MORGANTOWN — For the first time in weeks, many of West Virginia’s COVID statistics are trending down.
“It seems like we’re just holding, we’re in a hold pattern right at the peak, but it looks like the hold pattern could absolutely just start flowing our way,” Gov. Jim Justice said after reading out the numbers at his press briefing Monday morning.
Active cases were at 14,534, down from 16,223 Friday and continuing a downward trend after the state’s high of 29,744 active cases Sept. 16.
“A lot of the parameters that we follow closely, including the reproductive value, has dropped below 1 for the first time for the state in many weeks,” Dr. Clay Marsh said. Marsh specifically cited a drop in the average number of cases, down 200 from last week, and the average number of daily deaths, from 19 to 11.
“While that’s 11 too many, it gives us some reason to hope that we will continue to see declines,” he said.
However, not all parameters were trending down.
Hospitalizations were also down to 978 Monday from a high of 1,008 Friday, but ICU cases and ventilators were up to 291 and 193, respectively — a new state record for ICU cases. Hospitalizations, ICU cases and ventilator cases are expected to lag two to six weeks behind the new and active case peak.
Confirmed cases in West Virginia’s schools also continue to climb.
“We’ve got plus or minus 1,000 kids that we’ve identified in the school systems that now have COVID,” Justice said. Last week’s high was 921 confirmed student cases Wednesday.
“I need our parents, I need grandparents to help me get people across the finish line. Our kids really need vaccinating in a really big way,” Justice said, citing concern for unknown complications from long COVID, even in asymptomatic children.
Marsh mentioned that Pfizer will soon present evidence for its vaccine’s approval in the 5-11 age group and clarified that the dosage for those children will likely be about one-third of what is administered to adults.
The number of vaccinated patients being hospitalized also increased across the state. Breakthrough cases accounted for 18.7% of all hospitalizations in West Virginia Monday.
Gov. Justice cited this increase as evidence that the earliest recipients of the vaccine are no longer protected from infection, necessitating the booster shots approved by the Centers for Disease Control Friday. Only Pfizer is approved .Approval for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters is expected.
In previous press conferences, Marsh has cited data from Pfizer and studies in Israel that indicate a significant reduction in the Pfizer vaccine’s protection six months after the administration of the second dose.
Justice urged listeners more than six months out from their second dose to get the Pfizer vaccine booster shots in another effort to ensure the state’s critically strained hospitals are not overrun.
As promised for weeks leading up to the federal approval, West Virginia has wasted no time in getting Pfizer booster shots out to the public.
Joint Interagency Task Force Director Gen. James Hoyer reported that about 13,000 booster shots were administered as of 10 a.m. Monday, although the actual number is likely higher.
“There’s a little bit of lag between when those booster doses get put in an arm and when they get reported, because our health department folks are really strapped for manpower, so it takes us a bit of time,” Hoyer said.