MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — West Virginia was out of the gate fast getting vaccines in arms months ago, but things today are a different story.
West Virginia was once a national vaccination leader; so much so that Governor Jim Justice removed the statewide mask mandate.
Now, coronavirus cases in the Mountain State are reaching record levels. Schools are closing. Hospitals are choked with Delta variant patients.
“Our hospitals are struggling in the entire area,” said Dr. Kevin McLaughlin, Director of the Berkeley-Jefferson-Morgan County Health Authority. “We need to act as one so that we can help each other out and help keep our health care system available for everybody.”
It’s a pattern in other states with large under-vaccinated populations. West Virginia, though, has fallen to the lowest vaccination level of any state.
What can Governor Jim Justice do?
“We are working hard at try to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” said McLaughlin. “The governor did a great job in the beginning and he’s pushing hard now to get us boosters.”
This latest surge is driven by a ferocity not previously seen in the state.
“If we can keep the COVID numbers down as low as possible it’ll be great, and one of the best ways is get vaccinated. Safe distance. Wear your mask. Be smart,” McLaughlin said.
West Virginia’s more than 200,000 COVID cases amount to more than 4 times the population of the state’s capital city, Charleston.
Officials say the fact that 90% of ICU patients with Covid are not vaccinated should tell us a lot. And Governor Justice is trying to encourage vaccinations with savings bonds, cash prizes, scholarships, a sports car — a pontoon boat, even.