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COVID-19 survivor encourages residents to get vaccinated

Photo provided Christopher Holmes spent 80 days in a hospital fighting a severe COVID-19 infection. Now, he encourages people to get vaccinated.

CHARLESTON — A COVID-19 vaccine skeptic and coronavirus survivor told his harrowing story of his fight with the virus Monday morning during Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing.

Christopher Holmes, a COVID-19 survivor who spent 80 days in the hospital with an infection that put him on a ventilator, virtually joined the briefing at the Capitol to talk about his experiences fighting the virus.

“I pretty much had hoses coming out of every part of my body. I had a feeding tube,” Holmes said. “I lost 110 pounds while I was in there,” Holmes said. “I lost all my muscle, I had to learn to walk again. Everything you don’t even think about doing, I had to learn again.”

Holmes said everyone in his family came down with COVID-19 infections except his daughter, who was vaccinated with one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines. Previously vaccine skeptics, Holmes’ family members have now been vaccinated and he encourages others to get vaccinated.

“I have proof that the COVID shot works, because everyone had COVID in my house except my daughter, and she was the only one who had the shot,” Holmes said. “I hope everyone gets the shot because you don’t want to take it home to your family … It’s your choice. It’s a free country, but I’m just saying everyone should get this shot. If you can save just one life, it’s worth it.”

Justice praised Holmes’ testimonial.

“If your testimony doesn’t touch all of our hearts, I don’t know what does,” Justice said. “It takes a big man to stand up and give us this story.”

After passing the January peaks and breaking new records, the delta wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in West Virginia has dipped back below those benchmarks, returning to mid-August numbers.

According to data released Monday by the state Department of Health and Human Resources, active COVID-19 cases dropped from 9,861 cases last Monday to 9,033 cases as of Sunday.

Despite a couple of days last week when active cases jumped north of 10,000, active cases have steadily decreased from a pandemic record of 29,744 active cases on Sept. 16, more than 33 days ago. West Virginia hasn’t seen active case numbers this low since Aug. 20, two months ago.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have also seen drops. According to DHHR, there were 744 West Virginians hospitalized for the coronavirus as of Sunday. That’s down from a new record of 1,012 hospitalizations Sept. 24 and it is also below the previous hospitalization peak of 818 on Jan. 5 during the first COVID-19 spike last fall and winter.

The number of West Virginians in intensive care units as of Sunday was 221, down from 296 ICU cases on Sept. 29 and also down from the winter peak of 219 ICU cases on Jan. 6. While ventilator cases are down from 195 cases on Sept. 25 to 151 cases as of Sunday, ventilator cases remain far above last winter’s peak of 104 on Jan. 10.

COVID-19 vaccination numbers continue to trickle in, with 57.9 percent of eligible West Virginians age 12 and older fully vaccinated. Only 66 percent of eligible West Virginians have at least one shot of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

While active cases and hospitalizations continue to drop, deaths have not followed suit as of yet. The state reported 28 new COVID-19 deaths since Friday, bringing the statewide pandemic total to 4,134. Of that number, 3,017 deaths have occurred since vaccines were available last December, with 92.3 percent of those deaths occurring among the unvaccinated.

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