Fairmont Medical Center being activated for COVID overflow
MORGANTOWN – The statewide online vaccine scheduling system will go live at 8 a.m. Monday, Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday.
At that time, people age 65 and up will be able to register and get in the vaccine queue at vaccinate.wv.gov or by calling the vaccine hotline at 833-734-0965.
The platform is being set up by Everbridge, a company that provides notification systems for fires, floods and hurricanes. It’s based in Boston and Los Angeles and a visit to its website shows current COVID-19 thrust.
Justice said West Virginia is the first state to turn on Everbridge’s alert system. “This will keep people from having to call time and time and time again.”
Registrants will get a confirmation message after they sign up and will be updated regularly via text, phone or email, whichever method they prefer.
Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said those who’ve already signed up through their county health department will not need to re-register. Those lists will be merged with the Everbridge list and people will keep their priority.
Answering a question about why a person age 70 in perfect health might get priority under the current plan over someone under 65 with poor health and all the risk factors, COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said age is the primary risk factor but they do want to also care for other vulnerable people.
This would include, he said, people 55 and up with preexisting conditions, people from vulnerable racial or ethnic groups and young people with such things as morbid obesity.
They’re on “that strategic path,” he said but the key is getting enough vaccines. Crouch added that the Everbridge system will allow registrants to receive priority based on underlying conditions.
Marsh also noted that COVID marked its one-year anniversary in the U.S. On Thursday. On Jan. 21, 2020, the first COVID case was reported in Washington state.
Fairmont Medical Center activated
Justice said Monongalia, Marion and Harrison counties have the three highest infection rates in the state and the WVU Medicine hospitals in Morgantown and Clarksburg are exceeding their patient capacity, causing people to delay care. Therefore, Fairmont Medical Center has been activated as a COVID overflow hospital.
The hospital has 42 COVID beds available there and WVUM will had 65 staff members to care for patients there.
Other COVID news
Justice announced 15 community vaccination clinics for health care workers to be held Friday and Saturday. The closest one to Morgantown will be in Harrison County.
Also, by Feb 1, he said, the state will expand the community vaccination clinic model to all 55 counties to make sure vaccine supplies reach every corner of the state.
Marsh cautioned that even those who receive two vaccine doses and wait the two weeks to be fully immunized still need to wear masks – unless they’re certain everyone they’re with also is immune. The current data shows that people who’ve been vaccinated can still carry the virus in their noses and spread it to others.
Answering a question, Justice related his call with President Biden’s COVID team leader, Jeff Zients, which occurred at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, not long after Biden was sworn in.
He told Zients West Virginia needs 120,000 doses a week and gets only 23,000. Commenting on that request, Justice said, “You don’t get 120,000 if you don’t ask for it.”
Zients asked Justice how fast the state could get shots in \to everyone above 65 and Justice told him that by Feb. 7 they’d be done.
Justice said Zients was astounded by that and asked him what West Virginia could do with an unlimited supply. Under that scenario, Justice told him, every person in the state would have their first shot on fby Feb. 7. “He sat there kind of dumbfounded.”
Justice also reminded Zients that West Virginia has the most chronically ill and one of the oldest populations in the nation and that should be factored in to our supply.