West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice Warns of 'Lining the Body Bags Up' if People Don't Get Vaxxed

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice warned of "lining the body bags up" if people do not get vaccinated against COVID-19 amid rising cases in the state during a press conference Friday.

About 45.4 percent of all West Virginians have been fully vaccinated against the virus, making it among the least-vaccinated states in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University. As with the rest of the country, the state has seen an uptick in COViD-19 cases since July.

On Friday, the state had a 7-day average of 1,933 new cases per day. On July 1, that number was only 49, according to the Johns Hopkins data.

Justice, a Republican who has long been a supporter of the COVID-19 vaccine, reiterated that he encourages West Virginians to take the vaccine, calling it "the only thing" in his "arsenal" that will alleviate the situation in the state, which reported an "overwhelming" 74 new COVID-19 deaths Friday.

"We're going to run to the fire and get vaccinated right now, or we're going to pile the body bags up until we reach a point in time to where we have enough people that have natural immunities and enough people that are vaccinated," he said.

Justice warned that if people do not get vaccinated, "they'll keep dying" and "we're just going to keep lining the body bags up and we're going to line them up and line them up."

Still, Justice does not plan to issue a vaccine mandate for workers, as the federal government has done. In August, he remarked that "local control is working, and it is working in a good fashion."

At the time, the Republican leader showed frustration over the unvaccinated. "It's too late, West Virginia. It's too late for you to decide, you know, 'Oh, we should have gotten vaccinated.' You can't stop this now, what's happened in West Virginia. But you can still save your own life, or lives that are around you, by getting vaccinated."

Governor Jim Justice
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice reiterated his encouragement for his state to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as cases increase—and the state remains among the lowest vaccinated. Here, he is seen at the Greenbrier Resort in August 2010. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Justice criticized unproven anti-vaccination claims in a press conference earlier in September, asking: "Why in the world do we have to come up with these crazy ideas—and they're crazy ideas—that the vaccine's got something in it and its tracing people wherever they go?"

West Virginia also incentivized citizens to get vaccinated using an assortment of prizes, including the chance to win a million dollars.

Newsweek reached out to Justice's office for comment Saturday morning but had not heard back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.