MORGANTOWN – Gov. Jim Justice told the story on Wednesday with two color-coded charts. The charts showed the the shape of West Virginia filled with little people figures representing the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
One showed a whole bunch of yellow people and a few blue people who are hospitalized for COVID. The yellow people, the unvaccinated, filled most of it: 745 people, 84.8%. The blue people, the vaccinated, were just 15.2%, 134 people.
The other chart represented ICU cases, with unvaccinated red people and vaccinated pink people. The contrast was even sharper: 242 red people, 90.6%, and 25 pink people, just 9.4%.
Joint Interagency Task Force Director James Hoyer noted that the numbers were updated while Justice was speaking at the beginning of Wednesday’s briefing: 893 hospitalized, 275 in ICUs, 160 on ventilators.
Hospitals have received calls, he said, from as far as North Carolina about the possibility of transporting critically ill patients here. But our hospitals don’t have the capacity to take on the additional cases.
And should we get to the capacity point, he said, we will face challenges and may not be able to transfer patients to other states. We’re getting close to that point. Many hospitals have closed beds because of staffing issues.
“All of this can be avoid if we continue to press hard and we get West Virginians vaccinated,” he said.
The death toll grew by 50 since Monday, Justice said, to 3,296.
And while getting infected provides some level of immunity from the Delta variant, COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said 10% to 11% of those who get infected still experience negative health impacts and are disabled form normal activities seven to eight months afterward.
Justice said it’s uncertain if the Sept. 20 date previously announced by the White House to begin the Pfizer vaccine booster program is still on the horizon. “I hope and pray that on the 20th we’re in full motion. … We’re ready right now. … It worries me, just gut-feeling wise, it would not surprise me at all that they move the date back. I hope and pray they don’t.”
While maintaining his opposition to mask and vaccine mandates, Justice acknowledged his team’s three-times-a-week cheerleading can only do so much.
“No matter what we say here, a lot of what we say is falling on deaf ears,” he said. “It’s falling on ears that are absolutely just defiant, and saying, ‘I’m not doing this. I’m just not doing it.’ And you know what we’re going to be: We’re going to be respectful of that until the cows come home.”
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