Justice: Delta variant of covid-19 is ‘one that is scaring us to death’

Gov. Jim Justice described the delta variant of covid-19 as “one that is scaring us to death.”

The governor applied that characterization today during a regular briefing about West Virginia’s covid-19 response. Numbers on the delta variant in West Virginia remain relatively low, but are worth watching.

Cases of the delta variant have started to increase, according to state figures. Health officials have identified 12 cases of the delta variant, also called the B.1.617.2 variant, in 5 counties. Most of the cases so far are in Monongalia, 5, and Berkeley, 4. One case has been identified in McDowell County, one case in Hampshire, and one in Marion County.

Health officials are particularly concerned about the delta variant because it is more contagious than previous variants, plus there’s evidence it increases the risk of hospitalization and is more resistant to vaccines.

Last week, the World Health Organization warned that delta is the fastest and fittest coronavirus strain yet,

West Virginia’s governor agreed with that assessment: “The infectiousness of that variant is much faster than covid, and it moves and everything.”

Dr. Ayne Amjad

State Health Officer Ayne Amjad said the variant is yet another incentive to get as many West Virginians vaccinated as possible.

“Right now our priority is to make sure people get vaccinated fully,” Amjad said at today’s covid-19 briefing. “We need to remind everyone to get fully vaccinated in West Virginia.”

So far, less than half of West Virginia’s population is considered fully vaccinated. State records indicate 823,186 West Virginians — about 46 percent of the state’s population — are fully vaccinated.

And 989,210 — about 55 percent — have received at least one dose.

Early studies indicate those most at risk of infection by the delta variant include younger people, the unvaccinated and the partially vaccinated.

West Virginia’s vaccination rate, once tops in the nation, continues to decline steadily.

State figures show that 2,134 doses were administered on Thursday, June 3.

On Thursday, June 10, a week later, 1,876 doses were administered.

On Thursday, June 17, there were 1,555 doses administered.

And on Thursday, June 24, West Virginia had 1,130 doses administered.

“Now if you’re not vaccinated, what are you going to do?” Justice asked today.

“People are walking all around everywhere. This virus is everywhere and you’re walking around unprotected. Not smart. Not smart.”

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