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West Virginia COVID Death Toll Passes 5,000

Photo Courtesy/WV Governor’s Office After reading off a list of the ages of recent COVID-19 deaths, Gov. Jim Justice encouraged the public to get vaccinated or get a booster.

CHARLESTON — West Virginia reached another grim milestone Tuesday with more than 5,000 state residents dead since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, 5,021 West Virginians have died from COVID-19 infections since the first death was reported on March 29, 2020 — nearly two weeks after the state reported its first infection.

According to the New York Times, West Virginia’s COVID-19 death rate since the beginning of the pandemic was 278 deaths per 100,000 people, ranking 11th in the U.S. The state is averaging 22 deaths per day, with the 14-day change in deaths up by 26%.

Speaking during a Tuesday coronavirus briefing at the Capitol, State Coronavirus Czar Clay Marsh said West Virginia ranks 14th nationally with the highest number of deaths per 100,000 people, with the state moving further up in rank over the last seven days.

“Over the last week, we find ourselves the third most deaths per 100,000 in the country,” Marsh said. “These deaths are largely occurring in people who are not vaccinated or who have not actively gone to get their boosters.”

According to DHHR, active COVID-19 cases increased to 8,249 as of Monday, a 31.6% increase in active cases from 6,267 last Tuesday. It’s also an 83.3% increase in active cases since Thanksgiving Day nearly two days ago.

The vast majority of the state’s 55 counties are either in the red for severe infection rates or high percent of positive, or orange –the next step down from red. Only Pocahontas County is in the green for low percent of positivity.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are also trending back upward after dropping to 498 on Thanksgiving Day. The state reported 585 hospitalizations as of Monday, a 17.5% increase from Nov. 25 when hospitalizations were at their lowest following the summer and fall delta variant surge. Cases admitted to intensive care units increased by 19.6%, from a delta low of 168 on Nov. 18 to 201 as of Monday. More than 78% of residents in hospitals are unvaccinated.

Only 53% of eligible West Virginians are fully vaccinated with either the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Only 63.2% of eligible West Virginians have at least one dose of a vaccine.

Only 14.5% of fully vaccinated residents have received a booster shot. A closer look at vaccine booster data shows that 33.2% of West Virginians older than 71 have their booster, followed by 28.3% for the 61-70 age group, 16.1% for the 51-60 age group, 11.1% for the 41-50 age group, 8.5% for the 31-40 age group, 5.2% for the 26-30 age group, and 4.2% for the 21-25 age group.

“To think (COVID-19) is not with us is a bad move, and to think you don’t need your booster shot is way even a worse move,” Gov. Jim Justice said. “For those of you 50 and older, I don’t know how to make it any plainer than just this: if you’re walking around thinking you’re fully vaccinated and you’re six months out from your last vaccination, you’re not covered.”

Justice announced a vaccine and booster incentive program aimed at the state’s more than 200 senior centers. Seniors who either get their first, second, or booster shot will receive a $50 prepaid Visa gift card. The senior center in each of the state’s four aging provider regions will receive $100,000 and a visit from Justice and Babydog.

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