Dave Mistich Published

W.Va. Officials Say ‘Breakthrough’ COVID Cases On The Rise


“Breakthrough” cases of the coronavirus — meaning those who have been fully vaccinated — are becoming more common in West Virginia. State data show an increase in these cases, as well as breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths, in recent weeks.

Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday that, over the past eight weeks, there has been a 26% increase in new breakthrough cases, a 21% increase in breakthrough cases requiring hospitalization and a 25% increase in breakthrough deaths.

According to DHHR, 0.44% percent of West Virginians who have been fully vaccinated have experienced a breakthrough case of the virus, while 0.007% of those fully vaccinated have died from the coronavirus.

DHHR Sec. Bill Crouch said last week that 53% of breakthrough cases are among those in nursing homes.

To date, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has reported 3,962 breakthrough cases and 62 breakthrough deaths.

But these numbers still point to the protection vaccines offer. Total active cases have increased tenfold in that same time period, according to state data.

Justice said the spike in breakthrough cases and other new cases is cause to remain vigilant as the virus continues to spread.

“We really do need to continue to stay on our toes in every way,” he said.

State health officials said Monday they have not yet sorted through vaccine data on these breakthrough cases, including which vaccine — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson — each of these breakthrough patients had received.

“We don’t have that kind of detail right now,” said State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad, “But, hopefully, we’ll have that in the next coming months.”

Concerns over breakthrough cases come as the federal government aims to roll out on Sept. 20 booster shots for those who have been fully vaccinated more than eight months prior. Justice said last week he’d like to get booster shots as soon as possible to those who were vaccinated six months ago or earlier.

The governor said Monday that despite his intent to push booster shots as soon as possible, some entanglements over agreements between the federal government, states and providers remain at play. Justice said he understands that supplies of vaccines belong to the federal government.

“We’ve still got to wait, because there’s some measures that we thought we could get past and start giving those booster shots right now,” Justice said Monday. “Our people are working upon my direction to try to find a way that we in West Virginia can move right now.”

But the final decision on booster shots comes down to authorization from federal health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.