West Virginia was once one of the leading US states in the deployment of vaccinations against Covid-19. Today, it is one of the least vaccinated, with the fastest growing infection rate in the country. Healthcare systems are overwhelmed, with record numbers of inpatients, intensive care units and ventilators.
West Virginia has rushed to vaccinate people over 65 years and residents of long-term care facilities, achieving good levels of protection among these groups.
But reaching young people of Virginie-Occidentale was much more difficult.
Governor Jim Justice, a Republican, was voice support of the vaccination, regularly urging voters to get vaccinated. The state was among the first to offer vaccination incentives, including $ 100 savings bonds and a lottery, named after Justice English Bulldog Babydog , to award scholarships , a car, a pontoon and more. He spoke out strongly against conspiracy theories and criticized health workers who refuse the vaccine, calling the decision " asinine ".
Even so, only 39.9% of West Virginia are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data , tied with Wyoming for the lowest rate in the country. West Virginia Department of Health, this rate is much higher, at 51.7% ; the reason for the discrepancy is not clear.
And with the dominance of the Delta variant, West Virginia is having its worst push yet.
" This has been more serious than what we have seen at any time during the pandemic, "Dr Clay Marsh, chief of state response to Covid, told The Guardian. Delta variant makes youngsters much sicker than in previous waves, atil reported.
West Virginia has the fastest acceleration of new cases, considering its population of around 1.8 million, with a 52% increase in new case over the past week. The number of hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and people on ventilators for Covid-19 have all broken previous records and continue to rise.
As of Saturday alone, the state reported over 2,200 new cases, with one out of 10 positive tests.
" I think more more people are worried about what they see in West Virginia, "said Marsh," said Marsh, and the recent increase in cases has led to an increase in vaccinations.
The vast majority of hospitalized patients are not vaccinated, Justice said when a press conference on Friday, and this is especially true for people in intensive care and on ventilators.
"We can stop this, West Virginia, we can stop it, "Justice said." The vac ines are safe. Vaccines are not an invasion to anyone. Yet he also criticized Biden's new vaccination mandates, which he said infringe upon companies.
Several major health systems have made vaccination mandatory, as have some emergency medical services. At the University of West Virginia , the faculty voted to make vaccines compulsory for all students and employees.
In aA state with a large rural population, access could be an issue, but Marsh believes this has not been the main factor behind low vaccination rates. "We have been very aggressive so that access is not a problem," he said. "We will go to someone's house to get them vaccinated.
Instead, residents tend to be wary of the government, the health care system, and the vaccines themselves. Just having the vaccines is not enough, even with the exhortation of the top state leader.
Justice has lifted the state mask mandate on June 20. Although he said the demand could return, he preferred to leave decisions like these to local courts. It also has does not support a school mask mandate, mays 51 of the 55 counties have some sort of mask requirement in schools, Marsh said.
Almost all of the state is in the category of highest risk for virus transmission. Justice said there was no indication West Virginia was near peak, saying it could be Halloween or Thanksgiving before the virus was under control.
Marsh said this push has put enormous strain on health care systems.
" In Idaho, where we are seeing some rationing start , that's what has been our concern, ”Marsh mentioned. But the state was "not yet " implementing crisis care standards, he said. Elective procedures requiring a hospital bed have been postponed.
Unlike other surges, the solution isn't as simple as putting together ad hoc field hospitals. "This time it 's different in that the staff are really the limit," he said. Finding skilled health workers has been the main challenge, he said.
Prompt action on precautions now would not only help stem this epidemic and to prevent health systems from collapsing, would also prevent further spikes from occurring.
Vaccination would help a lot, Marsh said, " to slow things down here, not only with the Delta variant right now, but as we move forward into the winter with other variants that may emerge ".