As Covid-19 transmission rate rises, West Virginia officials warn of a tough winter

West Virginia leaders warn of a difficult winter ahead as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

James Hoyer

“We are going up again, but this time it will be different, because we have a much more contagious variant. And we’re already starting with more than 500 hospitalizations,” said Jim Hoyer, who leads the West Virginia Interagency Task Force.

Officials have been warning for weeks that a plateau of Covid-19 cases, rising infection rates, holiday gatherings and cold weather could compound the problems caused by the long pandemic.

“Of course we can’t handle this. Surely we can’t sit back and say this is the new normal,” Governor Jim Justice said at a briefing today.

“All we can do is continue to encourage people to get vaccinated.”

Justice acknowledged that since a wave started to subside, “We’ve reached a plateau, haven’t we. We just stopped. There’s no way to cut it. But more and more people are dying.”

In particular, Hoyer has been keeping an eye on transmission speed, where a number above 1 would indicate a rising spread. That number was 1.04 today, he said, “so it continues to rise slowly and steadily.”

The number of West Virginia of active cases today was 6,754.

After an initially sharp decline from a peak in September, that number has been about the same for weeks. The number of active cases at the beginning of November was 6,597.

West Virginia has identified 512 covid patients in hospitals today.

That number is also below the peak, but hasn’t fallen below 500 since July. “Unfortunately, our numbers tend to stabilize to just above 500,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer noted that at the end of the first wave, the hospitals were almost empty of covid patients. But that didn’t happen in this case.

The state today reported 183 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units and 104 who need the help of ventilators to breathe.

With those lingering numbers, Hoyer is bracing for tough weeks if there’s a renewed covid wave.

“We’re going to expand our medical providers to a point that just isn’t healthy for us as a state,” he said.

Of the vaccine-eligible population of West Virginia, ages 5 and older, the state calculates that only 54 percent are considered fully vaccinated.

State and national leaders have encouraged not only initial rounds of vaccinations, but booster shots as efficacy declines.

Anthony Faucic

Anthony Fauci, the country’s chief medical adviser, said in a statement this week interview with Reuters that the “overwhelming majority” of vaccinated Americans should receive a booster dose.

“We’d like as many people as possible who were originally vaccinated with the first regimen to get a boost,” Fauci . said

Hoyer, in comments to West Virginia MetroNews’ “Talkline,” agreed.

“The best option you have for protecting yourself is vaccination and boosters,” he said.

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