Healthcare, Latest News, State Government

COVID numbers keep improving; state marks another budget surplus for January

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers keep getting better and the state budget continues to thrive.

Gov. Jim Justice said during his Monday briefing that the state has seen its active COVID cases decline for 16 straight days. From a peak of 29,257 on Jan. 10, the number was 20,615 on Monday.

Hospitalizations have dropped from a peak of 818 on Jan. 5 to 438 on Monday, with ICU cases falling from 219 on Jan. 6 to 118 on Monday.

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said the reason we’re not seeing the expected post-Christmas surge is partly due to people taking the right precautions, such as wearing masks, but also because the state vaccination program has been working,

Monday’s vaccine figures showed 194,488 first doses administered out of 179,900 first doses received. Again, that 108.1% administration figure has been possible because many vials – mostly Pfizer’s – contain six doses instead of the expected five.

Joint Interagency Task Force Director James Hoyer said those extra doses are possible because of a lot of behind-the-scenes work. When they learned about the potential extra doses, they ordered extra syringes to put them in the vaccine kits before the federal government caught up.

A recent shipment of federal kits contained smaller syringes but the state had previously ordered 100,000 syringes with the larger needles and they’re replacing the smaller ones. Without those larger needles they wouldn’t be able to get the extra doses out of the Moderna vaccines.

With the Super Bowl coming up on Sunday, Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad advised people to stay in close family and friend groups to watch it, to avoid the potential exposure problem of big parties.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Marsh will testify before Congress at the invitation of Rep. David McKinley, R-W. Va. He will testify at an Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing titled “No Time to Lose: Solutions to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations in the States.”

Asked about that, Marsh said he’s pleased to be able to represent the state and talk about the innovation and teamwork that has led to the successful program here and help others learn from it. “I’m very much looking forward to this opportunity to represent this great state, our great team.”

It’s also an opportunity to work with other states, Congress and the White House to bring the best solutions to the residents of West Virginia, he said.

The budget

Justice called the latest state economic news “off the charts.”

January’s revenue collections of $447.7 million were $46.6 million above estimate and 1.6% above January 2020 receipts, he said.

Fiscal year-to-date collections, from July 1 through Jan. 31, he said, were $173.8 million above estimates and $4.7 million above this time last fiscal year. “And last year, at this point in time, we really didn’t hardly even know what COVID was all about.”

And that figure doesn’t include $200 million of July income tax collections not counted in that $173.8 million surplus. “We have a cash surplus in this state right now that is extremely healthy, extremely large.”

Asked about his feelings on the stimulus packages being debated in Washington, D.C., Justice said it’s time to help Americans who are struggling, period.
“America can’t go wrong with going too high,” he said of the relief package offered. “We should go with the bigger number.”

TWEET David Beard@dbeardtdp