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COVID and the Capitol

For the second year in a row, the West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Lookahead went all virtual on Friday instead of the in-person event we normally have each year at the Culture Center in Charleston.

The event was originally supposed to be in-person, but a combination of someone with the Press Association testing positive for COVID-19 and the snowfall the state started receiving Thursday afternoon into Friday led to the event being put on Zoom.

I’m a bit disappointed, as I was looking forward to the in-person event. Frankly, I’m at my wit’s end when it comes to COVID-19, especially now as the more-contagious-but-milder omicron variant spreads.

Despite us knowing far more about COVID than we did two years ago, knowing who it effects the most (older people and those with health issues) and who it effects the least (children), having effective vaccines, new antiviral treatments and with at-home quick testing available (though not in nearly plentiful as it should have been), people are treating the new omicron spike like they did during March 2020 when we knew nothing about COVID.

It appears to me that the wrong people are spooked. If you are fully vaccinated and boosted, I have no idea why you’re running around like a headless chicken. The vaccine is very effective. It prevents the virus’ worst effects and severe symptoms, and it helps protect against the possibility of hospitalization.

Does it prevent you from getting omicron? No, and you should probably just give up on the notion that you can keep yourself from getting it. Unless you’re rocking an N95 mask, your cloth mask doesn’t provide as much protection.

We seem to have forgotten the point of the masks was to lessen the chance that a person might spread the virus if they unknowingly had it. Cloth masks are not effective in keeping you from getting infected

I know a lot of people who have done what they’ve been told by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, wearing masks (including outside even though the CDC doesn’t recommend that), keeping a distance from others, etc., who have still gotten sick with omicron or simply tested positive for COVID-19 and have no symptoms. It doesn’t mean they did something wrong or missed a step. Viruses naturally become more contagious as they evolve. The odds of getting it now are greater.

We really are at the point where we simply have to learn to live with COVID and assess our own risks. Even members of President Joe Biden’s transition team, including doctors, came out this week and said as much. We all have different levels of risk because we’re all different. If you are frequently around friends or family who are immunocompromised, you will likely take different precautions than someone who spends most of their time around their healthy wife and a cat.

If you’re vaccinated and still want to wear a mask, that’s fine. I’m not anti-mask. I keep a mask on me at all times, and I wear masks when required to and even when politely asked to. With that said, I’ve been fully vaccinated since the end of 2020 with the still yet unapproved Aztra Zeneca vaccine, and I’ve been fully vaccinated with Moderna since last April. I got my Moderna booster just a couple of months ago. I don’t want to get COVID-19, whether delta or omicron, but I also don’t fear getting COVID.

What I DO have fear for are the 45.7% of eligible West Virginians who stubbornly refuse to get vaccinated. I also have fear for the 65.4% of West Virginians who have received the first dose of a vaccine and haven’t even so much as gotten their second shot, let alone a booster. According to the most recent state data, only about half of those who got their first shot are coming back for the second shot.

Omicron has already receded from where it was discovered in South Africa. Great Britain is seeing a reduction in cases, and experts think New York’s cases have peaked. Just like the first spike last winter and the delta spike during the summer and early fall, our omicron spike is hitting us later than other places.

The high number of unvaccinated or those with one shot means our hospitals in the state are getting crowded, though cases resulting in ICU usage haven’t gone up at the same rate as overall hospitalizations.

This is likely due to the fact the omicron is more of an upper respiratory virus instead of one that attacks the lungs. Nonetheless, the run on hospitals by the unvaccinated once again is hurting those who need hospital beds for other health issues.

Right now, I’m gearing up for the 2022 legislative session that starts Wednesday. Even before COVID one had to watch out for the Capitol Crud. We’ll see if COVID infections put some lawmakers into quarantine. But I’ll be there, in person, mask at the ready, and with a bag of cough drops handy.

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