W.Va. COVID numbers trending down

CHARLESTON — The number of active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in West Virginia over the last several weeks continue decrease, taking the state back to case numbers not seen since the first two week of August.

According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, there were 7,366 active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia as of Monday — the lowest number since Aug. 16.

Monday’s active case number was a 75 percent drop from the 29,744 active cases that peaked Sept. 16 during the second surge caused by the more contagious delta COVID-19 variant.

Active cases have been coming down slowly for the last several weeks, targeting the unvaccinated, as well as older West Virginians and those with underlying health issues who received a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year and whose antibodies started wearing off.

While the vast majority of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are the result of West Virginians remaining unvaccinated, 8.14 percent of all cases since the vaccines first started in December 2020 are breakthrough infections, as well as 22 percent of hospitalizations and 7.97 percent of deaths.

Speaking Tuesday during his COVID-19 briefing from the State Capitol Building, Gov. Jim Justice encouraged eligible West Virginians to get a COVID-19 booster shot.

“You need your booster shots. The numbers are telling us this loud and clear,” Justice said. “The numbers are also telling us that the age difference is significant.”

Those who have received one of the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose COVID-19 vaccines who are more than 65 years old, or age 18 or older in long-term care facilities, with underlying medical conditions, or working in high-risk settings are eligible for a third booster shot.

The Centers for Disease Control also recommend a booster for anyone who received the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccines. The CDC also said receiving a booster from a vaccine different than the initial vaccine was acceptable.

“For people who have gotten a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna six months ago who fit within an eligibility criteria and based on that criteria, we believe that every West Virginian 18 and older can fit into one such criteria and choose to get either a third dose of the same vaccine or an alternative vaccine,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, the state coronavirus czar.

Justice said there were 53 COVID-19 deaths since his Friday coronavirus briefing last week, bring the total deaths since the start of the pandemic to 4,316. While the vast majority of the deaths in West Virginia continue to be older residents, the average age of deaths has steadily decreased. The average age of deaths in 2020 and during the peak of the first surge in January 2021 was 77. But as of September, the average age of deaths was 69, while the average age of deaths so far in October is 67.

The numbers reflect that while there are a high number of older West Virginians vaccinated, younger West Virginians continue to lag in vaccination numbers. Two age groups are more than 70 percent fully vaccinated — West Virginians 71 and older and those between the ages of 61-70. But the 12-15 and the 26-30 age groups are below 40 percent for full vaccination.

“The numbers are also telling us that the age difference is significant, and people that are younger are dying with this dreaded disease,” Justice said. “Younger people, from the standpoint of our parents and everything, please encourage your children to get their vaccinations.”


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