CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice and members of his coronavirus task force reported a mixed bag of COVID-19 developments in their next to last media briefing of 2021.
Justice said Omicron variant cases are increasing.
“We have now jumped from three to 18 Omicron variant cases across the state and it will surely skyrocket before this is over,” Justice said.
There are nine Omicron cases in Berkeley County, five in Monongalia County and one each in Fayette, Harrison, Kanawha and Marion counties.
State InterAgency Task Force Director Jim Hoyer said there’s been a significant increase in COVID-related hospitalizations in recent days.
“We hit 95 new admissions (today),” Hoyer said at Tuesday’s briefing. “That’s up from 75 yesterday and it’s up from 45 on the 19th of December.”
The state’s COVID-19 dashboard lists total hospitalizations at 635 with 194 patients in ICU and 101 patients being treated with ventilators.
Justice said 87% of those in ICU and on ventilators are unvaccinated.
The governor lamented about the increasing number of deaths of middle-aged West Virginians and even some deaths of residents in their thirties. State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said the deaths don’t have to happen.
“This is a completely preventable and treatable issue if people do get fully vaccinated and boosted,” Marsh said.
Justice said booster numbers have increased in recent weeks. He said there have been 312,000 booster shots administered. He said 44.9% of those 50 and older have now received a booster shot, 51% of those 65 and older. Justice said the efforts of the state to promote boosters is working.
“We’ve gotten our hands dirty, working, working,” Justice said. “Absolutely and that’s what we’re going to continue to do because every single one of those people we get across the finish may very well be a life we save.”
Marsh urged parents to get their children vaccinated. He said the hospitalization of children has increased dramatically in other states.
“So this is immediately the time to decide to fully vaccinate our children to help protect them from the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in West Virginia,” Marsh said.
Justice began Tuesday’s briefing by offering condolences to the family of Cliffton E. Brooks Sr., the last surviving Tuskegee Airman in West Virginia.
“We lost a true American hero on Christmas Eve,” Justice said. “Cliffton Brooks Sr. should be remembered as a hero who spent his life giving back to his state and his country.”
Brooks lived in Keyser.
Justice’s next briefing will likely occur on Thursday.