White House announces initiatives to head off surge, and state leaders express concern

As the White House introduced new measures meant to blunt the effects of a winter surge of covid-19, West Virginia health leaders expressed their own alarm about what’s ahead.

Dr. Ayne Amjad

“I would say yes, I’m a little concerned,” public health officer Ayne Amjad said during a briefing today.

Amjad pointed toward a rising number of active covid-19 cases, “so to me that’s alarming.”

West Virginia’s number of active cases rose today to 7,113, according to state figures. 

That’s up from 5,800 on Monday. Overall, West Virginia’s caseload has more or less plateaued since a spike a few weeks ago.

Hospitalizations were up today, too — now at 569.

The state listed 190 covid-19 patients requiring hospitalization and 94 needing ventilators to breathe.

Dr. Clay Marsh

“We are very worried about the hospital capacity,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s top covid-19 adviser.

West Virginia reports that 52.6 percent of its vaccine-eligible population, ages 5 and older, is considered fully-vaccinated.

The seven-day average on vaccinations has been sliding downward, at 906 today from 1,493 last Thursday.

“It is really important for a best protection status for all West Virginians who haven’t been vaccinated — and that includes family members visiting folks in nursing homes, people working in these facilities, as well as generally in our state — to make sure that if you’re vaccinated with first and second doses and you’re six months after that for Pfizer and Moderna or two months after J&J that you get boosted,” Marsh said.

Joe Biden

President Joe Biden and his administration today announced a series of measures meant to blunt the worst effects of a possible winter surge. The precautions were announced just as the second case of the new variant omicron was identified today.

“We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion,” Biden said in a public address this afternoon.

The measures will require international travelers to test negative within one day of their departure to the United States, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. The initiatives also include a requirement for insurers to cover the full cost of at-home covid-19 tests that people buy.

The plan also includes the establishment of family vaccination clinics to allow all members of a family to get first shots or boosters at the same time at community health centers and other locations. Some of those events for hard-to-reach communities will be mobile.

“We are better positioned than we were a year ago to fight covid-19,” Biden said today.

Gov. Jim Justice, during a briefing today, said he would be getting a covid-19 test following recent exposures to people who are experiencing the effects of the virus.

He described his own situation to urge other citizens to get tested.

Justice started today’s regular pandemic briefing almost an hour after it was initially scheduled to begin and then spent much of it describing the state’s economic performance and tourism accolades.

But he did conclude with his own warning about troubles ahead with covid-19.

“It’s going to get cold. We’re going to be indoors more. We’re going to be at basketball games. We’re going to be lots of places, Christmas dinners, wherever it may be. There’s more variants out there,” Justice said.

“You need to be vaccinated. We’ve said it 10 million times. That’s all there is to it. The folks that are vaccinated, get your booster shot. Get it right now.”

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