Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held another news briefing on Wednesday to update the public on the State’s latest pandemic response efforts.
During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice reported that the state’s total number of active cases has continued to drop. However, as expected, the number of West Virginians in the hospital with severe cases continues to hold near peak levels for now.
There are now 13,344 active cases statewide; down more than 1,100 cases since the Governor’s previous briefing on Monday.
The active case count is down by 16,400 cases since peaking just 12 days ago, dropping more than 55% in less than two weeks.
“There’s every reason to believe we’re right in the eye of the storm. We’re right at the peak of the surge right now,” Gov. Justice said. “I keep reminding everybody all across this wonderful state that the way we can curb this once and for all is by getting vaccinated.”
Meanwhile, the state continues to see a small downward trend in the number of COVID-related hospitalizations, dropping to 974 from 978 on Monday.
The number of patients in ICUs has once again set a new all-time peak of 298. However, the number of patients on ventilators has dropped slightly to 187 from 193 on Monday.
State health experts say that, with the overall case count dropping, the number of severe cases should begin declining as well in the weeks ahead.
The statewide death toll from COVID-19 has reached 3,642, with 74 more deaths being reported since the Governor’s previous briefing on Monday, 38 of which were as a result of the DHHR’s reconciliation process with official death certificates.
The County Alert System map continues to show slow but steady improvement. A total of 45 of the state’s 55 counties are in either the highest-risk Red category or one step below in the Orange category. However, the map now features four counties in the Green category. “Our young people need to get vaccinated,” Gov. Justice said. “The weather is going to get bad soon and we’re going to stay inside. With this Delta variant being highly infectious and us being inside, the likelihood of unvaccinated kids ending up with COVID is pretty dadgum high, and the possibility of adverse effects from COVID on our kids is real.
“If you’re a parent, I just don’t see how in the world you don’t decide to get your kids vaccinated,” Gov. Justice continued. “Even if you choose not to get vaccinated yourself, your kids depend on you. This vaccine is incredibly safe and it will help all of us.”
With the percentage of fully vaccinated residents hospitalized for COVID-19 slowly creeping higher in recent weeks, Gov. Justice took time during his briefing Wednesday to encourage all West Virginians to determine if they qualify for a booster dose and then get one if they are eligible.
“We continue to see a slow rise in the rate of people that are hospitalized who were vaccinated,” Gov. Justice said. “What does that tell us? It tells us that the vaccine is wearing off, and if you can get that booster shot, it’s what you should be doing.”
West Virginians who received specifically the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may qualify for the booster shot if it has been at least six months since their second dose.
The CDC recommends that:
- People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings SHOULD receive a booster shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their second dose of Pfizer.
- People age 50-64 years with *underlying medical conditions SHOULD receive a booster shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their second dose of Pfizer.
- People age 18-49 years with *underlying medical conditions MAY receive a booster shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their second Pfizer dose, based on their individual benefits and risks.
- People age 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting MAY receive a booster shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their second Pfizer dose, based on their individual benefits and risks.
* Underlying medical conditions: State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh noted last week that the list of underlying medical conditions that would qualify an individual to receive the booster shot is extremely broad and includes anybody who is overweight, has high blood pressure, is a current or former smoker, has heart or lung conditions, is diabetic, is pregnant, has liver or kidney disease, has received a transplant, has cancer, has substance use disorder, has HIV, has had a stroke or other brain disorder, has dementia or other neurologic disease, has Down Syndrome, has sickle cell anemia, and more.
On Friday last week, Gov. Justice announced that pandemic response teams were already on the move getting booster shots to at-risk residents following their long-awaited federal approval.
If you are eligible for the booster shot, you can go to any location offering COVID-19 vaccines with your vaccination card to receive the booster. If your card has been lost, you can request a new one from the DHHR.
“Our boosters are open. Take advantage, West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “It will also help take some level of stress off of our hospitals. We do not want to get in a situation where we’ve overloaded our hospitals and we can’t even take care of people that are having heart attacks or strokes or whatever it may be.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that, per the West Virginia Department of Education, there are currently 72 school outbreaks in 26 counties with 831 confirmed cases.
A total of 54 county school systems have either face covering requirements or a criteria for requiring face coverings. Only one county – Pocahontas County – does not have a face covering requirement at this time.
There is now just one active outbreak associated with a church throughout West Virginia. The church is located in Wayne County.
Meanwhile, there are now 77 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state.
Additionally, there are now 260 active inmate cases and 66 active staff cases across the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation system.
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