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Hoyer explains recent confusion with West Virginia’s vaccination totals

CHARLESTON — State officials explained Thursday how the vaccination totals posted on the Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 dashboard dropped by tens of thousands earlier this week.

During his Thursday COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Jim Justice was asked about that precipitous drop. According to the website, there was a decrease of almost 27,000 in the reported number of fully vaccinated West Virginians between Monday and Tuesday. The number dropped from 849,000 vaccinated to 822,500, indicating that 49.58 percent of eligible West Virginians over age 5 were fully vaccinated.

On Thursday, the number had increased again and was listed at 894,333 representing 49.99 percent of the eligible population of 1,792,147.

“While these things are difficult, I wasn’t very happy,” Justice said of the discrepancy in numbers. “We’ve spent a lot of money, and we’re tracking the number of those vaccinated and the number of deaths.”

He then referred the question to James Hoyer, director of the state’s interagency task force.

Hoyer acknowledged the numbers did change. He attributed the discrepancy in the number of those vaccinated to people getting their first COVID shot at one location, then going to another for their second dose. In some cases, they might have even gone to a third location for their COVID booster.

Each time their name may have been entered somewhat differently into the state’s reporting system by the vaccine provider, and could be considered three separate cases and three separate people receiving a first dose, Hoyer explained.

The state has a team of data scientists at West Virginia University working on data statistics with the Centers for Disease Control.

“That is why we put the data up — so people can look at it and ask us questions,” he said. “We work with an imperfect system, and we also work with a number of providers who may input data differently.

“But we continue to work every day. The governor presses the team every day to maintain a high level of accurate information,” Hoyer said.

Justice also said he was getting tested for COVID following the briefing as he “had anxieties” after being exposed to COVID during a school visit this week.

“I haven’t told my people this yet, but yesterday I was around a bunch of kids who tested positive and got sick,” he said. “I’m going to get tested as soon as we’re through with this briefing. That is exactly what you should do. If you feel any anxiety at all or any symptom, just get tested.

“The antibodies will save your life if we catch this in time. If you’re 65-plus, and you have any kind of issue and you get this — you’re in real, real trouble.”

There were no positive cases of COVID recorded at Cameron Elementary School in the days leading up to or after Justice’s visit to the school this week, according to Marshall County Health Department Administrator Tom Cook.

Justice noted he had been around “the same bunch of people” last Friday prior to his Monday visit to Cameron. The school students had partied in the gymnasium and stood in line to meet the governor and pet his bulldog Babydog.

Cook examined the records at the Marshall County Health Department dating back to Friday, Nov. 26.

“We have had zero kids test positive in that age group since last Friday,” Cook said.

Justice reported 77 additional COVID deaths placed on West Virginia’s total this week. Hospitalizations in the state due to COVID were at 570 as of Thursday morning, with 190 COVID patients in intensive care units and 95 on ventilators.

Of the 77 additional deaths, 38 were termed “reconciliation” deaths by Justice, or COVID deaths having occurred in past days that weren’t reported.

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