MORGANTOWN — Along with the United Kingdom and California COVID-19 variants, a strain originating in South Africa has made its way into West Virginia.
“We just found out that in Berkeley County, we now have a case of the South African variant,” Gov. Jim Justice said during his Friday briefing. “It is in 36 states across our nation, but now it is in West Virginia.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the South African variant or B.1.351, is a genetic mutation that makes the virus more transmittable. COVID-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said the variant also appears to be more resistant to natural antibodies produced after recovering from COVID-19.
The rise in variants and the corresponding uptick in illness among younger and younger people only highlights just how critical it is to get as many people vaccinated as possible, Justice said, adding the rate of transmission is highest among the state’s younger population.
“I’m calling upon all West Virginia. I’m calling on the parents and grandparents to step up and tell your children, ages 16 to 35 years of age, we have got to get you vaccinated. We have got to get you vaccinated and get you vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he said.
Justice said the state surpassed the 1 million doses administered threshold since his Wednesday briefing and reiterated the state’s willingness to bring the shots to the people, upon request.
“We can go to businesses. We can go to churches. We can go to ball teams, We can go to schools. We are begging people to give us arms to put these shots in,” he said.
The state lost 15 more residents to COVID-19 since Wednesday and had 7,084 active cases at the time of Friday’s briefing. That number includes eight long-term care facility outbreaks and outbreaks in seven church communities across six counties. There are currently three red counties – Boone, Raleigh and Berkeley.
In other news from Friday’s briefing, Justice offered condolences to the family of Charles “Chuck” Wesley Miller, who spent nearly 30 years as a volunteer with the Albright Volunteer Fire Department.
Miller, a captain with the department, was killed in a vehicle accident while responding to a fire on Easter Sunday.
“This gentleman here gave so much … Thirty years protecting and looking after his community – a great community in the state of West Virginia. We can never thank him enough.”