Chris Schulz Published

BA.5 Surge Still Weeks Away From Peak

The coronavirus uses spikes on its surfaces to infect cells.

Coronavirus cases continue their climb in West Virginia, but the peak is yet to come.

Gov. Jim Justice began Friday’s COVID-19 briefing by highlighting what he called “a big jump” in the number of active cases in the state.

“The biggest thing you need to dial into is we’ve jumped to 3358 active cases,” Justice said. “And we have 325 folks that are hospitalized with COVID in West Virginia now. I couldn’t tell you enough about getting your booster shot.”

That number, 3,358, is the highest active COVID-19 case numbers have been in West Virginia for five months, since late February.

Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh cautioned that, driven by the BA.5 variant, the peak of this surge is likely still weeks away.

“We know that the BA.5 variant has not yet risen to its full potential in the U.S., and we know that West Virginia is a few weeks, always, behind the rest of the U.S.,” Marsh said. “We can anticipate that BA.5 will come and have its full strength felt in West Virginia in the next several weeks.”

Marsh said the forms of COVID-19 circulating now are the most infectious yet, and called this time before the BA.5 peak the perfect time to get up to date on vaccines.

“This is really the right time to make sure that you go to the vaccine calculator, and if you’re due for another shot, if you’re due for a booster or a second booster or even if you’re due to get your primary series, this is really the best time to do it,” Marsh said. “And we hope people will do that because we don’t want the governor to read more names at the beginning of the next press conference.”

Justice and Marsh pointed to Pres. Biden’s seemingly mild case of COVID-19 as further evidence of the importance of vaccination to prevent severe illness.

Ret. Maj. Gen. James Hoyer said the state will order doses of Novavax on Monday. Approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday, Novavax uses more traditional protein-subunit vaccine technology. There is hope that vaccine hesitant populations will be more likely to use it over existing mRNA and viral vector vaccines.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.