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Gen. Hoyer: ICU bed occupancy approaching January peak; number on ventilators already above January’s high

MORGANTOWN — It’s Day 537 of the pandemic, Joint Interagency Task Force Director Gen. James Hoyer said Wednesday.

There are 670 West Virginians hospitalized with COVID, he said, with 202 in ICUs — just shy of the Jan. 6 peak of 219. Of those in ICUs, 109 are on ventilators — topping the Jan. 10 peak of 104.

He related a story that’s been circulating of a veteran in another southern state who needed medical care but couldn’t get into a hospital because of COVID patients. His illness was treatable but he died in transit to another hospital in another state.

We do have rights and freedoms, Hoyer said. “We also have a responsibility to those just like that veteran … to go get vaccinated.” There will be 70-plus free vaccine clinics across the state this weekend. “That’s the only way we’re going to be able to manage this going forward.”

More people get vaccinated every day, the Department of Health and Human Resources coronavirus dashboard shows, but there’s still a big disparity between the age groups. Altogether, 72.1% of the eligible population age 12 and up has had a first dose.

But only 34.4% of ages 12-15 and 45.3% of ages 16-20 have gotten a shot, compared to 62.8% ages 51-60 and 83.3% age 71 and up. Last week, there were 204,000 new COVID cases reported among children across the nation, Justice said.

The dashboard shows that 6,532 have received an additional dose — called a third dose or booster dose, depending on who’s talking.

Gov. Jim Justice didn’t address during the briefing the letter from the West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association calling on him to issue an immediate mask mandate, but he did say generally he still doesn’t favor one.

He doesn’t want to promote division, he said again. “I don’t really believe that the mask will completely protect you … but it absolutely makes your odds better,” based on the medical advice he’s received.

And he doesn’t want to follow suit with hospitals and health systems across the state in issuing a vaccine mandate for state employees, he said. He just wants to continue to encourage.

“We’re winning that battle,” he said. Following the launch of the Do It For Babydog campaign, 180,000 people got vaccinated. But it’s not enough. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad talked about home COVID testing kits available at pharmacies. They’re useful and accurate, she said, but the results don’t get reported to the state or to local health departments.

If you use one and test positive, your employer or health department may require another test, she said. And you will need to self-quarantine at home.

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