Editorials, Opinion

W.Va. among the nation’s worst. What else is new?

West Virginia passed a grim milestone Thursday: We surpassed 3,000 deaths in the Mountain State.

It’s hard to believe six months ago, West Virginia had one of the best vaccination rates in the world. A U.K. report from February said if we were a country, we could have ranked in the top 10, with 430,000 people vaccinated.

Six months later, we’re in the bottom five of the nation, according to Becker’s Hospital Review (No. 45 of 50), and 44th in the country according to the NPR’s COVID tracker, at the time of this writing. (Both base their rankings on CDC data, which may not exactly match DHHR numbers because of delays.) The only states with worse vaccination rates are Arkansas, Louisiana, Idaho, Wyoming, Mississippi and Alabama. There are less than three percentage points separating West Virginia from dead last.

How did we get here?

How did we go from leading the U.S. — leading the world — in getting our people protected from COVID-19 to fighting Mississippi and Alabama for worst in the country yet again?

The Dominion Post proudly published our world-wide acclaim Feb. 24. On that day, we had more than 8,000 active cases, but that number was on its 39th straight day of decline.

Almost six months to the day later, we have more than 8,100 active cases, and our new cases have been trending up for more than 42 days. We hit a pandemic low of only 20 new confirmed cases July 5 — the lowest it had been since June 21, 2020 — and the numbers have steadily risen ever since.

What will it take to get the people who are still unvaccinated, or who wouldn’t get their second shot, to get fully vaccinated?

Cash incentives didn’t work.

A lottery with hundreds of prizes — including millions of dollars — didn’t work.

Begging didn’t work.

Cajoling didn’t work.

What will it take to convince the holdouts to protect themselves and every single person who cross their paths?

Because it is not just “their body, their choice” when their choice can kill someone unfortunate enough to stand near them in the grocery.

Do we need to list out each and every Republican politician and conservative pundit who has received their vaccine?

For the record, that list would include former President Donald Trump. And Fox News has now required all employees to disclose vaccination status; all unvaccinated employees will be required to wear masks and social distance, and even vaccinated ones will need to wear masks in tight quarters.

Do we need to start a “Make West Virginia Great Again” campaign?

What will it take?

We’re afraid that it will take lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to a ventilator — or worse, ECMO — saying goodbye to loved ones over video call, possibly for the last time, for these unvaccinated folks to finally realize that vaccines save lives.

But by then, it might be too late.