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West Virginia leads the nation in COVID-19 vaccinations

BRIEFING — Gov. Jim Justice briefs the state on COVID-19 vaccine distribution. (Photo Courtesy/W.Va. Governor’s Office)

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice said Monday that West Virginia is leading the way with the number of distributed COVID-19 vaccines and is ahead of schedule in vaccinating residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

“We want to continue to pump this stuff out as quick as we can and lead the nation in every way,” Justice said Monday during his briefing.

According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, of the 16,575 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine received by the state last week, 15,135 doses — 91.3 percent — have been administered.

Nationally, 556,208 vaccine shots have been administered according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. Of all 50 states, West Virginia has the most shots administered, with 0.84 percent of the state’s 1.8 million residents already vaccinated.

The state is supposed to get a new shipment of Pfizer vaccines today, as well as the newly approved Moderna vaccine. Justice said the state will receive a total of 44,300 doses between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine this week.

The Joint Interagency Task Force for Vaccines set a 30-day goal on Dec. 14 of vaccinating all residents and staff at long-term care facilities by the middle of January. Justice said that at the pace health officials and the West Virginia National Guard were going, all long-term care facilities would have the vaccine by the end of next week — right when a national plan to administer vaccines to long-term care residents is set to begin.

“West Virginia is leading the nation in the distribution of the COVID vaccine to our nursing homes and assisted living,” Justice said. “We anticipate finishing with our nursing homes and our assisted living homes by Monday, Dec. 28. Quite literally, we may be finishing our vaccines to long-term care facilities before the other states even start.”

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard and the leader of the vaccine task force, said the guard is working with DHHR, county health departments, and local pharmacies to coordinate vaccine distribution. Hoyer said the more than 8,100 vaccine doses were distributed to 71 facilities by the end of the week.

“We have some great numbers we have seen with the work of our partners at the long-term care facilities,” Hoyer said. “They exceeded the numbers we anticipated last week … we have an aggressive plan this week to work through the holidays with the exception of Christmas Day. We’ll continue to press to meet the governor’s objectives.”

According to data released by DHHR on Monday, the total numbers of test results between Dec. 7 and Dec. 20 was 170,094 — a 12 percent decrease in testing compared to 192,964 tests results between Nov. 23 through Dec. 6. Over the last seven days, the state conducted an average of 10,771 tests per day, down from 13,528 tests per day the previous week.

The number of positive cases over the same 14-day period was 17,154, which was a 13 percent increase compared to 15,169 cases during the prior 14-day period. As of Monday — the most recent data available — the state reported 995 new cases received in a 24-hour period compared to Sunday’s data. The state averaged 1,260 cases per day over a seven-day period, up from 1,191 cases the previous seven days.

Active COVID-19 cases — the number of infected people in self-quarantine or hospitalized — was 22,877 cases as of Monday — a 9 percent increase from 21,076 active cases seven days ago and a 16 percent increase from 19,691 active cases 14 days ago. All 55 counties have active cases for the ninth week in a row. Active cases have increased in 36 out of 55 counties, up slightly from 34 counties last week.

The state reported 1,129 total COVID-19 deaths as of Monday. There were 290 deaths reported between Dec. 7 and Dec. 20 — a 65 percent increase over the 176 deaths reported the previous 14 days. Over a seven-day period between Dec. 14 and Dec. 20, the state saw 160 deaths — 13 percent of the total deaths reported to date.

There were 695 hospitalizations as of Monday, down from 720 hospitalizations the previous week — a 4 percent decrease. The average number of hospitalizations between Dec. 7 and Dec. 20 increased by 24 percent over the average number of hospitalizations the previous 14 days. The number of hospitalizations spiked to a high of 781 on Dec. 16 before coming down. The number of infected people in intensive care units was 167 — down from 199 last week — and 71 people are on ventilators — down from 82 people last week.

West Virginia’s Rt number — the rate that shows how quickly the virus is spreading in the community — was 1.14 as of Monday, up from 1.08 last week. The state’s Rt number was the fourth worst rate in the nation after being 23rd best last week. Any Rt value below 1 means the growth of the virus is slowing, while numbers above 1 mean the virus is spreading.

The daily percent of positive COVID-19 cases was 7.19 percent, and the cumulative percent of positive cases was 4.38 percent.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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