CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The number of positive cases and people hospitalized for the coronavirus in West Virginia both smashed records on Monday as Gov. Jim Justice scolded residents who continue to balk at receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
At least 40% of the state’s population above age 12 have not received all doses, according to health data. Efforts by Justice and others to urge residents to do so have resulted in only minimal improvement in recent weeks.
“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Justice said at a news conference.
Justice has balked at issuing either a vaccination or new mask mandate. An earlier indoor mask requirement was lifted in June as the number of cases dropped. Some healthcare systems have issued their own vaccine requirements for employees.
The number of confirmed virus cases statewide totaled about 8,860 last week, breaking the weekly record of about 8,200 from early January. Two weeks ago marked the third-highest week of reported cases during the pandemic.
There were a record 852 people hospitalized for the virus on Monday. That blew past the mark of 818 set on Jan. 5 and was a jump from 810 on Saturday. Such cases had bottomed out at 52 in early July before rising sharply over the past two months.
The number of virus-related deaths in West Virginia this month, 154, has already surpassed the deaths for all of August. There have been 3,238 virus-related deaths in the state since the pandemic began.
At the news conference, Justice introduced Linda Lanier, who said her adult son, Joe Goodnite, refused to get vaccinated and contracted COVID-19 on a family vacation. He’s been in a Charleston hospital for more than six weeks and remains on a ventilator.
Lanier said her son “listened to all the negative and false accusations about vaccination,” she said. “Being in the medical field myself, I tried to convince him. However, it didn’t work. He listened to his friends. He listened to social media. And he just listened to what I call the garbage that’s out there.”
But while he was still able to talk in the hospital, “he told people. ‘Get vaccinated. You don’t want this stuff,'” Lanier said.