Community, Healthcare, Latest News, State Government

Justice: Not quite ready for a mask mandate but creeping closer

MORGANTOWN — The COVID numbers keep climbing, and mandates are creeping closer, but Gov. Justice and his team are still clinging to hope that the holdouts will take some responsibility, they said Wednesday.

“Absolutely, we have got to get vaccinated right now,” Justice said.

For now, local control of masking remains in place but, “If we keep going the way we’re going, it’s almost inevitable,” he said about statewide measures in response to a question from The Dominion Post about county-by-county mandates. “We’re getting closer and closer every day.”

He said he may start with masks in schools and move forward from there, but at the moment there’s not enough evidence now that masks will curtail the current surge.

The numbers: 11,725 active cases; 1,102 new cases since Monday; 20 additional deaths since Monday, putting the total at 3,036; 511 hospitalized with 171 in ICUs.

Justice noted that this is the first time since January that hospitalizations have topped 500.

Joint Interagency Task Force Director Gen. James Hoyer said the state is at 64% of the previous peak of 829. The current path could lead to doubling that number.

“Unvaccinated West Virginians are filling up our hospital capacity and taking away from other West Virginians the ability to get hospital care down the road if we don’t get our West Virginians vaccinated,” he said.

Justice said the Biden administration is still dragging its feet on OK’ing West Virginia to offer booster shots of Pfizer before the federal Sept. 20 date, and he worries that could lead to needless deaths. “We’ve got to get the White House to move. This is the silliest thing in the world.”

Known Delta cases stood at 544 Wednesday. The state takes periodic samples of positive tests and evaluates them to see which variant they are. The Dominion Post asked how they project the sample numbers to estimate the total number of Delta cases and how many of the 11,725 active cases are Delta.

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh didn’t answer that directly. Instead, he said, “We know with, I think, incredible certainty, probability, that these are all really coming from the Delta variant.”

Sampling across the country shows that the variant is spreading so rapidly, he said, “that it basically eradicates its competitors over a really short period of time.”

Unlike other variants, he said, Delta cases climb steeply, peak, then start coming down. The cases are coming down in some southern states, but even where it’s coming down, the death rates rise. West Virginia is still on its way to its peak.

If people don’t get vaccinated and keep getting sick, he said, it will impact the state’s ability to care for people; once it starts to move, it’s very hard to control. Vaccination acts as a firewall.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp