Apr. 8—By Gov. Jim Justice's estimation, some 90, 000 West Virginians just might be egging on their mortality.
That's about how many residents in the 65-plus age range have yet to receive their first dosages of the coronavirus vaccine, he told reporters Wednesday in a regularly scheduled briefing.
Opting out of the inoculation is perilous for anyone, he said.
However, opting out in the above demographic, the governor added, can be especially deadly.
It's also especially needless, he said, since the state is still surfing the wave of an all-out effort to get as many shots in as many arms as possible.
"If you're 65 years and older and you don't get the vaccine, you are making a terrible, terrible mistake, " he said.
Roughly 29 % of the state's 1.7 million people have already rolled up their sleeves for the vaccine, he said.
That comes out to 900, 000 people, including the 360, 000 who are now fully vaccinated, and the 530, 000 currently awaiting their second dose.
While vaccines are being administered, though, the coronavirus is still doing its work in West Virginia.
Between Justice's briefing Monday to his Wednesday session with media, 26 more residents succumbed from COVID complications.
To date, 2, 722 West Virginians have died in the pandemic, with most of the victims in their seventh decade, at least.
Now, younger residents are coming down more and more with COVID, by way of the U.K. and California variants of the virus now present in the Mountain State.
"We are being challenged, once again, " state COVID-19 czar Dr. Clay Marsh said, casting Florida, Michigan and Minnesota as new cautionary tales.
Infections from the variant strains have cases on the rise in those states, in particular.
"If we don't act, that could be our future, " Marsh said.
Dr. Anye Amjad, the state's health officer, said around 142 West Virginians have been diagnosed with the U.K. variant, with most of cases being centered in Berkeley, Monongalia and Ohio counties.
The California variant has sickened some 160 residents statewide, she said.
Justice, meanwhile, said he doesn't want to put restrictions on businesses or schools—not yet.
"We're not gonna bubble-wrap ourselves, " he said.
What he does want people to do, he said, is continue to wear masks, social distance and practice every other pandemic protocol out here.
Well, that, and getting vaccinated, he said.
That means calling 1-833-734-0965 to sign up, he said.
Registrations may also be made electronically at vaccinate.wv.gov.
He also urged residents not to be deterred by any extraordinary circumstances, such as if someone is homebound because of other medical circumstance, or simply if one doesn't have a way to get to an outlet where vaccines are being given.
"We want to stone-cold stop this thing, " he said.
James Hoyer, the retired major general leading the state's coronavirus task force, likened the endeavor to a military operation.
"We have three primary missions: Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate."