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Vaccinations continue as West Virginia COVID-19 cases break 100K

Gov. Jim Justice announced the addition of detailed statistics on COVID-19 vaccinations on the state’s Coronavirus Dashboard. (Photo Provided)

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s efforts to vaccinate healthcare 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 Modern 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 Tuesday, 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 addition 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.

The state reported 1,594 total COVID-19 deaths as of Monday. There were 328 deaths reported between Dec. 28 and Jan. 10 — a 15 percent increase from the 286 deaths reported the previous 14 days. Over a seven-day period, the state saw an average of 29 deaths per day.

There were 755 hospitalizations as of Monday, down from 799 hospitalizations the previous week — a 6 percent decrease. The average number of hospitalizations between Dec. 28 and Jan. 10 increased by 8 percent over the average number of hospitalizations the previous 14 days. The number of infected people in intensive care units was 212 — up from 205 last week — and 104 people are on ventilators — up from 91 last week.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the percent of inpatient hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients was 17.3 percent as of Jan. 4, up from 15.2 percent as of Dec. 29. Out of an estimated 782 ICU beds in the state, 650 beds — or 83.17 percent of the state’s ICU capacity — is being used.

West Virginia’s Rt number, the rate that shows how quickly the virus is spreading in the community, was 0.97 as of Monday, down from 1.02 last week. The state’s Rt number moved to the third best rate in the nation after being second worst two weeks ago. 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 in West Virginia was 8.77 percent Monday. The cumulative percent of positive cases was 5.38 percent.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

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