As I pore over statistics from the Department of Health and Human Resources, the percentage of the local population that has received at least one vaccination shot jumped off the page.

The assumption was that the more populous counties – Raleigh and Mercer – would be leading the pack of nine in our market because they had the most resources to distribute and administer the vaccine.

Au contraire.

Wyoming County leads the way as of Saturday with 38.1 percent of its population having received at least one shot.

Trailing? That would be Mercer County at 19.0 percent.

Let it be noted that Mercer is also leading all nine regional counties with 104 Covid-related deaths – well ahead of Fayette and Raleigh counties with 70 and 55 deaths, respectively.

The vaccination statistics are a new feature of the DHHR online dashboard. Get in there and noodle around. You will bump into vaccination demographics  like this: In Raleigh County, 61 percent of vaccinations have gone to women, 39 percent to men, and that is a trend that holds across the state.

Because real men don’t eat quiche?

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On the same day that Gov. Jim Justice made his call for all K-8 schools to reopen five days a week, the Virginia Department of Health said it has detected the first case of a coronavirus variant in the southwest part of the state.

This particular strain – there are several spreading in the U.S., now – is the South Africa variant. The press release from the Virginia health department said all contacts of the case had been identified and appropriately managed.

So, exhale. No need to be concerned, right?

If life were only so simple.

On Saturday, three cases of a different Covid-19 variant – commonly referred to as the UK variant – had been detected in the north-central area of West Virginia, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).

“While the presence of this COVID-19 variant in West Virginia is not surprising, it’s a good motivator for us to double down on the prevention efforts we’ve had in place for many months now,” said Beckley’s own Dr. Ayne Amjad, state health officer and commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.

“Now that we have this confirmation, as Gov. Justice always says, it’s not time to be fearful, it’s time to be smart,” Amjad said. “All West Virginians should continue hand washing, social distancing, proper mask wearing, testing, and everyone should get vaccinated when it’s their turn.” 

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Gov. Justice has been splintering the table to get children back in school full time. And one of the reasons, he says, is that many kids come from broken homes where they face abuse and neglect – just part and parcel of their unhappy daily lives.

Well, researchers trying to understand how children are affected by school closings amid the pandemic have been largely focused on the classroom and the academics, on learning and student access to technology and online resources.

Now, new studies say school closings can significantly depress the reporting of child abuse, neglect and abandonment, and estimate that more than 200,000 such cases went unreported in the U.S. during the first months after schools closed in early 2020. Yes, in just the first few months.

There is no special, dedicated, statistical online database at the DHHR site, no spreadsheet, to measure the abuse children have suffered here in the state, but certainly we have to understand that with fewer interactions between students and their teachers, guidance counselors and other professional personnel trained to spot mistreatment, the abuse has been given elbow room to inflict harm.

It hurts the heart to even consider.

Certainly, our children are more than statistics to count and categorize. They need love, care and nourishing.

Maybe the Legislature, so interested in education this session, can do just that instead of feeding out-of-state private interests with our hard-earned public dollars all for the sake of charter schools. Let’s keep the money at home and spend it on the wrap-around care of our children.

Just a thought.

— J. Damon Cain is editor of The Register-Herald. To reach him, email dcain@register-herald.com.

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