MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice announced some good news about West Virginia’s vaccine program Friday. Then, a short time later, in response to an unrelated question from The Dominion Post, spent several minutes scolding the media for not reporting enough good news about West Virginia.
Justice also spent some time again defending his school- and sports-related decisions as about 50 student-athletes protested outside.
On the good news, Justice reported that the CDC’s COVID data tracker has a U.S. vaccination that shows West Virginia first in the nation for per-capita administration of initial vaccine doses. The map – at https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations – shows the state’s rate of first doses is 4,130 per 100,000 people. South Dakota is second at 3,774 per 100,000.
The map shows that West Virginia ranks second for total vaccine distribution at 7,046 per 100,000. Maine is first at 7,177.
Justice also mentioned the Bloomberg.com vaccine tracker, which appears to use the same data and a similar map, with some additional breakouts.
“Other states are dropping the ball all over the place,” he said.
The Domion Post’s two-part question dealt with a proposal to administer half doses of the Moderna vaccine to spread the supply and with the new South African mutant strain of the coronavirus.
“How much have we reported all of the great things that have happened in West Virginia,” he asked, and cited all the events and reports that The Dominion Post and other media have reported. “How do you feel about the fact that the nation continues to call West Virginia and say what are you doing in West Virginia? … Isn’t it a crying shame that the nation has to tell us how good we’re doing in our own state.”
Follow-up questions are allowed at the briefings, but two other reporters took the time to explain all the positive coverage the briefings have yielded, and Justice responded with essentially the same points.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh answered the actual questions. He said the half-dose proposal came from the leader of Operation Warp Speed, but Dr. Anthony Fauci and the FDA are sticking by the full dosage proven in the clinical trials and approved by the FDA in its emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The South African strain has generated much discussion. Marsh said this one and the U.K. strain both feature mutations of the spike proteins – also called corona proteins, prompting the name coronavirus – that affect the way the virus binds to the cells and allows the binding to be more efficient and enhance how it affects people.
Throughout the week, physicians were saying they didn’t know if the vaccines would cover the South African strain, though Pfizer said Friday it believes its vaccine will. Marsh said more generally, “These changes do appear to be covered by the vaccines.”
He noted that eight states, including Pennsylvania, have reported occurrences of the U.K. strain.
“We know that these mutant viruses, which are easier to cause transmission, to infect person to person, are an additional challenge for all of us in the U.S.” And make it all the more important to get vaccinated, wear masks and exercise all the precautions.
Justice was doing his daily reading of the death toll – 73 more deaths since Wednesday, bringing the total to 1,554 – and paused at number 1,500 to comment on the student-athletes outside. They were protesting the decision to delay winter sports to March.
He alleged that adults put the kids up to assembling outside, many without masks, yelling “Let us play!”
He said, “I find it completely terrible to think … I’ve just read the 1500thname and I’ve still got 54 names to read today.”
School doesn’t resume until Jan. 19, he said, and the demand is silly. “They can yell all they want. They can yell and bark at the moon all they want. But I am telling you without any question, we’re doing the right thing here. First and foremost we need to be in school.”
And kids will get to play sports as soon as possible, he said. ‘I ask people just to give us some time.”
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