MORGANTOWN — COVID variants and the slackening pace of vaccinations in the state occupied most of Friday’s COVID-19 briefing from the Capitol.
Gov. Jim Justice summed up the conversation before he closed for the day. “We’re not concerned nearly to the level we should be,” he said.
“Why are we not winning the race when the race is right in front of us to win,” he asked. “We can see the tape across the track. And now what we’re doing is we’re just absolutely walking around in a circle and we’re looking up in the stands and we’re doing everything except running through the finish line.”
Part of it is sheer numbers, Justice said. The state has 1.7 million people. Of those, 400,000 are ages 0-16, for whom vaccines aren’t yet approved. That leaves 1.3 million. Of those, 680,613 have had a first dose. That leaves just over 600,000 who still need to get started.
Meanwhile, several variant strains are in the state. Justice said a new one, the Brazilian P1, was found in Berkeley County. The are a total of 497 P1 cases in 31 states.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh listed the others: South African, two cases; UK, 365; California, 174. While there are some questions about the vaccines’ effectiveness with the variants, all of the vaccines protect people from the most severe complications.
Marsh said 77 million people have been vaccinated nationwide. Of those, 5,800 cases are being investigated for COVID; 396 have been hospitalized; and only 74 have died. The fatality rate for COVID in the U.S. is 1.8%; but for those who are vaccinated, it’s .00001%. The most prevalent spreading group is ages 10-19, so it’s important for younger people to get vaccinated.
Justice said no prior vaccine has been this successful. “If you want to cling to the exception beyond belief and ignore the likelihood of you getting this or giving it to someone, a loved one, and them dying, I guess that’s your right.”
It’s reported, he said, that many state employees aren’t getting vaccinated because of a rumor that it kills people and PEIA won’t pay on their life insurance if it does. “Oh goodness gracious, this is a crazy place.”
The Dominion Post asked if they’ve crunched any numbers to project, given the pace of supply and demand, when the state would reach the vaccine saturation point to feel that we’re over the hump.
Joint Interagency Task Force Director James Hoyer said the state will be working with the CDC next week to do that. Right now, the supply exceeds the demand.
So their role, he said, is to continue to educate people and to make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated. Right now we’re above 75% vaccinated for those older than 65, and the death rate has slowed, but not stopped. The governor wants the 65-and-up rate at 85%.
Meanwhile, Hoyer said, the younger age groups are the ones spreading the virus more quickly, and getting much more sick.
The Department of Health and Human Resources coronavirus dashboard shows the slowing vaccination pace. On March 19, 20,349 doses were administered. The chart shows a roller coaster with weekend drop-offs and new peaks Wednesday-Friday, but each peak getting steadily lower: 16,427 on March 26; 13,823 on March 31; 9,313 on April 8; and 3,531 on April 13.
Hoyer said, “We are in a race. We have some serious variants coming into our state and across the country … Please, West Virginia, step up and get vaccinated.”
TWEET David Beard@dbeardtdp