Governor updates on hospital surge plans, vaccines

Staff Report

CHARLESTON — During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Jim Justice and state health experts announced they have asked all hospitals and hospital systems across the state to reevaluate the surge plans that they originally created several months ago as part of the Governor’s West Virginia Strong – The Comeback reopening initiative, updating them to account for the recent increase in COVID-19 case numbers across West Virginia and to consider temporarily reducing the number of elective medical procedures being performed.

“Our state health experts are genuinely concerned about the possibility of our hospitals becoming overrun if things get worse,” Gov. Justice said. “Every day that we have these briefings, we are asked where we stand on hospital beds and where we stand on capacity. We’ve been in talks with the West Virginia Hospital Association and many of the state’s hospitals and we all believe that some level of reduction of elective surgeries may be needed to ensure that we will have hospital space.”

“This is accelerating all across the country and we’re starting to see the first signs of that acceleration in West Virginia,” State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said. “We are starting to see the first surge that we’ve seen in this state related to the hospitals…We will be able to maintain capacity at this moment, but what we see is perhaps the worst days are still ahead of us as everybody goes inside.

“This morning we had a call with the hospital association, our largest group of hospitals and hospital systems in the state, and what we agreed to was that, each system has their surge plans, and so we asked them to update those to where we are now – looking at surgeries that will be done over the next 45 days or so as the initial time frame – to look at not doing the kinds of surgeries that can be put off, or that aren’t urgent or emergent…and to look at prioritizing, particularly, putting off those surgeries that require an inpatient stay that would take up a hospital bed,” Dr. Marsh continued. “Each system will submit their plans for how they will do that through the hospital association, and we will then look at those plans to make sure we are all communicating and helping each other out.”

Also on Monday, Gov. Justice reported that the current number of active cases in the state has also reached a new record high of 16,787. The number of total patients hospitalized also hit a record high of 597, with 162 patients currently in the ICU.

Meanwhile, the cumulative percent of positive cases is now 3.64%, up from 3.53% last Wednesday and the highest such rate seen in West Virginia since April 23, 2020.

As of Monday morning, the statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt – was 1.00; tied for the 15th-best such rate of any state in the country.

Meanwhile, West Virginia continues to outperform the national average – as well as the rates of all of its bordering states – in lowest percentage of population positive, and lowest percentage of positive test results.

Also on Monday, Gov. Justice celebrated biotech company Moderna’s announcement today that they are now seeking emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for their new COVID-19 vaccine.

This follows last week’s announcement that pharmaceutical company Pfizer applied for the same authorization and that their vaccine is expected to arrive in West Virginia in mid-December.

“Both vaccines require you to take two doses of it, with the doses coming three to four weeks apart,” Gov. Justice said. “There will be a limited supply in the beginning, but it will ramp up very, very quickly. There are approximately 40 million doses that will be going all across our country and it will be ramping up every day. I strongly encourage everyone, once it has authorization from the FDA and approval from the CDC, to take the vaccine.

“Our Vaccine Advisory Council has been working since August,” Gov. Justice continued. “General Hoyer is heading up the efforts. I think we’re going to be ready. I think you’re going to see them move like I know we can.”

Information provided by the office of Gov. Jim Justice.

Staff Report