West Virginia is making progress in tamping down the Covid-19 virus. Governor Jim Justice pointed to several of the key indicators during his briefing Monday.
—The number of active Covid-19 cases has declined for 16 straight days, down from over 29,000 early last month to 20,615 according to yesterday’s numbers from DHHR.
—Hospitalizations from Covid stood at 438 yesterday. That is about half what it was at the start of January, and the lowest since Thanksgiving.
—A month ago, nearly every West Virginia county was in the red category because of a high infection rate. Monday’s map showed just 12 counties in the red.
“West Virginians, you are looking great,” Justice said. “We just need to keep doing better and better and better.”
West Virginia Covid-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh believes the numbers represent a trend. “It’s something we’ve been seeing in a very consistent way over the last week to ten days or so,” Marsh said. “This is a direct reflection of our aggressive vaccination strategy.”
West Virginia began by partnering with pharmacies to get shots to seniors at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The state was probably two weeks ahead of the rest of the country with vaccinations for the most vulnerable population.
The state then followed up by building out an infrastructure to begin vaccinating the rest of the population. That effort has not gone as smoothly, primarily because the state has only been able to get a fraction of doses requested, while the number of people who can receive the vaccine has increased significantly.
Still, according to Bloomberg’s Covid-19 vaccine tracker, only Alaska has been able to administer a higher percentage of vaccines to its population than West Virginia.
The vaccines available now require two doses, but Marsh said on Talkline Monday that just one dose reduces infections and serious illness, and that has made a huge difference. He cited research from Israel, which has had the world’s fastest vaccination drive.
The Times of Israel reported last week that the country has seen a 60 percent drop in hospitalizations for those 60 and older after just the first shot.
We still have a long way to go. Only about one out of every ten West Virginians has received a single dose and just four percent of the population has gotten both doses. The state is expecting a slight increase in the number of doses this week, but not nearly equal to the state’s delivery capacity.
“Everybody needs to realize we do not have enough vaccines to do everybody right now,” Justice said. “We’re pushing and we’re going to continue to push,” he said.
However, the trendline is encouraging. West Virginians are weary from the restrictions and worried about infection. At least now there are positive signs that we are headed in the right direction.