CHARLESTON — The UK variant of COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly in the state.
Dr. Clay Marsh, the state COVID-19 Czar, said Monday during Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing, that just during the last several days positive UK variant cases in the state have risen from 468 to 930.
“We are now experiencing a more rapid growth of the UK variant,” he said, adding that the vaccines are “remarkably effective” to protect against the variants. “With the variants growing …(here and around the world) this (vaccines) is the way we slow down and stop the variants.”
Marsh said almost everyone who is fully vaccinated is immune and it’s “very unlikely you can spread it to other people.”
The UK variant, he has said, is about 50 percent more transmissible and up to 50 percent deadlier.
Mercer County has now seen 11 confirmed cases of the UK variant.
McDowell County has confirmed eight cases of the UK variant and Monroe County four cases.
Justice continued his plea to young people between 16 and 35 to get vaccinated as the average age of new positive COVID tests has dropped to 34.
“You may not get sick or be concerned,” he said. “But you can give it to others. You have to protect others as well as yourself.”
Justice urged families to be called together and get vaccinated, and that will save lives.
“Our younger people have got to really step up,” he said. “If we were all vaccinated this danger would go away.”
He also said the state continues to work with the U.S. Treasury Department to get $100 savings bonds for those between 16 and 35 who are fully-vaccinated.
The savings bonds have a “patriotic” element to them, he said, but he intends to give $100 in some form.
Efforts are also being ramped up in general to take the vaccine to the people.
Justice said vaccine clinics will be set up at fairs, festivals, sporting events, in church parking lots and shopping center, among other places that give the public easier access.
“If we have to go door to door, we will go door to door,” he said, adding that local businesses are encouraged to give discounts to customers who have been fully vaccinated.
He said it’s a “crying shame” to go these lengths to get people to take the vaccine, but it is crucial to do so.
Marsh also said the vaccine may very soon be available to those 12 to 15 years old, a move from the FDA he expects possibly as early as next week.
Retired Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, director of the state Joint InterAgency Vaccine Task Force, said the task force has partnered with the state Department of Education to provide the vaccine in schools, and be ready to administer the vaccine to 12- to 15-year olds.
Hoyer likened the vaccine effort to the World War II generation who stepped up to help and took “individual responsibility” to be part of the battle.
“We need the same thing with vaccines,” he said. “Step up and get vaccinated and let’s get back to normal.”
As of Monday, 53.5 percent of eligible residents in the state had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 44 percent have been fully vaccinated.
Justice’s goal it to reach 70 percent, at which time, he said, the mask mandate would be lifted and things can start getting more back to normal.
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com