Focus on positive but remain vigilant against the spread
During the governor’s Christmas Day COVID-19 briefing, the panel expressed wishes for a happy holiday, thanks for front line workers, and continued pleas for West Virginians to remain vigilant against the virus.
Perhaps most indicative of the complicated feelings swirling on Christmas 2020, Gov. Jim Justice opened the press conference — which featured no question-and-answer period Friday — by bidding residents “the merriest Christmas you can have,” before counting through 55 new deaths since the group gathered Wednesday.
The fatalities ranged in age from 51 to 94.
More grim numbers on the holiday: There were 1,597 new cases in the last 24 hours. The daily positivity rate is 8%, while cumulative is 4.54%. There are nearly 24,000 active cases, with 702 people hospitalized, 181 in ICU beds and 77 on ventilators. The state’s Rt factor — which indicates the rate of spread — is now the second worst in the country, Justice said, at 1.19.
Of the state’s 55 counties, 49 of them are designated either red or orange right now.
Dr. Ayne Amjad reminded people that while there is a lot of focus on the vaccine, the virus is still very much here. Avoiding gatherings is best throughout the holiday season. If you must get together, she said, keep masks on, maintain at least 6 feet of distance and keep visits short.
But one mustn’t focus solely on the negative, Justice said.
Instead, part of honoring the meaning of Christmas means taking the time to extend one’s heartfelt thanks to the many frontline workers of the pandemic, from health care professionals to grocery and convenience store clerks, nursing home staff, DHHR and health department employees, and, of course, Justice noted, the members of the West Virginia National Guard.
“They’re out there today working so hard for all of us,” Justice said.
To illustrate the point, Major General James Hoyer listed some numbers of his own. More than 28,000 doses of the vaccine have already been administered, he said, with an additional 35,000-plus distributed and scheduled for administration soon.
Justice noted all 214 longterm care facilities in the state should be vaccinated by Monday.
Focusing on those positive numbers was key for State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh on Christmas Day.
While the briefings often concentrate on the trials and challenges of the pandemic — which are many — there are also more than a few reasons to be grateful this holiday, he said.
Family, friends, the talented experts he’s been lucky enough to serve with on the panel.
But most of all, he stressed, we should focus together on how lucky we are to live in a state with such “incredible people.”
We must continue to put altruism first, he said, not just on Christmas, but beyond. It is through our commitment to protecting others that West Virginia will create its legacy moving forward.
Justice echoed the sentiment in his closing remarks — given with his bulldog, Baby Dog, in his lap.
The thanks, he said, “needs to go to all the people out there who crawl out of bed every day knowing they’re going right into the fire.”
And for those struggling this holiday, he issued more words of togetherness.
“We’re with ya,”he said. “You’re not alone. God bless you in each and every way.”