As we lurch towards the weekend with the brakes to the statewide vaccination effort pressed flat to the floorboard, Gov. Jim Justice is not going to be a happy camper at his pandemic press huddle today. No one on his team will be singing Kumbaya and passing the S’mores.
Just as soon as the session goes live – he’ll be late, of course, because that is just his nature – the governor will read the list of brief details, never a name, of each of the victims who has died from the ravages of Covid-19 since Wednesday.
It is grim duty, awful deaths and a somber moment. No, definitely no singing.
As of Thursday, there have been 2,634 people in West Virginia who have died from the disease – 82 of those in Raleigh County, 75 in Fayette, 62 in Greenbrier, 39 in Wyoming, 21 each in Summers and McDowell, 18 in Nicholas, 17 in Monroe and 116 in Mercer where the Princeton Health Care Center caught the Covid fire early on and the old folks could not beat back the flames of infection. Lives, 24 of them, were consumed. Another 11 died at Maples Health Care and 10 more at Mercer Nursing and Rehabilitation. So, yes, nearly 40 percent of the county’s fatalities have been counted at three homes for the elderly.
Big Jim will tell us, I suspect, that we can end all of this dying, we can crush this pandemic, we can get back to some sense of normal if only enough of us would take the time to go get vaccinated.
And, of course, he will be right.
His focus these days is young people, unlike in the beginning, way back one year ago, when the first few Covid cases had reared their ugly mugs in those congregate care settings. The governor is trying now to round up enough young folks – those between the ages of 16 and 35 – to take a shot for the home team. The early returns are not promising.
Justice’s goal is to convince about 275,000 of the 380,000 in the targeted age group to do their public duty and get vaccinated. As of Thursday, 120,153 people – or about 31.6 percent of those young folks – had been fully inoculated, according the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) data.
How tall is the hill ahead? More like a mountain.
As reported in a front-page story in today’s paper, DHHR statistics on Wednesday recorded 1,510 doses of the vaccine have been administered – for all age groups across the entire state. Last Wednesday, the number was 2,402, two Wednesdays ago it was 3,984 and three Hump Days past it was 9,234.
That is what we would call a serious slide, made all the more remarkable, if not depressing, when you consider that on April 1 – no fooling – the state counted 13,492 shots going into arms.
From pedal to the metal to skid marks swerving into the ditch, that’s the story of the vaccination effort here.
So, as you have heard, the governor is offering all folks in the age bracket a $100 Savings Bond – though that could turn out to be a single Benjamin because, well, details, details, details of just how you go about distributing thousands of savings bonds has to be worked out with the feds and that could take some time with no time to waste.
Regardless, it is an idea that caught the fancy of national media – the governor has a way of doing that, you have noticed, and sometimes to our embarrassment – and now other states are coming up with their own list of incentives to get the unwilling to play ball.
I don’t mind telling you that it is more than a bit bothersome that the state should have to mount an ad and marketing campaign to convince folks to do what is right and best for the public good, to do what will protect the lives of their loved ones and neighbors, their friends and family.
What don’t they understand?
Certainly, there are those who have religious and medical exemptions, but the large majority are careless and reckless people who have resisted wearing a mask – and continue to do so. They have gone ahead and gathered with whole bunches of people, sans mask, of course, and are now holding out on getting a vaccine because why? The worst of the disease has come and gone? It infringes on their freedoms as an American?
Well, thanks, patriot, for your contribution to society and for your informed epidemiological assessment.
Meanwhile, sometime today the governor will be reading the details of fellow West Virginians who have died in the last couple of days, who had been infected – possibly by someone who had not been wearing a mask or someone who refused to be restrained by a little piece of cloth. The state’s tally? Closer to 2,700.
Me? I will be thinking about how this state can require all school children, before they step inside a school building, to show proof that they have been immunized against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella and hepatitis B unless properly medically exempted but not so much for the Covid-19 vaccine.
And I will be wondering why, too often, we have to play games in this state to appease the lowest common denominator.