West Virginia reached a grim milestone today, passing the 5,000 recorded deaths attributed to Covid-19.
The state reported 5,021 dead today. That included 31 deaths since the most recent report.
Of their grieving families, Governor Jim Justice said, “Let them know they are not alone. Let them know that these people weren’t just a number.”
As he does at each of his regular briefings on the state’s pandemic response, Justice read out the ages and home countries of each of the most recent deaths attributed to Covid-19.
Today, as he often does, Justice reacted with particular sadness to some of the younger people listed among the dead.
When he read the death of a 22-year-old Hardy County woman, the governor paused. “That’s terrible,” he said.
As he read West Virginia’s 4,999th death, Justice stopped and sighed. That was a 21-year-old man from Lewis County. “Good afternoon,” said the governor.
West Virginia’s first covid-19 death was reported on March 29, 2020: an 88-year-old woman from Marion County.
In the many months that followed, the deaths continued to come, even as officials took actions such as staying home, requiring masks and urging people to seek vaccine protection.
The period from last September to November was the deadliest of the pandemic to date in West Virginia. Those months accounted for 2,517 of the recorded Covid-19 deaths in West Virginia — 616 in September, 728 in November and 1,173 in November.
With winter weather hitting and a new variant to worry about, West Virginia officials have expressed concern over and over about what lies ahead.
dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s chief pandemic response consultant, said West Virginia ranks 14th in the number of deaths per 100,000 people.
In the past week, he said, West Virginia ranked third in the nation for deaths per 100,000 people.
“These deaths largely occur in people who have not been vaccinated or who have not gone on to get their booster,” Marsh said.
State statistics show that 53 percent of West Virginia’s population, ages 5 and older, is considered fully vaccinated.
The state has counted 238,482 booster doses administered. The population of West Virginia is 1.69 million people.
“Let me ask a simple question: how on earth can you not run to get your booster?” asked justice.
The seven-day average of vaccines administered in West Virginia has fallen. It was 1.614 today. On Sunday there were 1,733.
Justice continues to push for vaccinations and booster shots as ways to limit the number of deaths. “The more who are vaccinated, the fewer will die,” he said today.
Incentive for seniors: Justice has announced a Do It for Babydog Senior Center edition.
He described the vaccination drive as being open to 200 senior centers across the state in partnership with aging providers nationwide. All seniors who receive their first and second vaccines, along with a booster shot, will automatically receive a $50 prepaid gift card.
The Babydog part is a reference to the Governor’s English bulldog. It was part of the names of a series of vaccine boosters in West Virginia.