Chris Schulz Published

'This Is Not Over' Justice Says As State Eyes New Boosters

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Gov. Jim Justice is urging West Virginians to be aware that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over.

During Tuesday’s pandemic press briefing, Justice announced the death of the state’s youngest COVID-19 victim, a 13-year-old girl from Nicholas County, along with 22 additional deaths from the virus. The state’s COVID death toll now stands at 7,253.

“Again, I asked for your prayers, I ask for your awareness that this is not over,” Justice said. “I mean, how tragic is it for us to lose a beautiful 13-year-old girl?”

Ret. Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer drove home the point that the pandemic is not over as he discussed the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force’s tabletop exercise from the day before.

“We still believe that 500 is the number that we need to pay attention to and that’s based on the seasons and what we’re dealing with with the flow of patients in and out of hospitals as well as staffing issues and challenges that would come from COVID,” Hoyer said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in West Virginia are currently at 340. Justice expressed concern that cooler temperatures in fall and winter could exacerbate COVID-19 and put further strain on hospital resources.

Hoyer said the exercise was also focused on the imminent approval and distribution of bivalent booster shots, designed to target omicron subvariants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects the Food and Drug Administration to grant Emergency Use Authorizations for new bivalent COVID-19 boosters developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in or around September 2022. However, administration of any new boosters can begin only after CDC’s official recommendations.

“The ordering process has begun for this updated booster version and an order was placed yesterday and then an order will be placed on the 29th of August,” Hoyer said.

Exact numbers for the order were not immediately available.

Later in the press conference, State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad clarified that the upcoming dose is a booster shot, not a primary immunization. Those seeking to receive the shot would need to complete a primary series of COVID-19 vaccines before receiving the omicron-specific booster.