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Gen. Hoyer urges vaccines as COVID cases surge with onset of winter weather

MORGANTOWN – Gov. Jim Justice and his COVID team again cautioned West Virginians to take precautions against COVID as winter weather sets in.

Joint Interagency Task Force Director James Hoyer said the Rt rate – the estimated measure of virus spread – has been rising for the past 10 days and is at 1.04, meaning the virus is spreading.

That will lead to additional challenges, he said. At the end of the first surge, hospitals were almost emptied of COVID patients. “That is not the case during this surge.”

Wednesday’s figures showed 512 hospitalized with 183 in ICUs and 104 on ventilators.

“We are going to face a significant challenge during the holiday season” and into the first couple months of January, Hoyer said. “The most effective way to address that is to get vaccinated,” or get a booster.

The therapeutics coming out early next year won’t be a substitute for a vaccination, he said.

The death toll had reached 4,817 on Wednesday. “If we had this many people dying every day from a mine accident or disaster,” in highway wrecks or fires, “we would be making monumental efforts to go forward to reduce that immediately.”

But vaccinations and boosters are the only means at hand, he said. “West Virginia, please take heart to that and go address this immediately.”

Vaccine numbers have trended downward since Nov. 12, which saw a spike of 3,641 doses administered. The Nov. 19 number fell to 3,207 and the Nov. 22 tally – leading into the Thanksgiving weekend – to 2,095. The percentage of age 18 and up fully vaccinated has not climbed significantly, standing at 60.7% on Wednesday, with age 5 and up fully vaccinated at 54%.

Justice addressed a question about the apparent stagnation of the state’s vaccination efforts and the repetitiveness of the briefings, and what different courses might be taken.

He said, “Any idea that we can hear, come up with, any idea that is presented to us would be considered.”

He noted that the robocalls most residents have received were sparked by a member of the media. And more than 300,000 have been vaccinated since the beginning of the Do It For Babydog program.

“We’re winning people over, that’s all there is to it.” He’s willing to pivot but doesn’t want to drop the ball. He’ll keep traveling, doing robocalls, doing briefings. “What would these numbers have been if we hadn’t done anything? … We’ll try any and everything we possibly can to get more people across the finish line.”

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