CHARLESTON — During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Jim Justice reported the number of West Virginians hospitalized with COVID-19 has hit an unfortunate milestone. However, at the same time, the state’s total number of active cases has begun to decline “rapidly,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.
West Virginia saw a new record high for total hospitalizations Wednesday, reaching exactly 1,000. The state saw a small decrease in the number of patients in ICUs with 280 (down from a peak of 292 on Monday), while the number of patients on ventilators has once again matched the pandemic peak of 168.
The news release further stated, the statewide death toll from COVID-19 has reached 3,467, with 43 more deaths being reported since the Governor’s previous briefing on Monday.
“Just think of the amount of wisdom that’s gone,” Gov. Justice said. “Think about the families sitting around for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. What kind of void are we going to have? And how many more are we going to lose?
“We have the power to stop it,” Gov. Justice continued. “We have all got to step up, united together, and get vaccinated. That’s the way to stop it.”
The Governor went on to add, however, that despite the deaths and hospitalizations, West Virginia may finally be turning the corner with the latest surge brought on by the Delta variant.
For the first time since early July, West Virginia’s active case count has dropped for five consecutive days – and the numbers are falling “rapidly,” stated the news release.
After setting a new all-time pandemic peak of 29,744 active cases on Friday last week, that figure has now dropped to 15,280.
These numbers reflect a decrease of 48.6% in just five days.
“Our numbers show that maybe we are at the peak and we have started to decline,” Gov. Justice said. “But we still need to stay on our guard until we can be sure this isn’t just a little blip.”
“As the Governor very nicely laid out, we know that, at least from our data, it looks like we are at the top part of the inverted-V graph that we anticipate for the Delta variant…but we’ve been surprised before, so we don’t want to be overconfident,” said State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh. “But based on our numbers, it looks like we’ve plateaued, and we hope that is the start of us seeing a more rapid drop. But we expect to continue to see more people in our hospitals and more people that need critical care services and our ICU and ventilators than we have before. We have also seen more deaths accumulate over time over the last few weeks, and that is also the last lagging indicator that we anticipate. That’s why it’s so important for West Virginians to be really, really careful and be very committed to being part of the solution by choosing to get vaccinated.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is fully FDA-approved for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.
All West Virginians interested in being vaccinated are encouraged to visit Vaccinate.wv.gov or call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965. The info line is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Also on Wednesday, Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) Director Jim Hoyer announced that West Virginia officials recently identified a discrepancy in vaccination data being provided to the state by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), specifically related to the federal pharmacy program.
“Since the first part of May, the CDC has been double-counting the numbers that they send us related to the federal pharmacy program,” Hoyer said. “So it has made a significant impact on our numbers.”
Updated vaccination numbers are now available on the DHHR’s COVID-19 Dashboard and show that 991,761 of the 1,557,837 (63.7%) West Virginians who are currently vaccine-eligible have, in fact, been vaccinated with at least one dose, while 935,803 of these 1,557,837 (60.1%) eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
“We have a team of data scientists from DHHR and West Virginia University who are going through the numbers again, just to validate that there’s nothing else that was provided to us that was inaccurate,” Hoyer said. “They have a new process in place to do additional checks of the data that we receive into the State of West Virginia to make sure that the data we are getting is double-checked and accurate.”
“In everything through this pandemic, you’re going to catch a few cannonballs to the stomach every now and then,” Gov. Justice said. “I’ve told you over and over, the very second we have any news, good or bad, I’m going to be completely transparent about it and you’re going to know.
“But the net of the whole thing is that there are a lot of folks still out in West Virginia that haven’t been vaccinated,” Gov. Justice continued. “So now, by having this information, it makes it even better in some ways, because now I know we’ve got to double down even more. We have got to all work just one step harder, because there are a lot of people out there that we can still get to, and when we get to them, maybe we’ll be able to stop this thing. But we really need to step up.”
Gov. Justice also offered a reminder of his announcement Monday that the State will be implementing a new initiative called “Saving Our Care” to ensure the stability of hospitals and nursing homes.
Saving Our Care will provide staffing assistance and financial help to hospitals and long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities to keep workforce levels up. The program will also provide financial assistance to hospitals that have to defer elective procedures.
Information provided by the office of Gov. Jim Justice.