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Gov. Justice returns after COVID bout, renews call for vaccines, boosters

MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice returned to the Capitol on Monday following his bout with COVID-19 and talked a bit about this experience with the virus and renewed his call for residents to get their vaccines and boosters.

“It’s been a little bit difficult, that’s for sure,” he said. He announced late Tuesday he’d tested positive, which led to the postponement of his Wednesday State of the State Address. “Through those first couple days it was really nasty stuff.”

He was able to receive antibody treatment for the virus, he said. “There’s no doubt that God has given us the ability to have medicines to try to save our lives.”

Justice acknowledged the outpouring of support he received, “By the blessings of God above and all your well-wishes, I’m beyond humbled.”

Asked if he feared for his life he said, “I don’t know that I progressed to that level. From the standpoint of being afraid of what was going on or being alarmed, I was surely there.” But he had confidence in the vaccines he’d received and his medical team.

With his absence last week, he had 143 COVID-related deaths to read on Monday. Active cases stood at 20,392. There were 854 people hospitalized (70.8% unvaccinated) with 200 in ICUs (84% unvaccinated) and 116 on ventilators (91.4% unvaccinated). There were 14 pediatric cases with two in ICUs.

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said in the most-recent round of sequencing, 82% were the omicron variant. The vaccines remain crucial, worldwide data shows.

“We see very clear evidence that these vaccines are so incredibly effective.” In Israel, 14% of the population is unvaccinated; among those on advanced life support, 100% are unvaccinated. And according to a New England Journal of Medicine report, 98% of those ages 12-17 in ICUs are unvaccinated.

Even when the vaccines lose potency over time, he said, they still maintain the ability to reduce the most severe consequences of the virus.

Omicron is so vastly more infectious than the other variants, he said, that people can’t rely on natural immunity from prior infections to keep themselves healthy. “That immunity to delta or others, unless it’s absolutely recent, probably doesn’t give much in the way of immunity at all.”

The Biden administration never responded to the state’s request to okay a second booster for certain residents. Marsh said part of the reason behind that request was to reduce the height of the omicron surge, but with 82% of the recent cases sampled being omicron, it’s likely that window has passed.

Nonetheless, he said, the state would still be interested in being the first place to roll out the additional booster.

Joint Interagency Task Force Director James Hoyer cited a military illustration offered by a previous U.S. surgeon general as another reason to get vaccinated — in view of how much more-infectious omicron is, even though its symptoms may be milder in most adults.

If an enemy has a weapon only one-third as effective in killing, he said, but has four times as many people firing it, your likelihood of getting killed is 1.3 times higher. Likewise, the chances of severe consequences from omicron are higher because it’s more infectious.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp