Governor’s Christmas hope: that West Virginians will seek vaccine boosters

West Virginia’s governor has some blunt and practical holiday advice.

“It’s the day before Christmas Eve. I know everybody is scurrying around, buying gifts and all that,” Gov. Jim Justice said today. “There is nothing, there is nothing as important to you right this minute as getting your booster shot,” Gov. Jim Justice said today. “You have got to get that booster shot right now.”

West Virginia moved back above 9,000 active cases of covid-19 today — now at 9,285.

The state had reached the 9,000 mark as recently as Saturday but then went below that for several days in a row.

Across the country, a surge fueled by the omicron variant pushed a seven-day average to 168,981 cases. That surpasses a summer peak of more than 165,000 infections on Sept. 1.

The virus was at its worst last winter when the United States reached a seven-day rolling average of 248,209 cases on Jan. 12.

Dr. Clay Marsh

“I think we should be very concerned,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s top pandemic adviser. But he added, “No reason to panic. We have tools in our capabilities that can really help us. But we’ve seen a variant spread at a rate of speed that is really unprecedented.”

Speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline” this week, Marsh noted that omicron is clearly spreading even among people who have had two shots of vaccine, so he advised greater numbers of people getting booster shots.

“We know that we have to boost to be effective and protect our population,” Marsh said.

West Virginia identified 580 covid-19 patients in hospitals today. That number was above 600 a few days ago, then dropped yesterday and rose slightly today.

The state lists 203 covid-19 patients in intensive care units and 103 who require the aid of ventilators to breathe.

Omicron, which became the nation’s dominant strain this week, is believed to be far more transmissible than earlier versions of covid-19, but there is some hope that it may produce milder effects.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration this week authorized the first pill that people could take to treat covid-19. The pill has been shown to be 89 percent effective at keeping high-risk patients from developing severe illness when given within three days of symptoms starting. But supplies are limited so far.

President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden’s administration this week announced a plan to expand covid-19 testing sites across the country and distributing 500,000 at-home test kits.

The White House plan also includes increased support for hospitals, including deploying additional personnel, activating federal response teams to boost capacity, and deploying ambulances and emergency medical teams.

Biden, in a national address, said the country is more prepared for covid-19 because of advances in vaccines and more.

“This is not March of 2020,” Biden said. “Two hundred million people are fully vaccinated. We’re prepared. We know more.”

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