CHARLESTON — Although only 12 cases of the COVID Delta (India) variant have been reported in the state as of Thursday, that can change quickly, state health officials say.

Dr. Ayne Amjad, state Health Officer, said during Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing Thursday most of those 12 cases were in family units and have been isolated.

“But this is a very transmissible variant,” she said. “This number can spike up rather quickly.”

The UK variant rose from 200 to 2,000 in the state, she added, so it can happen quickly.

“That is also why we encourage people to get vaccinated,” Amjad said, especially with summer travel and holidays.

The state’s system that keeps track of variants is being updated, she said, so the numbers remain fluid.

“This is a different virus,” Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, said. “It is much more transmissible, much more infectious.”

Marsh said that on June 5 the Delta variant made up 10 percent of COVID cases in the country, jumping to 26 percent by June 20 and around 40 percent now.

The variant is showing up primarily in those unvaccinated or only partly vaccinated, he added.

Marsh said those who are fully vaccinated are protected 88 to 92 percent against contracting the virus and over 96 percent protection against severe symptoms and hospitalization.

Justice said the variant may be in its “infancy” in West Virginia and the vaccines are “extremely effective” against it.

Mercer County Health Department Administrator Roger Topping also emphasized the importance of vaccines with the variants, especially Delta.

“The Delta variant cases grow faster in states with low vaccination rates,” he said. “If you are not vaccinated it increases your chance of acquiring the variant. The numbers of the Delta variant increased from 4 to 12 in West Virginia on Monday and Tuesday of this week”

Topping said state health officials have assured people the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines are effective against the variant.

“If a person experiences signs and symptoms of COVID, please stay home,” Topping said. “If you are not vaccinated, get vaccinated.”

So far, Mercer County has had 51 cases of the UK variant but none other. McDowell County has had one case of the Delta variant.

During the briefing, Justice also was joined virtually by McDowell County resident Jenna Atwell of Paynesville, who won one of the two college scholarships this week in the Do It For Babydog vaccine lottery.

“Jenna, we’re proud of you,” he said. “Thank you for getting vaccinated. I just want to congratulate you.”

Atwell, a basketball player who just graduated from Riverview High School, thanked the governor and said she appreciated the scholarship.

Justice presented Atwell with a custom “Do it for Babydog” backpack as part of her prize winnings as well as a prize certificate, which was signed by Babydog’s footprint.

“We’ll continue these prize drawings for five more weeks, and if you haven’t gotten your vaccination, you’re crazy,” Justice said. “For crying out loud, all you have to do is get one shot and register. You’ve got a great chance of winning all kinds of great stuff.”

Other area winners of this week’s lottery drawing included Larry Wayne Cox of Lindside (lifetime hunting license); Keith Reed of Matoaka (lifetime fishing license); and Donald Reed of Princeton (custom hunting rifle).

The winner of $1 million was Sharon Turner of Morgantown.

Online registration to be eligible to win in the next prize drawing will remain open until Sunday, July 4, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Winners will be announced next Wednesday, July 7.

Additional prize drawings will be held weekly, with winners being announced each Wednesday through Aug. 4.

Justice said 322,000 have registered for the lottery, with registration requiring at least one dose of the vaccine.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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