West Virginia records 6,000. COVID-19 deaths | News, sports, jobs
West Virginia records 6,000.  COVID-19 deaths |  News, sports, jobs

West Virginia records 6,000. COVID-19 deaths | News, sports, jobs

CHARLESTON – Even as active COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates fall, West Virginia recorded 31 deaths over the weekend, pushing the total number of deaths attributed to the virus since the spring of 2020 to over 6,000.

“We have lost 6,023 large West Virginians,” That’s what Gov. Jim Justice said during Monday’s online COVID-19 briefing. “It tears my heart out in so many ways.”

Justice and Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus tsar and vice president / dean of health sciences at West Virginia University, went on to urge people to take advantage of free COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Many of these deaths could have been prevented by people who chose to be fully vaccinated and boosted,” said Marsh.

Marsh noted that the average daily death rate across the country is declining, and he expects West Virginia to follow suit. The increase caused by the more contagious omicron variant appears to be declining, he said, but pointed to the virus’ adaptability over the past two years.

“COVID-19 has been shown to be a very potent virus to continue to navigate in any form of treatment or any reduced amount of spread,” said Marsh. “So before we go from pandemic to epidemic to perhaps more endemic, we’ll have to follow very closely what the virus does.”

Wyoming is the only one of West Virginia’s 55 counties that was red on Monday’s County Alert System Map. Red is the highest of five categories illustrating the rate of spread of the virus, based on the lowest of new cases in a given period or the percentage of positive tests.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration has recently granted an emergency use permit for a new monoclonal antibody treatment, bebtelovimab. James Hoyer, head of the state’s Joint Interagency Task Force, said officials do not yet know how much of it West Virginia will receive.

Marsh said treatment should be kept in reserve unless other preferred treatments are not available. While the treatment has shown itself “very good binding properties in the omicron variant,” it was originally tested during the delta increase and has not undergone clinical trials specifically for omicron, he said.

Earlier this year, the FDA revoked emergency authorization for two other monoclonal antibody treatments because they were not as effective against the variant. And Marsh noted that an effective antibody drug made by GlaxoSmithKline is relatively deficient.

Justice again praised the efforts of the West Virginia Army National Guard, noting that there are 326 members providing support at 36 health facilities, both hospitals and long-term care institutions, around the state.

“We will continue to guard that mission for the foreseeable future,” said Hoyer.

He later added that COVID admissions and staffing issues would be discussed with hospital managers, possibly this week, before decisions are made on changes to the shift postponement.

Evan Bevins can be contacted at [email protected]

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