CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice said Monday the COVID Delta variant surge is a “disease now all about the unvaccinated.”
“This disease is really attacking any and all,” he said, after pointing out the death of a 26-year-old woman from Fayette County during his pandemic briefing.
That death was among 31 reported over the weekend as the COVID numbers continue to set records.
Justice said 852 COVID patients are now in state hospitals as well as 267 in Intensive Care Units and 164 on vents, all “all-time records.”
During the first week of July, only 52 COVID patients were in hospitals, 17 in ICUs and six on ventilators.
Also during the first week of July, the total active COVID cases in the state had fallen to 882. On Monday, that number stood at 27,607, approaching the almost 30,000 peak of active cases reported during the January surge.
“We have seen explosive growth of the COVID Delta variant,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, and the “overwhelming majority” of COVID hospitalizations are unvaccinated.
State Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha County, also participated in the briefing and said 88 percent to 95 percent of COVID hospitalizations are unvaccinated.
“The vaccines are working,” he said. “They are keeping people out of the hospital.”
Takubo is one of the physicians involved in the care of a 40-year-old COVID patient who is now on a ventilator.
The patient’s mother, Linda Lanier, said her son Joe was extremely healthy, an MMA fighter and former football player, but contracted COVID during a family vacation at a place where there were many people but no mitigation measures at all.
“That was a very poor choice on our part,” she said, adding that she and her husband had been vaccinated but Joe was not.
Now, she said, he is on a ventilator with a wife and two young sons waiting on him to recover.
“He was so sick he could not talk,” she said, but before he worsened to that condition he told people to get vaccinated.
Lanier blasted misinformation about vaccines on social media and spread by friends.
“He listened to all the negative and false information about vaccines,” she said, calling such misinformation the “garbage that’s out there.”
“This COVID is a monster,” she said. “He was a very strong person who was completely knocked down. What is it going to do to an average person?”
Lanier advised people to get vaccinated and listen to the medical experts, not social media and the internet.
Marsh said a growing concern is hospital capacity and the ability to care for severely ill patients.
“In Idaho, health care rationing is in place,” he said, as hospitals are curtailing certain areas of care.
“People are dying because ERs are full,” he said. “This is what we are worried about in West Virginia.”
Karen Bowling, Princeton Community Hospital president and CEO, said recently no ICU beds are available here or anywhere else in the state and patients must remain in emergency rooms until a bed becomes available.
Residents are advised to only visit the emergency room in real emergency situations, and go to urgent care or clinics or primary care physicians otherwise.
However, Justice said he is not yet ready to suspend elective surgeries in hospitals, as was done during the pandemic last year when COVID hospitalization numbers were not nearly as high as they are now.
“The task force (state vaccine task force) is working on that (whether to postpone elective surgeries),” he said, adding that the state may be “on the verge” of a decision.
Justice also once again emphasized his “adamant” opposition to vaccine or any other mandates imposed by government, especially on businesses, which happened last week when Pres. Joe Biden said all businesses with 100 or more employees must require vaccinations or weekly COVID testing.
“Private businesses should make their own decisions,” he said.
In March 2020, Justice signed several executive orders mandating masks in private businesses as well as social distancing and limiting the number of customers. Justice also ordered the shutdown of all non-essential businesses and a “stay home’ order as well as an order mandating public schools close and use remote learning only, among other mitigation mandates.
Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com