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As covid-19 transmission rate rises, West Virginia officials warn of difficult winter

West Virginia leaders are warning of a difficult winter ahead as the covid-19 pandemic continues.

James Hoyer

“We’re headed into another upward trend, but this time will be different in that we have a much more infectious variant. And we’re already starting out with hospitalizations above 500,” said Jim Hoyer, who leads West Virginia’s interagency task force.

Officials have been warning for weeks that a plateau of covid-19 cases, rising infection rates, holiday gatherings and cold weather could extend the difficulties brought on by the long pandemic.

“Surely we can’t put up with this. Surely we can’t sit back and say this is the new normal,” Governor Jim Justice said during a briefing today

“The only thing we can do is just keep encouraging people to get vaccinated.”

Justice acknowledged that since a surge started easing, “We’ve just plateaued, haven’t we. We just stopped. There’s no way to cut it. But more and more people are going to die.”

Hoyer has particularly kept watch on the transmission rate, where a number above 1 would indicate rising spread. That number was 1.04 today, he said, “so it continues to slowly and steadily progress upward.”

West Virginia’s number of active cases was 6,754 today.

After an initial sharp drop from a September peak, that number has been about the same for weeks. The number of active cases at the beginning of November was 6,597.

West Virginia identified 512 covid patients in hospitals today.

That number is also down from the peak but has not gone below 500 since July. “Our numbers have tended to plateau, unfortunately, at just above 500,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer noted that at the end of the first surge, the hospitals almost emptied out of covid patients. But that has not happened in this case.

The state today reported 183 covid-19 patients in intensive care units and 104 who need the assistance of ventilators to breathe.

With those continued numbers, Hoyer is braced for difficult weeks if there’s a renewed covid surge.

“We’re going to stretch our medical providers to a point that is just not healthy for us as a state,” he said.

Of West Virginia’s vaccine-eligible population, ages 5 and above, the state calculates that just 54 percent are considered fully-vaccinated.

State and national leaders have encouraged not only the initial rounds of vaccinations but also booster shots as efficacy wears off.

Anthony Fauci

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief medical adviser, said this week in an interview with Reuters that the “overwhelming majority” of vaccinated Americans should receive a booster dose.

“We’d like to get as many people who were originally vaccinated with the first regimen boosted,” Fauci said

Hoyer, in comments on West Virginia MetroNews’ “Talkline,” agreed.

“The best option you’ve got to protect yourself is vaccination and boosters,” he said.

 





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