Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held another news briefing this week to update the public on the State’s latest pandemic response efforts.
During the briefing, Gov. Justice reported that the total number of active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia has now reached 1,656; nearly double the number of active cases seen throughout the state less than three weeks ago.
“That is significantly up,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s not good.”
“We’re back above 100 people that are hospitalized and we have 47 people in our ICUs,” Gov. Justice continued. “We have no Red counties, but we have one Orange county, seven Gold counties, and 12 Yellow counties.”
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out,” Gov. Justice added. “People are wondering about the Delta variant; if it’s going to come here and if things are going to get worse. Just look at the map. It tells us everything. We need to keep our guard up.”
Gov. Justice went on to report that there are now 43 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant in West Virginia, up from 35 such cases as of his previous briefing on Thursday last week.
The 43 Delta variant cases have been identified in 19 West Virginia counties: Berkeley, Braxton, Gilmer, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Harrison, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marion, McDowell, Mineral, Monongalia, Morgan, Raleigh, Summers, Upshur, Webster, Wetzel, and Wyoming counties.
“We are very much hoping that people do choose vaccination,” Dr. Marsh continued. “It’s important.”
West Virginia Joint Interagency Task Force Director Jim Hoyer also made remarks Tuesday, noting that the vast majority of critical illness and death in West Virginia COVID-19 patients is being seen among the unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated.
“If we just look at the month of June, 91% of the people in West Virginia who are hospitalized have not had their full vaccination or had no vaccination at all, while 88% of the deaths in West Virginia are among people who have not been vaccinated,” Hoyer said.
“Only 29% of West Virginia children age 12-17 are fully vaccinated,” Hoyer continued. “For age 18-29, it’s only 36%, and it’s not much better for West Virginians age 30-39 and 40-49.”During his remarks, State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh noted that 88,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported across the United States yesterday alone.
“During the month of July, the number of new cases has quadrupled in the United States,” Dr. Marsh said. “We know that the Delta variant, in the United States, is responsible for the overwhelming number of new cases.”
“Our young people are still lagging behind,” Gov. Justice said. “You absolutely need to get your vaccine.”
Hoyer added, “I know most people are familiar with me from my over 40 years of military service, particularly the last 15 working in leadership roles with the National Guard responding to state emergencies. I think I’m someone that West Virginians trust. I’m trying to reinforce to all of you, if you are still hesitant, reach out to a medical professional and understand the value and the importance of the vaccine. Please quit following the misinformation that’s out there, particularly across the Internet and on social media sites. Talk to someone who is a medical professional, consider getting your children vaccinated, and consider getting vaccinated yourself.”
Dr. Marsh pointed out that, with case numbers climbing once again, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is once again considering measures to mitigate the spread as much as possible.
“The CDC is now reconsidering recommending masking for people – even if they are fully vaccinated – in certain parts of the country; particularly parts with really high amounts of virus,” Dr. Marsh said. “There’s also a really critical look that’s being done now at the amount of antibodies that are present at about six months or so after the initial vaccination and the determination whether it might be wise to consider another vaccination or an augmented next vaccine that will have more activity against variants like the Delta variant.”
Gov. Justice went on to say that, while he is not currently considering reinstating any face covering requirements at this time, he will continue to listen to the advice of the state’s leading medical experts as the situation continues to evolve.
“I do not think that we’re on the threshold of moving in that direction today, but we’ve all got to be smart enough to be open-minded and know that, as we continue to watch and listen to the experts, we have to always remain open-minded as to what to do,” Gov. Justice said. “I hope and pray that we do not slip back into the situation where we have to revisit things like masks or whatever it may be. We’ve been through enough.
“But we can avoid every bit of that if you’ll just step up,” Gov. Justice added. “We’ve got to get people vaccinated.”