CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS) — There is no doubt that COVID-19 is once again at the top of everyone's mind. As we all try to navigate the daily twists and turns of the pandemic, Eyewitness News recently had the chance to speak one on one with West Virginia U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito to get her thoughts on a variety of topics, including the pandemic, and our response to it.
With the country getting ready to start another year with COVID-19 spreading, the way Americans are responding to the ongoing pandemic is as diverse as the country itself. Some are cautious. Some are anxious. Some are downright scared. Some are just worn out by it all.
No solution is perfect, and any is debatable, but Capito believes there is one thing everyone can do, echoing the mantra of almost everyone in public health - get the shot.
"The statistics show that 90% of those in the hospital right now are unvaccinated. That should be enough to make you say, ‘I'll get the shot,’” Capito said.
"I think it makes sense in like a hospital setting, but as for the president mandating that all businesses do it, I'm totally against that,” Capito said.
On Jan. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court will debate the constitutionality of the president's mandate, set to take effect three days later. This all comes just weeks after President Biden told governors that there is no federal solution to COVID.
Capito thinks that type of clunky communication from public health officials has led to distrust among some.
"The CDC has such mixed messaging at the start, and I think that a lot didn’t know what to do, and then it got politicized. That's where I think West Virginia has done a really good job. Gov. Justice and Clay Marsh have been on TV, ad nauseam, every day, letting people know what was going on. That's why we were doing so well getting vaxxed, we've dropped off a bit, but I don't think you can say it's from lack of information,” Capito said.
It's not all doom and gloom. What is not debatable is that the mRNA vaccines provide a tremendous benefit for those who are at high risk, drastically lowering the severity of symptoms. That is the definition of saving lives. The reality is, we are most likely going to have to figure out how to live with this, while keeping an eye on the hospital capacity issues.
"ER backlogs, elective surgery been put on hold, and in some cases. people having to wait because they just don't have the staff. It's a concern. And then there's just the fatigue from our health care workers. We really should all be thanking them for what they've done," Capito said.
The senator said she believes in the resilience of West Virginia and its people, and that we will get through this together.
Meanwhile, with 2021 drawing to a close, many are looking ahead to what the new year will offer. Capito gave her thoughts on what she has planned legislatively, and what issues her constituents can expect to see her work on in the coming year.
2022 will undoubtedly be another eventful year in our nation's capital and Capito believes it will unfold in a very different environment, predicting a big shakeup in Washington, D.C.
"People's pocketbooks drive their votes in West Virginia. People are feeling the squeeze with inflation, supply, lower wages. I think you'll see nationally a change in the House of Representatives, for sure, in leadership and also in the U.S. Senate. I think that will be telling about the economics of where we are," Capito said.
As for the issues she intends to tackle, the senator said the thing she wants to focus on is “broadband deployment and also roads and bridges and the water. Water is an issue across the state, so there's lots to be done there and I want to make sure it's done right. And I'm on the committee to be able to do that."
Capito is also concerned about the immigration crisis, with records being broken monthly.
"We have got to secure the southern border. Talk about drugs, that's where they are all coming from. We have 180,000 people a month crossing out border illegally,” she said.
To address the issue, she said believes there needs to be a crackdown on asylum claims.
“You don't send signals that if you come with a family you automatically go into the United States. You turn single people back quickly and say we are going to look at your asylum claim but you are going to stay in your home country while we do it,” Capito said.
But more than anything, what Capito hopes to see in 2022 is results, which she said will take something we haven't seen much of lately in Washington - compromise.
"I think hopefully we get some bipartisan wins done. That was one thing about the bipartisan infrastructure package. People were really happy that we were working together, and you're like, ‘Isn't that what you're supposed to do?’ So I look forward to next year. I think it's going to be a good year," she said.
One thing you won't see in 2022 is the name Shelley Moore Capito on a ballot, or Joe Manchin for that matter. Neither of West Virginia's U.S. senators is up for election this year. Manchin will next be on the ballot in 2024, Capito in 2026.