Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice continues to point out how more COVID-19 deaths are involving unvaccinated West Virginians in their 30s and 40s.

CHARLESTON — A new COVID-19 variant is spreading in the United Kingdom and is drawing attention from West Virginia health officials.

Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia COVID-19 Czar, said during Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic Wednesday briefing that the UK is seeing cases move up once again after mitigation efforts eased.

“It is a new variant of the Delta variant,” he said, adding that it has not taken over yet from the original Delta variant but “it is slowly growing” in the UK.

Marsh said Delta Plus has mutations that impact the spike protein that binds the virus to cells.

The new variant has also surfaced in the U.S.

During a briefing Wednesday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, said the Delta Plus (sub-lineage AY.4.2) variant is drawing more attention and being monitored.

“We have, on occasion, identified this sub-lineage here in the United States, but not with recent increased frequency or clustering to date,” Walensky said. “At this time, there is no evidence that the sub-lineage AY.4.2 impacts the effectiveness of our current vaccines or therapeutics and we will continue to follow.”

Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the Trump Administration, said in a tweet the variant warrants “urgent research.”

“UK reported its biggest one-day Covid case increase in 3 months just as the new delta variant AY.4 with the S:Y145H mutation in the spike reaches 8% of UK sequenced cases. We need urgent research to figure out if this delta plus is more transmissible, has partial immune evasion?” Gottlieb’s tweet said.

The possibility of further mutations of COVID has been one of the reasons used to urge people to get vaccinated since more cases increase the chances for more mutations.

During Justice’s briefing Wednesday, he once again urged those who have not been vaccinated to do so.

“One thing is absolutely for certain, and that is the more of us that are vaccinated, the less will die,” Justice said, asking for help from parents and grandparents to get kids vaccinated.

“I really encourage our young people to get vaccinated,” he said. “We should always be respectful of others’ choices and we should always be neighbors loving neighbors. But, at the same time, we need more and more of us to get vaccinated.”

Justice has also pointed out several times more people below 50 years old are dying from COVID.

Of the 85 latest West Virginians to lose their battle against COVID-19, nine were in their 40s, four were in their 30s, and two were in their 20s.

Wednesday’s COVID-19 report from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources listed eight residents from Harrison, Marion and Monongalia counties, including a 43-year-old woman from Marion County. Three of the deaths were Marion County residents.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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