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More West Virginians getting vaccinated as delta cases increase

Variant drives active cases past 4,000 for the first time since the beginning of June

Photo Courtesy/WV Governor's Office SPREADING AGAIN — Gov. Jim Justice holds up the front page of USA Today to show the spread of COVID-19 across the country.

CHARLESTON — Vaccinations for COVID-19 are increasing in West Virginia as officials report the delta variant has driven active coronavirus cases past 4,000 for the first time since the beginning of June.

According to data from the Department of Health and Human Resources, the number of COVID-19 vaccinations for residents with at least one dose of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines increased from an average of 789 partial vaccinations per day between July 12 and July 18 to 1,335 partial vaccinations per day between Aug. 2 and Sunday – a 69 percent increase in partial vaccinations.

James Hoyer, leader of West Virginia’s joint interagency task force for vaccines, said Monday during the state’s COVID-19 briefing that more than 9,000 were vaccinated over the weekend.

“While those numbers are positive and the numbers this weekend are positive, they are just not fast enough to keep up with the delta variant and what may be coming behind it,” Hoyer said. “We have got to pick up the speed in which we’re getting people vaccinated in our state. It’s exceptionally important.”

Active COVID-19 cases as of Monday were 4,010, the highest number of active cases since 4,084 on June 2. It’s also higher than the 1,877 active cases one year ago on the same day. Monday’s active case numbers were a 55 percent increase from 2,585 active cases seven days ago. The state saw 1,037 new cases since Friday’s COVID-19 briefing.

The number of delta variant cases remains unchanged from Friday, sitting at 129. Genome testing in order to update the delta variant takes longer than a standard COVID test, and state health officials believe there is more delta variant in the state than the numbers suggest.

“It’s tough, it’s everywhere,” said Gov. Jim Justice, holding up the front page of USA Today showing a map of the U.S. with COVID-19 cases on the rise nationally. “Everywhere, for all practical purposes, is red.”

The increase in active cases brought an increase in hospitalization and use of ICU beds for the most serious of cases. Hospitalization numbers were 269 (a 72 percent increase from 156 hospitalizations on July 31) and 70 ICU cases (a 49 percent increase from 68 cases seven days earlier). The state reported 11 COVID-19 deaths between Friday and Monday, showing no signs of substantial increase, though deaths can lag behind hospitalization data by more than a week.

Hoyer presented a graph Monday showing the steep rate on hospitalizations due to the recent case spike compared to 2020 numbers. While hospitalizations in 2020 peaked in December 2020/January 2021 in the low-800s, the rate of new hospitalizations since a low of 52 on July 4 to 269 cases is accelerating at a faster rate.

“Look at the trendline,” Hoyer said. “We’re putting our healthcare workers and our hospitals at an exceptionally difficult position if we don’t pick up the rate of vaccinations.”

According to DHHR’S County Alert System map, the counties in the red for either high infection rates or percent of positivity include Marshall, Wetzel, Upshur, Cabell, Wyoming, and McDowell counties. Only 10 out of 55 counties remain in the green for the lowest infection rates and percent of positivity: Monongalia, Preston, Tucker, Grant, Mineral, Pendleton, Doddridge, Calhoun, Lincoln, and Summers counties.

Nearly 57 percent of eligible West Virginians age 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Those numbers increase to more than 72 percent for West Virginians age 50 and older and more than 79 percent for West Virginians age 65 and older. Full and partial vaccination numbers continue to lag for children and young adults.

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

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