CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued a warning, during Wednesday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing, to parents and older residents in the state.

The growing number of COVID deaths in the state’s older population and the hospitalization data related to children point to need for vaccinations for younger people and booster shoots for older residents, Justice said.

The governor also reported that there are now 876 inmates and 234 staff members in state jails and prisons, who are positive for COVID.

During his last briefing, Gov. Justice announced that he was joining with Republican governors from Tennessee and Virginia to request a waiver, from the CDC, for rural hospitals not have to abide by the federal vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.

Wednesday, calling it a “waiver from crazy mandates from the Biden administration,” Justice said that federal officials had responded to the letter, “which is amazing,” he said and wanted to talk. A discussion is scheduled for Thursday, Justice said, describing it as “major progress.” The governor quickly followed that up by saying: “I still stand rock solid behind the fact that you should be vaccinated. Absolutely, without any question, you should be vaccinated and you’re being absolutely headstrong foolish if you’re vaccinated and not get your booster shot.” Connecting that statement to the request for the hospital waiver, Justice said: “But we can’t let our hospitals close their doors.”

In a moment of levity, Justice mentioned that while Punxsutawney Phil had seen his shadow, Babydog is predicting an early spring. “Phil is wrong. We’re going to go with Babydog,” said the governor. Phil’s success rate is only 36%, Justice said, while Babydog nearly nailed last year’s Super Bowl prediction, Justice explained.