Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice and state health officials warned that another COVID surge could be on the horizon as people gather indoors to avoid the winter.

CHARLESTON — Faulty data from the CDC on the number of people vaccinated in West Virginia through the federal pharmacy program has resulted in a major drop in the percentage of those eligible who have had at least one dose.

James Hoyer, director of the state Joint InterAgency Vaccine Task Force, said Wednesday during Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing that the new data shows 63.7 percent of those 12 and over have at least one dose, not the 74 percent which has been shown by the DHHR.

The problem was with a CDC contractor providing the numbers to the state through the federal pharmacy vaccine program.

“Since the first week in May they have been double counting the number they send us,” Hoyer said, and that has made a “significant impact on our numbers.”

A data team from the DHHR and WVU is now going through all the numbers again to make sure they are accurate, he said, and initiating a new process to check on the data from contractors to ensure the accuracy.

Hoyer said the new numbers also mean the percentage of those eligible residents fully vaccinated is now at 55.9 percent.

“You are going to catch cannonballs in the stomach…” Justice said, adding there is “no way to guide the ship with bad information.”

With fewer residents vaccinated than previously believed, it provides “more understanding” of why there are so many cases and deaths, he said.

Justice said the state has to “double down even more” to get people vaccinated and no one is giving up. “Too many people have not been vaccinated.”

Hoyer said the problem with the CDC is being fixed and the work to get people vaccinated will continue.

“I’ll be damned if we are going to stop trying to get people vaccinated,” he said, pointing out that 98 percent of COVID deaths are unvaccinated people. “We know what the right damn thing is to do and we are going to keep doing it.”

Justice also once again said the peak in the current Delta variant surge may or may not have been reached.

“We all remain very prayerful and hopeful we are going to see a lot of calm valleys and we are going to see this thing depart from us,” he said.

Justice said the numbers show the state may be at the peak and starting to decline.

“If we are at the peak, it is still with us,” he said. “But we don’t know yet, do we? It may pause and it may go up more. We have to be ready to do our jobs.”

The seven-day average of new cases was 1,769 on Tuesday, down from the high of 1,929 last week.

But as officials have cautioned, hospitalizations keep rising, hitting 1,000 for the first time on Tuesday.

The number of COVID-related deaths have also continued to rise, with 26 more reported Tuesday, bringing the total to 3,467.

McDowell County also reported three more deaths Tuesday, bringing that county’s total to 37.

Hospitals around the state are being pressed to the limit on maintaining capacity to care for patients as beds are scarce and staffing shortages exacerbating the problem.

On Monday, Justice announced a new “Save Our Care” program to help state hospitals cope financially with the stress on their services, including reimbursements for extra staffing or any losses related to postponing elective surgeries.

“We have to step up and take care of those hospitals,” he said.

Although the Delta surge has created what Justice has described as a crisis situation, he has declined to initiate any of the mitigation strategies, including a mask mandate, used earlier in the pandemic to help stop the spread of the virus.

“I don’t believe that a mask mandate would help us at this time,” he said.

But Justice did say that doing things like attending a football game can pose a danger.

He has seen people jammed in stadiums across the country, he said. “There is danger everywhere. It is not safe.”

Everyone needs to “be smart and be safe,” he added. 

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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