Randy Yohe Published

W.Va. COVID-19 Czar Highlights New Precautions, Protocols.

The U.S. omicron outbreak has dramatically slowed, cutting wait times for tests. But health officials worry a new uptick in cases fueled by the BA.2 variant could be on the way.

West Virginia COVID-19 hospitalizations have nearly tripled since April. State health experts are now highlighting new precautions and protocols.

West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh says right now, we are dealing with the most infectious forms of COVID-19.

During Gov. Jim Justice’s regular coronavirus briefing Monday, Marsh said the latest omicron variants are breaking through to people who have had a previous infection and gained immunity, or who have been vaccinated four months ago or longer.

“We are all about trying to help people see that staying up to date with the vaccines is absolutely the best protection that you can have against these variants,” Marsh said. “The variants that are coming here are not only more infectious, but they also replicate better in the lower airways, in the lungs.”

Marsh said it’s also been reported that with these new omicron variants, some of the rapid testing may not register positive as quickly as seen before.

“If you do develop symptoms of COVID-19 like disease and the symptoms continue to progress even though you would test negative with a home test, it’s probably a good idea to continue to test yourself,” Marsh said. “Not only so that you make sure that you aren’t infectious to spread it to others. But also if you’re in that vulnerable age category 50 and older.”

Marsh said to expect a new vaccination schedule out soon for people in the highest risk categories.

He also said there are efforts underway to develop a nasal vaccine.

“This virus enters the nose, the mucosal membranes, and the kind of immunity for the mucosal membranes is a different kind of immunity than we get when we get a shot,” Marsh said.

State COVID-19 prevention leaders also say they are ready for distribution when vaccines are approved for children under 5 years old.