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As Delta cases and deaths mount, Marsh warns we are getting callous and don’t understand the impact

MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice and his team again pleaded with people to get vaccinated. Justice also again expressed his reluctance to mandate masks.

“I am not an advocate of mandates. I am not an advocate of masks,” he said. “We’ve been through enough.” But we’ve stayed together, and renewing the mask mandate will spur division. “As we fragment, we will absolutely only escalate things to the worst.”

Vaccines are crucial, he said: 85% of those hospitalized with WVU Medicine are not vaccinated; it’s 92% at Mon Health; 80% at Charleston Area Medical Center.

“We have got to get more people vaccinated right now, especially our kids,” he said. “If we had more people vaccinated less people would die.”

Division over masking is so strong, he said, that local health departments are receiving death threats over mandating masks in the schools. Health departments actually have nothing to do with that — school boards do.

“For God’s sakes a-livin’, death threats over a mask,” he said. “This is an absolute shame.”

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said 2,200 people across the nation died Thursday — a number not seen since winter — as Delta escalates and hospitals fill up. And West Virginia’s rates are rising — the second-fastest in the country.

But the numbers may not have much meaning for many people, he said. “We have become sort of callous and not really understanding the real impact of this.” Arkansas and Alabama are out of ICU beds and other states are running low “We will be in that same position if we don’t act now.”

They’re working every angle with the federal government, he said, to get boosters to the most vulnerable before the Sept. 20 date the Biden administration announced.

The Dominion Post raised the topic of the ever-evolving nature of our knowledge of COVID, and how that spurs some to claim the information is so inconsistent we can’t trust anyone. And that leads them to oppose masks and vaccinations.

The Dominion Post cited a Friday Bloomberg article regarding data from Israel that shows people who were previously infected with COVID are better protected against Delta than those with the Pfizer vaccine — people with the Pfizer vaccine were six times more likely to get infected with Delta than those with natural immunity from a prior infection.

We said that could be fodder for anti-vaxers and asked Marsh for some perspective on that.

Marsh didn’t answer but Justice addressed it twice.

“There’s no question that data continues to be fluid, continues to evolve,” he said. But it’s a choice of getting vaccinated today, or getting COVID, “and being sick as a dog and hope and pray like crazy that you survive, and if you survive you’d be better off. … I would choose getting vaccinated, to tell you the truth.”

He later addressed the thinking of saying if you’ve had COVID you’re good to go by asking if we want to take our unvaccinated grandma to Aunt June’s house to get her infected so she can get some immunity.

“That line of thinking is holding us back in a lot of ways,” he said. “We’ve got to get past the silliness. We’ve got to get past it and get vaccinated.”

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp