West Virginia officials urge COVID vaccinations to stem tide of delta variant
CHARLESTON — With the delta/India variant of COVID-19 quickly becoming the dominant variant in the U.S., state officials promoted the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines at preventing severe symptoms, hospitalizations and deaths.
According to an analysis by CNN of coronavirus data from Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19 cases are increasing in all U.S. states at the same time — a first since January during the peak of COVID-19 infections in West Virginia. The New York Times COVID-19 tracker showed a 121 percent increase in new cases in the U.S. over 14 days.
West Virginia itself is seeing a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases. According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, active cases rose to 1,026 as of Thursday, a 16 percent increase from 882 active cases seven days ago.
The increase in cases is being driven by the delta variant, a more infectious form of COVID-19. Though preliminary studies show the variant is not any more dangerous than others, one person infected has the potential to spread it to up to eight people at one time. State health officials said 58 percent of new COVID-19 cases stem from the delta variant.
Gov. Jim Justice used his COVID-19 briefing Friday to continue to encourage West Virginians to get vaccinated. Justice said the state only has 19 confirmed cases of the delta variant but he urged residents not to wait to get their shot.
“A lot of people are scared to death about it, but we’re still not moving very much on the delta variant,” Justice said. “It’s moving really slowly in West Virginia, but the health officials will tell you over and over this is coming to West Virginia.”
Jeff Zients, the COVID-19 response coordinator for President Joe Biden, said Friday that unvaccinated Americans account for virtually all recent hospitalizations and deaths. In West Virginia, hospitalizations are up slightly, from 72 last Friday to 80 as of Thursday. The state reported 10 additional COVID-19 deaths since Tuesday’s statewide briefing.
Preliminary studies also show that all three COVID-19 vaccines — the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna inoculations and the one-dose Johnson and Johnson — to be highly effective at blocking infection by the delta variant, or less likely to have serious symptoms resulting in hospitalization or death.
Dr. Clay Marsh, the state coronavirus czar, said out of 866,350 vaccinations in West Virginia, only 883 cases of breakthrough infections were found, making vaccines in West Virginia 99.9 percent effective in blocking COVID-19 infections. Marsh said the vaccines make COVID-19 and the delta variant a “preventable infection.”
“We still have an opportunity to protect our people from getting infected with COVID-19, particularly the delta variant that infects more easily,” Marsh said. “Being vaccinated is very, very protective and almost 100 percent protective against death from this really, really challenging new form of COVID-19.”
Steven Allen Adams can be reached at email@example.com.