How is that West Virginia’s billionaire governor got to jump ahead of the line when it comes to getting the Covid vaccine shot? He is said to have gotten it today while the coal miners — many of whom have black lung and can hardly breathe — will have to wait patiently for months.
Governor Jim Justice is 69 years old and is grotesquely overweight. He has said that older Americans should be the first in line and has said he wants to demonstrate to the general population that it is safe. But other governors in coal states have said they will wait their turn: Tennessee’s 61-year-old governor Bill Lee and Utah’s 73-year-old governor Gary Herbert have eschewed any political favoritism.
In West Virginia, according to the AP, nearly 1,000 have died from COVID while 130 people passed away last week. It has infected nearly 54,000 people in the state. Pfizer Inc.
And that brings us to the coal miners. The Ohio Valley Resource says that the first Covid cases were recorded by Consol Energy at a mine in Pennsylvania near the West Virginia border. Miners are considered essential workers because they dig the coal that is used to generate electricity. But to do so, they have to travel shoulder-to-shoulder underground. Not only can’t they socially distance from each other. But such underground mining conditions can also impact breathing.
Covid attacks the lungs. And so does black lung disease, which is from breathing in too much coal dust. Together, they are a deadly force. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that 20% of all coal miners have some form of black lung, as reported by the Ohio Valley Resource organization.
So why is it that Governor Justice can get ahead of these coal miners when it comes to getting vaccinated? This reporter is still waiting for a returned call from the governor’s press office and if it happens, the answer will get recorded for purposes of this story.
But the short answer is that the miners always get the shaft. And being a billionaire in a position of power gets you bumped to the front of the line.