More States Moving On From Pandemic

West Virginia, like much of the rest of the country, appears to be headed in the right direction on the pandemic. In most areas, the number of cases and hospitalizations are dropping as the omicron variant wanes.

Active cases in West Virginia are plummeting, down from over 12,359 last Friday to 7,589 as of Thursday’s DHHR report. Hospitalizations are still high—905 as of yesterday—but that is down from a pandemic peak of 1,094 a week ago.

Fifty-five percent of West Virginians five and older are fully vaccinated, but only one in five of that same age group has received their booster shots.

The state is approaching 6,000 deaths attributed to Covid. DHHR figures show that the vast majority of the people who have died as a result of Covid were not vaccinated.

The R-naught number, the measure of how quickly the virus spreads, is down to just below one, meaning each infection causes less than one new infection.  As long as the number stays below one or continues to drop, the virus spread is slowing.

Governor Jim Justice is hopeful, but cautious.  “Slowly but surely our numbers are getting a bit better,” Justice said at his briefing earlier this week.  “But I still feel that if you aren’t vaccinated, or if you are but you haven’t gotten your booster shot, you’re making a great big mistake.”

Meanwhile, Americans are growing increasingly restless about Covid restrictions, even as the Centers for Disease Control continues to recommend indoor mask wearing in places of “substantial or high transmission” of the virus.

As the AP reported, “State and local leaders, nevertheless, have announced plans to ease virus restrictions in the coming weeks as omicron cases fall, citing the protections offered by the vaccines as well as the increased availability of at-home testing kits and therapeutics for those who do catch the virus.”

Elected officials, who pledged to follow the science, are also following the politics. Democratic governors who have generally been more supportive of pandemic restrictions are rapidly loosening the reins, acknowledging the frustrations of their constituents.

“A leader without followers is not very effective leadership, so somehow you have to strike the balance there to keep people following you,” said Delaware’s Democratic Governor John Carney as he announced an end to that state’s indoor mask mandate.

Politico reported, “Their pandemic pivot comes as they brace for a brutal November election in which the virus—and the culture war that has accompanied it—is shaping up to be the Democrats’ biggest blind spot.”

Those same governors are putting pressure on President Biden to retool his messaging. “Facing growing pressure to ease up on pandemic restrictions, the White House insisted Wednesday it is making plans for a less-disruptive phase of the national virus response,” the AP reported.

The virus still gets a say in all this. People are still going to get sick, and some will die.  Who knows if or when another variant will appear?  But the collective desire for a return to normalcy is powerful.  Covid prevention measures are only as effective as people’s willingness to follow them.

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