W.Va. Health Officials Say Omicron Is Coming | West Virginia
CHARLESTON – West Virginia is watching “just in the face of a new wave,” COVID-19 state tsar Dr Clay Marsh said on Tuesday.
Marsh told Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing that all signs were pointing in that direction, and the push will initially be the Delta variant, and then it will be “very likely to be followed by the Omicron variant.”
These signs, he said, include an RT value, or transmission rate, at 1.2, well above the level of 1.0 considered the onset of an outbreak; colder states are already experiencing flare-ups and hospitalization problems; hospital admissions continue to rise in West Virginia; and the proliferation of Omicron in the UK, doubling the number of new cases in two days and taking over as the dominant variant of Delta.
“Omicron is coming next… and will absolutely be seen in West Virginia,” he said.
Information about the Omicron variant regarding the severity and response to vaccines continues to arrive, he said, but studies in South Africa, where she is from, show more children are being hospitalized, but that it may be less serious on the whole.
A 20% increase in cases among those under 18 has been observed, he added.
However, Marsh said that the “milder” aspect of the variant may at least in part be attributable to the South African population, who are generally younger and healthier.
“West Virginia is a vulnerable state,” he said, referring to an older population and a population with more chronic health conditions. “Omicron is spreading very quickly. “
The efficacy of vaccines against Omicron remains uncertain, but a report by South African researchers released on Tuesday was encouraging regarding hospitalizations.
According to a CBS News report, preliminary analysis shows that “Pfizer-BioNTech’s standard two-dose COVID-19 vaccine regimen has been approximately 70% effective in preventing hospitalizations over the past three weeks, while ‘Omicron swept the country’.
However, the data also shows that the Omicron variant appears to “have a significant ability to evade vaccines to cause infection.” Data released Tuesday suggests that two injections of the Pfizer vaccine are only about 33% effective in preventing infection. “
Omicron has now been detected in 77 countries and more than half of the states, including Virginia.
The impact on hospitals worries Marsh as well as retired Major General James Hoyer, director of the Joint InterAgency Task Force.
Hoyer said hospitalizations for COVID were on the rise – to 643 on Tuesday – and that the percentage of those patients in intensive care units and on ventilators “is increasing dramatically”, with 209 in ICUs and 121 on ventilators.
The number of patients admitted each day has also increased from 76 to 85, well above 60 per day, which “puts us in a very difficult position with our hospitals”.
Marsh said hospitals are already facing challenges, including an issue of maintaining enough staff to care for patients.
It’s not just about having beds, hospitals need to have staff to take care of patients and this can limit capacity when numbers are high.
“The capacity is directly proportional to the results of the surges,” he said. “When hospitals are overwhelmed, it’s not just a COVID problem that becomes and a problem …”
Hospitals must continue to treat other patients who may have a stroke or heart attack or seriously injured in a car crash, and an influx of COVID patients can compromise that.
Both Marsh and Hoyer stress the need to be fully immunized and get boosters when they are ready (six months after the two doses of Pfizer and Moderna and two months after the single doses of Johnson and Johnson).
“We need to redouble our efforts to make sure that we are fully immunized and that our children are fully immunized,” Marsh said. “This (the infected children) is a big part of the spread. “
On Tuesday, the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources said 880,780 state residents are now fully immunized, or about 52 percent of the eligible population (aged 5 and over).
Of this number, 268,675 booster shots were administered.
The COVID-related death toll in West Virginia stood at 5,114 on Tuesday.
Marsh said nationally the toll, which is around 800,000 now, is expected to eventually exceed one million.
“One in 100 people over 65 has died from COVID,” he said, with 75% of all COVID deaths being over 65.
All ages combined, one in 420 people has died from COVID, he added.