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Officials: More than 5% of West Virginians have received COVID-19 vaccine

ANNOUNCEMENT — Gov. Jim Justice announces the addition of detailed statistics on COVID-19 vaccinations on the state’s online coronavirus dashboard. (Photo Courtesy/W.Va. Governor’s Office)

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s efforts to vaccinate health care workers, teachers, essential workers and the elderly continue to lead the nation, but the state’s COVID-19 cases reached a grim milestone over the weekend.

According to new data made available by the Department of Health and Human Resources Coronavirus Dashboard, the state has administered 92,070 first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for COVID-19, vaccinating more than 5 percent of the state’s 1.8 million residents — the most of any state according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.

“It’s saving lives right now, right this very minute,” said Gov. Jim Justice during his Monday coronavirus briefing at the State Capitol Building. “Good old West Virginia, that knew how to move without a playbook and knew how to move to get something done. You’ve done some good stuff.”

Residents who received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine more than 21 days ago are now getting their second dose, with 13,469 second doses administered. Since Dec. 14, the state has received 109,440 first doses with 84.1 percent of those doses administered. The state has received 16,575 second doses, with 81.3 percent administered.

The majority of vaccines have gone to West Virginians between the ages of 55 and 64, with 20,269 vaccines being administered, followed by 17,991 to people between the ages of 45 and 55, 15,172 to people between the ages of 35 and 44, 12,834 to people age 85 and older, and 12,331 to people between the ages of 75 and 84.

“While the rest of the nation is just stumbling around in every way and trying to figure out what to do … in West Virginia, every last (vaccine) is either in an arm or has a name tagged to it that says this person, John Doe, is going to get this shot either today or tomorrow or the next day,” Justice said. “This week, those shots will all be in someone’s arm.”

Health officials, however, warn that people should not be complacent when it comes to wearing masks, maintaining social distance, washing hands, and avoiding large crowds as COVID-19 cases are expected to increase after the Christmas and New Years holidays.

“I think that we have not yet seen the real impact of the December holiday,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, the state coronavirus czar. “We are seeing a bit of cresting that we perceive to be related to the surge we saw from the Thanksgiving holiday. We are quite aware of the concerns for the December and New Years holiday, because it takes about two to four weeks after these events to really see that maximum impact.”

According to data from DHHR, the state broke 100,000 cumulative COVID-19 cases last Friday. As of Monday, the cumulative case number was 102,282.

The total numbers cases over a 14-day period between Dec. 28 and Jan. 10 was 20,727, which was a 23 percent increase compared to 16,850 cases between Dec. 14. through Dec. 27. As of Monday — the most recent data available — the state reported 1,070 new cases received in a 24-hour period compared to Sunday’s data. The state averaged 1,485 cases per day over a seven-day period, up from 1,475 cases the previous seven days.

The number of positive cases over the same 14-day period was 198,444 — a 46 percent increase in testing compared to 136,255 tests results over the previous 14-day period. Over the last seven days, the state conducted an average of 15,164 tests per day, up from 13,193 tests per day the previous week.

Active COVID-19 cases — the number of infected people in self-quarantine or hospitalized — was 29,257 cases as of Monday — a 7 percent increase from 27,362 active cases seven days ago and an 18 percent increase from 24,723 active cases 14 days ago. All 55 counties have active cases for the 12th week in a row. Active cases have increased in 35 out of 55 counties, down from 46 counties last week.

On DHHR’s County Alert System map, 42 out of 55 counties were listed as red due to either higher infection rates or percent positivity, with 11 counties listed as orange — the next worst color rating. Justice announced Monday that he will issue an executive order allowing schools to re-open for in-person learning Jan. 19, though high schools will have to remain at remote learning if their county is red. Justice said changes will be announced to the metrics used to color-code counties this week.

“We may very well be expanding the orange zone, which will allow us a little bit of additional freedoms and everything in regard to our ability to go to school in orange and not be as restrictive as we’ve been,” Justice said.

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

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