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Justice: State will seek CDC OK to offer second Pfizer booster to certain residents

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia is seeking CDC permission to offer a second Pfizer booster shot to certain residents, Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday.

The second booster — also called a fourth shot — would be for those age 50 and up, for the immunocompromised and for essential workers, he said.

The move is prompted, he said, by the Biden administration’s desire to put more COVID-19 pandemic response in the hands of the states, and by Israel’s successful study of offering a second booster — where recipients saw a five-fold increase in antibodies a week after the second booster.

Justice mentioned a number of reasons for pursuing this course.

“First of all, it’ll save a bunch, bunch, bunch more lives,” he said. It would also avert or reduce increased stress on the hospitals as the omicron surge moves into West Virginia, where the hospitals are already strained by the current delta surge.

COVID-19 czar Dr. Clay Marsh said again that rural West Virginia benefits somewhat from being rural because the surges reach us later than the more-urban areas, and we can see and prepare for what happens.

Omicron spreads more rapidly, he said again, and is affecting children more than the previous strains because it affects their upper airways, which are smaller than adult airways. The nation has seen a doubling of the average number of children admitted to hospitals daily over the last week, and the children affected by omicron are much sicker.

The Indiana Health System for Children, he said, has seen a fourfold increase in child hospitalizations, with 40% of them on ventilators. “This virus is no longer benign for anyone, but particularly not for children.” And that age group is the least vaccinated.

Along with increasing numbers of people being hospitalized here and across the country, he said, more hospital staffers are getting infected, reducing the hospitals’ ability to respond. People are having to wait in cars until space opens inside, and some hospitals are erecting tents to process incoming patients.

Justice and Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad both noted that the Department of Health and Human Resources’ COVID dashboard shows a decrease in active cases, reflecting another change in CDC guidelines. The CDC has shortened its recommended isolation time from 10 days to five.

The CDC website says people with COVID-19 should isolate for five days if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving — without fever for 24 hours. Follow that by five days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter.

The change, CDC said, is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of COVID transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the one-to-two days prior to onset of symptoms and the two-to-three days after.

The Dominion Post asked a question based on a report that county Health Officer Dr. Lee Smith recommended to the Monongalia County Commission that businesses there urge employees to work remotely whenever possible.

We asked if that should be a statewide recommendation. Justice said they’re not ready to do that yet.

Amjad agreed, saying many businesses do have staff working remotely. But employees who have had their vaccines and boosters and wear a mask when appropriate should be able to go to work. And people are going out shopping and to restaurants, so following the proper mitigation measures is the most important thing.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp