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West Virginia reports two more deaths from COVID-19

Gov. Jim Justice is joined Thursday by Babydog to encourage residents to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Babydog is the face of the vaccination sweepstakes. (Photo Provided)

CHARLESTON — Two more deaths from the COVID-19 coronavirus were reported Thursday morning by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

The deaths were a 56-year-old man from Barbour County and a 68-year-old woman from Raleigh County, the state said. The death count since the pandemic started in West Virginia was at 2,863 as of Thursday.

Active cases reported across the state are continuing to decrease, according to the state. The state reported 2.521 active cases as of Thursday with 71 new cases reported in the 24 hours from Wednesday to Thursday mornings.

Active cases were 2,673 on Wednesday, 2,710 on Tuesday and 2,799 on Monday. The daily positivity rate was 1.39 percent on Thursday.

“Things in West Virginia right now from COVID-19 are looking very positive. Our cases are going down,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia coronavirus leader. “We still have people dying and that is something that we should never feel comfortable with.”

Nonetheless, caution is needed to avoid complacency, according to two recent studies, Marsh said. One study indicates half of those who recovered continued to have side effects, he said.

More concerning was a study from Scotland. The Delta variant from India is becoming the more common strain and is more infectious and severe than the UK variant that is also more infectious and severe than the original virus from China, Marsh said. The study found people infected by the Delta are more likely to be hospitalized, he said.

About 10 percent of cases in the United States are the Delta variant, he said. It infects children more than the other variants, Marsh said. Three cases of the Delta have been identified in West Virginia, he said.

The Delta strain doubles about every two weeks and will shortly become the most common variant in the U.S., Marsh said.

“That’s really a concern because of the number of people still not vaccinated,” Marsh said.

Hospitalizations were at 123 on Thursday with 38 in an intensive care unit and 16 on ventilators. Hospitalizations peaked at 216 the first week of January.

Nearly all counties are green, the lowest level of infection and positivity rates, on the County Alert System map, except for Doddridge, which returned to yellow on Thursday. No counties in the state are red or orange, the severest levels on the chart.

The percentage of residents 12 and older who have been vaccinated inched upward to 61.5 percent from 61.4 percent on Wednesday. The mask mandate is expected to be lifted on Sunday as the percentage nears 65.

The first winners in the “Do it for Babydog: Save a life, Change a Life” vaccination sweepstakes will be announced Sunday at West Virginia Day ceremonies at the Capitol when someone will be the latest millionaire in West Virginia.

Gov. Jim Justice at his Thursday pandemic briefing took the opportunity to encourage registration for the sweepstakes at doitforbabydog.wv.gov for future drawings and had his pet English bulldog, Babydog, the face of the sweepstakes, at his side during the press conference.

“She just loves everybody,” Justice said.

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