinated. Echoing the sentiments of Gov. Justice, university president, Dr. W. Franklin Evans, expressed his gratitude to those who have received the vaccine and continue to follow WLU’s pandemic safety protocol, encouraging those who have not yet been vaccinated to consider doing so. “We continue to encourage our students, staff, and faculty to protect themselves and others against COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated, if they haven’t already,” as quoted from a COVID-19 update email sent to all WLU students. As of Sept. 27, 93 unvaccinated students had been tested, with 2 resulting in positive cases, as well as 1 positive employee COVID-19 report.

As of Friday, Oct. 1, at 10 a.m, West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources revealed that 52 more deaths have been caused by COVID-19 and 1,645 new positive cases have been reported. With active cases within the state sitting at around 14,000, there were 958 COVID-19 patients in West Virginia hospitals, of which include 269 in intensive care units and 171 on ventilators. While Governor Justice noted that the majority of these hospitalizations are for unvaccinated patients, this is not always the case. “The amount that are in the hospital that are vaccinated continues to creep up a little bit, but what does that tell us? It tells us that we need to get the boosters,” said Justice.

Reading through the ages and home counties of 80 West Virginia residents who have recently passed away due to COVID-19, the governor reminded the audience that out state has seen 3,722 COVID-19 deaths in total, and pleaded that West Virginia residents need to go and get vaccinated, encouraging those already protected to get a booster shot to aid in their defense against the virus.

Currently, COVID-19 vaccinations are available for free to all West Virginia residents ages 12 and older; those who are interested in receiving their vaccination are encouraged to visit vaccinate.wv.gov or call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line at 1-833-734-0965. The info line is open from Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.