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Justice, Hoyer reveal CDC was double-counting pharmacy vaccine numbers; state vaccine rate about 10% lower than previously thought

MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice revealed on Wednesday what he called a “cannonball to the stomach” regarding the state’s vaccination rate: It’s way lower than what they thought.

He let Joint Interagency Task Force Director Gen. James Hoyer explain the details.

The problem lies with the CDC contractor data related to the fed pharmacy program, Hoyer said. Since the first part of May, the CDC has been double-counting numbers it sends. “It has made a significant impact on our numbers.”

The percentage of the vaccine-eligible population — age 12 up up — with at least one shot had been just above 74%; with the corrected data, it fell to 63.7%.

Hoyer said a team from the Department of Health and Human Resources and WVU is counting the figures again to make sure nothing else is inaccurate.

Justice said, “We can blame this on the CDC, and it’s their fault. … There’s no way in the world to guide the ship with bad information. … There’s no excuse in my opinion for the CDC to screw this up.”

But, he added, there’s also no excuse for his people not knowing.

He’d been puzzled, he said, why the death numbers kept climbing when the first-dose number topped 74% and wasn’t climbing significantly. If felt like they were “trying to squeeze juice out of the turnip.”

Now he knows, he said. “The net of the whole thing is there’s a lot of folks still out there in West Virginia that still haven’t been vaccinated.”

Justice also talked about a conversation he had with the head of the Johns Hopkins infectious disease department, and about his dilemma of freedom and mandates.

The doctor, he said, was thinking back in May, like many others, the pandemic was waning and we might be on solid ground by September. A pandemic usually has a two-year lifespan.

But we’re not on solid ground, Justice said. At this point, even if you oppose vaccination for yourself, you should think, “Maybe, just maybe, I need to do it for everybody else.”

But he won’t resort to mandates, relying instead on continued pleading and cajoling. “I stand rock-solid by their liberties and their freedoms. … We have all got to step up united together. That’s the way we’ll stop it.”

Hoyer later added, “I’ll be damned if we’re going to stop trying to get people vaccinated. … We know what the right damn thing to do is and we’ll keep doing it.”

On the numbers, the active cases continue to drop, down from 29,744 Thursday to 15,280 Tuesday. Hospitalizations continue to climb, now at 1,000, a new record. ICU cases dropped from 291 Monday to 280, with 168 on ventilators.

With football season now under way, The Dominion Post passed along a question about masks in stadiums. There are no stadium mask requirements at WVU or pretty much anywhere else. So why is 20,000 people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder, screaming, different from 20 people singing in a church?

Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad fielded that. “One is outdoors, one is indoors,” she said, then cautioned, “Anyone in close proximity we would recommend someone to wear a mask.” But people should also look at their vaccination status, their age and other health conditions.

Justice said it’s a difficult question to answer. “There’s danger everywhere, that’s all there is to it.”

People across the country are jammed arm-to-arm in stadiums, screaming and hollering. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you, ‘Oh, that’s safe and the church is not safe.” But indoors you’re more exposed. Outdoors, you need to be careful. They don’t want to be canceling everything through mandates right now, he added.

He won’t say there’s no risk, he said. “There’s risk everywhere. There’s risk in everything we do. And we need to be able to assess that risk ourselves and decide what to do.”

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp