Gov. Jim Justice has a blunt message for West Virginians.
“Come on West Virginia. If you don’t want to line up as body bags, come on. Step up,” Justice said to conclude Monday’s pandemic response briefing.
“These vaccines save lives.”
Justice several times alluded to a major outbreak in India, where one in three new coronavirus cases globally is being reported.
The governor lamented that as covid-19 variants are on the rise, the pace of vaccination in West Virginia has slowed. Although West Virginia once led the nation in the percentage of its vaccine allocation used, now the state has fallen behind.
West Virginia has had 36 percent of its population given at least one shot. In comparison, New Hampshire is at 61 percent and Massachusetts and Vermont are at 57 percent.
“If we don’t get our population vaccinated to the highest level possible, we’re going to have a bunch more people die,” Justice said today.
West Virginia has reported 2,686 deaths over the pandemic. The state reported no deaths over the past 24 hours.
The state has reported 224 people hospitalized because of covid-19, a fairly steady number in recent days. Eighty-four people are receiving treatment in the intensive care unit.
Saying the average age of people testing positive has dropped from 44 to 34, Justice emphasized efforts to try to persuade younger people to be vaccinated.
“We need our young people to step up. We need our older people to convince them to step up,” the governor said.
“We need them to quit worrying about the dark of the closet and some boogey man thing.”
Justice said the state will ramp up efforts to make vaccination more convenient.
Justice reiterated that free covid-19 vaccination clinics will be available at all West Virginia state parks and state forests between now and Memorial Day.
On Memorial Day weekend, all West Virginia state parks and forests will offer vaccines to employees, employees’ families, and park guests.
He also said vaccine clinics would be made more convenient by using fixed sites and mobile sites. He said vaccination efforts would extend to locations like fairs and festivals, church parking lots, sporting events, bars, restaurants, shopping centers and malls.
“If we have to go door to door, we’ll go from door to door,” he said.
The governor said the state will encourage local businesses to offer discounts for anyone who is vaccinated “or any other incentive they can come up with.”
Through today, the state’s coronavirus dashboard indicated 788,414 West Virginians had received at least one dose. And 648,651 state residents are considered fully vaccinated.
“We’ve got to get on our toes here,” Justice said. “We have hit a wall as far as being able to get a lot, a lot, a lot of shots in arms as far as people who haven’t had their first dose.”
Clay Marsh, the coronavirus response coordinator, agreed. He urged people to have confidence in the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness.
“We know you can live a regular life if you have the vaccine,” Marsh said.
“These vaccines are incredibly effective. They’re incredibly safe. We are very much making a plea to all West Virginians.”
James Hoyer, who leads the state’s vaccination effort, described success in partnerships with the state Department of Education. But he acknowledged that while demand outstripped supply at first, now the complication is making sure the vaccine on hand doesn’t go to waste.
“We have got to step up and do this,” Hoyer said. “Please step up, get vaccinated, let’s get back to normal.”