Marsh concerned about ‘uptick’ in COVID spread rate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh expressed concern Monday that the state may be looking at another surge in COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Clay Marsh

Marsh, appearing in person at Gov. Jim Justice’s coronavirus media briefing, said the metric that measures rate of spread is showing an uptick in West Virginia.

“As we start to look at the present situation of COVID and present status of COVID in West Virginia, that is a bit concerning,” Marsh said.

Active COVID-19 cases were around 6,300 Monday. Active cases have been fluctuating between 6,300 and 7,300 in the past three weeks. Marsh said the state just isn’t seeing a major reduction in active cases.

State InterAgency Task Force Director Jim Hoyer said during Monday’s briefing there’s been a lot of analytical worker put into the spread rate and the task force trusts its findings. He said it is showing an upward trend.

“We know it is exceptionally accurate and effective and it tells us that we have hit a plateau again and particularly going into the winter months as more people are going inside–we must get more people vaccinated,” Hoyer said.

Marsh urged more older state residents to take advantage of booster shots. He said that of approximately 550,000 West Virginians over 50-years-old that have been fully vaccinated only approximately 45,000 have gotten the booster shot.

“That is a big difference,” Marsh said.

James Hoyer

He added the effectiveness of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines begin to decrease six months after the second shot. The time is shorter for the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Marsh said the pandemic will stick around unless more residents get vaccinated including the booster shots.

“For us to make COVID-19 an endemic problem, a yearly problem like the flu is, we would need 85% to 90% of our population to be fully vaccinated,” Marsh said. “We are far away from that in West Virginia and we are far away from that in our country.”

As it has been for months, there are vaccinations occurring daily in the state but more are needed, Hoyer said.

“We continue to have over the last week about 0.2% a day increase in first doses of those over the age of 18 and while that is an encouraging trend, it is not fast enough,” Hoyer said.

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