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Gov. Jim Justice

Another incentive program is being considered in West Virginia to increase the number of residents getting COVID booster shots.

Gov. Jim Justice said Monday during his pandemic briefing the details of the incentive have not yet been finalized.

“We are working on it,” he said.

Previous incentives to entice residents to get vaccinated used Justice’s now-famous dog, Babydog, as the face of the program.

Justice and other state COVID team members have been aggressively pushing for the vaccine and follow-up boosters because the danger of infections is still here and the effectiveness of the vaccine fades over a few months without booster shots.

Active cases are still increasing, he said Monday, pointing to more than 1,300 active cases in the state, more than tripling during the last month..

Hospitalizations remain over 100 and the state has gone from an all green County Alert Map to 15 yellow counties.

Justice said the pandemic is not over and new variants are on the rise, especially in South Africa.

“You know it’s coming here,” he said. “If it spreads faster than the other variants, we are going to have a lot of people get sick.”

Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, said the new Omicron variants in South Africa spread faster but do respond to vaccinations.

“We continue to closely monitor COVID-19 in West Virginia and in the U.S., and we also try to look around the world to understand what risks might be coming to us” Marsh said. “We see in the U.S. right now that we’ve about doubled the average number of COVID cases per day, and that is at the same time that we are seeing the BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 variants growing in the U.S. As we look at our hospitalizations, we see about 1,000 more hospitalized people in the United States in April than we did in March. But we are also cognizant that, as immunity starts to be reduced because of the time from the last vaccine, or if people have not been fully vaccinated, the result is a reducing amount of protection over time, which makes it really important for people to know when your next shot is needed.”

The state now has a vaccine calculator online (at vaccinate.wv.gov) that will let each participant know when the next vaccine or booster is due.

Marsh said up-to-date vaccinations can reduce the number of deaths from the variants to near zero.

“The key is, COVID continues to mutate,” he said. “The longer it’s been since the last vaccine, the less it works.”

Justice said the vaccines provide a way to “live with” COViD because the variants will continue to stay around.

“This is something that we can live with,” he said. “We can go about our business and we can have all the fun in life and do everything we want to do, and we can do it without being sick or in the hospital. We can avoid that by getting our vaccines. You don’t need to be sick in the hospital or on your death bed. You can avoid that by getting vaccinated. Move on that before this thing comes from South Africa to our doorstep. I am sure it’s already here.”

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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