FILE - Hospital beds

(The Center Square) – Although West Virginia is improving on a lot of key COVID-19 metrics, the state’s death rate has continued to surge recently, with 110 more deaths reported since Thursday last week.

“We’ve got to find some way to stop this, and right now the only bullet in the gun is our vaccinations,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement. “We will not infringe upon your freedoms. But, at the same time, you’ve got to realize that we’ve got to some way stop this because reading 110 great West Virginians that we’ve lost is just terrible. It’s really sad. We urge you to get vaccinated. It’s the only way in the world that we can actually slow this down.”

The state’s death toll reached 3,976 on Monday and the 110 total is the largest death total reported in one of the governor’s briefings. The death surge comes after the state reached its peak in hospitalizations, ICU patients and ventilator usage for COVID-19 patients, but those numbers have been drastically declining in recent weeks, which paints a brighter future for West Virginia.

Active cases were down by 10,561 from Thursday and are down 19,183 since last month’s peak. Total cases are only slightly more than one-third of what they were during the height in September.

Severe COVID-19 cases are also on a downward trend. There are 840 hospitalizations, which is 30 fewer than Thursday and 172 fewer than the peak. This is a 17% decrease from the pandemic height. Of those hospitalized, 250 are in the ICU, which is five fewer than the last briefing and 46 fewer than the peak, which is a 15.5% decrease from the height. There are also 168 people on ventilators, which is eight fewer than Thursday and 27 fewer than the peak, which is a 13.8% decrease from the height.

Still, 48 of West Virginia’s 55 counties are in the “orange” and “red” on the County Alert system map, which suggests high risk for COVID-19 spread.

Vaccination rates in West Virginia continue to be some of the lowest in the country, especially for young people. Serious illness and death from the virus are rare for young people, but risks increase if the person has a compromised immune system or is older. 

The governor has continued to offer incentives for people who get vaccinated, including a prize giveaway in which all vaccinated people can enroll to win. The final winners of prizes for round two of the giveaway will be announced tomorrow and the governor has not yet said whether he will have a third round of prizes.

Justice has also encouraged Virginians who received the Pfizer shots to get a booster shot if they are listed as priorities in the CDC’s guidelines.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.