CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held another news briefing to update the public on the state’s latest pandemic response and vaccine distribution efforts.
During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Justice and State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh both discussed the possibility that West Virginia could soon see the pandemic transition into an endemic stage.
“We are anticipating, very soon, coming to an important fork in the road,” Dr. Marsh said. “We are starting to see a reduction of the most recent surge brought on by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 because of the levels of immunity that we have in our country, both from vaccination and boosting, and also from native immunity. And if the COVID virus does not have a substantial additional set of mutations that creates a different kind of variant that is a much different kind of variant, then indeed, given the immunity that we have and also the acceptance that I think our country has now for the impact of COVID-19 on our citizens, then presumably we will be navigating and transitioning to a more endemic sort of mode.”
“As far as moving from a pandemic to an endemic, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could really start pulling out of this and have brighter and brighter days ahead in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice asked. “We know we’re going to get through this. We’re just too tough to not get through it. But, with all of that, it’s been a long, long, two years, has it not?”
In less than one month, total active cases statewide have decreased by more than 75%, while hospitalizations have decreased by more than 41%.
“On the other hand, COVID has been very resilient, so we can’t count it out, in case it takes a different turn and has more mutations that give us a brand new variant with new characteristics that would cause more problems for us,” Dr. Marsh said. “But the more people that are immunized, the more likely that we will see this start to fade from pandemic to more endemic.
“We will see what COVID does. But we are very hopeful that, very soon, we will continue to see this de-escalate so that we can continue to move toward getting back to the life that we are all hoping to see.”
Still, Gov. Justice continued to urge caution and vaccinations after announcing dozens of additional West Virginians who have passed away from COVID just since last week, the vast majority of whom were age 50 and above.
“I’m sure a bunch of these folks were never vaccinated,” Gov. Justice said. “Recognize that this disease is killing the elderly and recognize that, if you took the time to be vaccinated and you’re six months out from your last shot, your vaccinations are practically worthless to you right now. You’ve got to get that booster shot. That’s all there is to it. Just look at the math and look at the tea leaves and stack the deck in your favor.”
Finally, Gov. Justice took time to read a letter he received from 11-year-old Anna Kate Bowen of Huntington, which was written after he tested positive for COVID-19:
“Dear Governor Justice,
When I heard you were sick with COVID, I made you this painting to cheer you up. I know you and your team have been working hard to keep all of us safe, and I was sad to hear that you were sick. I found this quote and thought it might make you and others feel better: ‘Never forget that, with each day, as the sun rises, hope soars.’ I’m glad you’re feeling better and I hope everyone who is sick feels better soon.”
“It’s really, really amazing what the great kids of this state do, and just how smart and how good they really are,” Gov. Justice said. “I thank her and her wonderful family. I’ll keep this forever.”