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Justice calls for more West Virginia residents to pre-register for COVID-19 vaccines

CHARLESTON — As West Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers go down and vaccinations go up, Gov. Jim Justice called Monday on more West Virginians to pre-register online for a coronavirus shot.

“We still encourage any and every West Virginian … to pre-register,” Justice said.

During his Monday coronavirus briefing at the Capitol, Justice said 15 counties need to encourage residents to pre-register due to low registration numbers.

“We have counties that need now to increase their pre-registration,” he said. “If you’re in one of these counties, we’ve got to have you increase your pre-registration and everything. It will only help your county and help your people.”

Counties with low pre-registration numbers are Gilmer, Calhoun, Clay, Wirt, Doddridge, Webster, Pocahontas, Grant, Pendleton, Braxton, Wyoming, Pleasants, Tyler, Tucker and McDowell counties.

“These counties are really through the gut of West Virginia and not just stuck up in the Northern or Eastern Panhandles,” Justice said.

According to data from the Department of Health and Human Resource, West Virginia has fully vaccinated more than 12 percent of its 1.79 million residents against COVID-19 since the first doses arrived in December.

Nearly 19 percent of residents have at least one shot. The state receives weekly shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, both of which require two doses, as well as the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

According to Justice, more than 350,000 West Virginians have already pre-registered for a vaccine. The state is vaccinating residents age 50 and older, though all residents age 16 and older are encouraged to register at vaccinate.wv.gov, the state’s Everbridge online portal. Residents without access to reliable internet or needing assistance can call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Info Line at 1-833-734-0965.

“I can take the horse to water, but I can’t make you drink,” Justice said. “You’re making a big mistake not taking this vaccine.”

Health officials also are vaccinating the remaining healthcare workers, other essential workers outside of healthcare and teachers age 40 and older. The state also is partnering with additional pharmacies through a federal program, including The Medicine Shoppe pharmacies

According to DHHR, the number of positive cases over a 14-day period between Feb. 22 and March 7 was 3,907, a 17 percent decrease compared to 4,705 cases between Feb. 8. through Feb. 21.

As of Monday, the most recent data available, the state reported 182 new cases received in a 24-hour period compared to Sunday’s data. The state averaged 250 cases per day over a seven-day period, down from 327 cases the previous seven days.

Active COVID-19 cases, the number of infected people in self-quarantine or hospitalized, was 5,613 cases as of Monday, a 20 percent decrease from 6,997 active cases seven days ago and an 81 percent decrease from a peak of 29,257 active cases on Jan. 10.

All 55 counties have active cases for the 20th week in a row. Active cases have decreased in 43 counties over the last seven days, while cases increased in 12 counties.

The state reported 2,325 total COVID-19 deaths as of Monday, the seventh week in a row for decreases in deaths. Sixty-four deaths were reported between Feb. 22 and March 7, a 52 percent decrease from the 132 deaths reported the previous 14 days. Over a seven-day period, the state saw an average of four deaths per day.

Hospitalizations totaled 178 as of Monday, down from 225 hospitalizations the previous week, a 21 percent decrease. The average number of hospitalizations between Feb. 22 and March 7 decreased by 30 percent over the average number of hospitalizations the previous 14 days. The number of infected people in intensive care units was 41, down from 59 last week, and 24 people are on ventilators, down from 30 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 4 percent as of March 4, down from 6 percent at the end of February. Out of an estimated 782 ICU beds in the state, 532 beds, or 68 percent of the state’s ICU capacity, continues to be used. That’s down from 73 percent on Feb. 26.

The number of West Virginians getting tested for COVID-19 is increasing for the first time in weeks. The total numbers of tests between Feb. 22 and March 7 was 123,104, a 3 percent increase in testing compared to 119,877 tests over the previous 14-day period. Over the last seven days, the state conducted an average of 8,559 tests per day, down from 9,020 tests per day the previous week.

There were no red counties on DHHR’s County Alert System map Monday for the third week in a row. Counties listed as red either have higher infection rates or high percent of positivity, meaning high schools in those counties would have to go to remote learning. Pre-K, elementary, and middle schools can open for in-person learning regardless of map color.

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

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To Pre-Register

* The state is vaccinating residents age 50 and older, though all residents age 16 and older are encouraged to register at vaccinate.wv.gov.

* Residents without access to reliable internet or needing assistance can call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Info Line at 1-833-734-0965.

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