COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice launches Booster Battlefield Assessment: first statewide program in U.S. to measure antibody levels among vaccinated

7/29/2021

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Voluntary program among proactive efforts as Delta variant spreads; State also to evaluate PPE supplies, hospital staffing and bed levels, and more
CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held another news briefing today to update the public on the State’s latest pandemic response efforts.
BOOSTER BATTLEFIELD ASSESSMENT: FIRST STATEWIDE ANTIBODY TESTING PROGRAM IN THE COUNTRY AMONG NEW EFFORTS UNDERWAY AS DELTA VARIANT CONTINUES TO SPREAD
During Thursday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that the State of West Virginia is launching the first statewide program in the country to test and measure antibody levels among vaccinated individuals.

This new “Booster Battlefield Assessment” program is among several additional proactive efforts that are now underway as the number of Delta variant cases across the state continues to climb sharply.

“In West Virginia, we now have 100 Delta variant cases,” Gov. Justice said. “This variant is different. It is much, much more contagious.”
The current statewide case count of 100 is a 132.6% increase in Delta variant cases since the Governor’s previous COVID-19 briefing two days ago.
To view COVID-19 variant data:
  • Go to the WV COVID-19 Dashboard at Coronavirus.wv.gov
  • Make sure the “Overview” tab is selected
  • Click yellow box reading: “Click here to view variant data”
“In my stomach, I believe and I feel that the enemy is coming. And that enemy is this Delta variant,” Gov. Justice said. “We’ve got to do something, and we’ve got to do something really fast.”

The Governor went on to announce several action steps that will be taken immediately.
 
Booster Battlefield Assessment:
The Booster Battlefield Assessment program will be an opportunity for West Virginia’s long-term care facility residents and other West Virginians ages 60 and above who were vaccinated more than six months ago to volunteer to have their blood drawn and have their antibody levels measured.

“That will allow us to gain data on antibodies and how protected you really are,” Gov. Justice said. 

State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, who attended Thursday’s briefing in-person, noted that early studies have indicated that there may be a “significant reduction” in the amount of antibodies present in individuals six months after being vaccinated.
“We are worried that people who are older, who are more vulnerable – including our nursing home population, our long-term care facilities, and all people who are over 60 years old – who were vaccinated back in December and January when we first saw the vaccines, that they may be seeing their immune protection start to go down,” Dr. Marsh said. “With this Booster Battlefield Assessment program, we think that we can gather very valuable information that we can share with the CDC and the FDA – hopefully working hand in glove with the vaccine manufacturers – to be able to demonstrate real-world data in the U.S. that we may be able to use to benefit our population; to protect them from getting sick and dying.”

If a participant’s antibody levels are found to be low, those individuals may then qualify to receive another booster of the vaccine, should such booster shots become available.

The Booster Battlefield Assessment program is the first statewide antibody testing program in the country.

“West Virginia has always been on the forefront with our response to COVID,” Gov. Justice said. “I am very hopeful that, with this program, West Virginia will lead the way for the nation yet again.”

Fortifying Supplies and Resources:
The Governor also announced that he has directed West Virginia’s Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) on COVID-19 to evaluate PPE supply levels across the state.

The JIATF has also been directed to evaluate hospital staffing and bed availability, long-term care facility staffing and preventative measures, and monoclonal antibody treatment levels statewide.

“We’re moving proactive and will be doing a foundational emergency planning program,” Gov. Justice said. “We need to be ready because this Delta variant is here. We have 100 cases now and we know more will be coming in the days ahead. I’ve been advised by top medical professionals that, over the next few weeks, this thing is going to get significantly worse.”

“The Governor’s primary objectives are to reduce the loss of life among West Virginians and to maintain the integrity of our hospital system,” JIATF Director Jim Hoyer said during his remarks Thursday. “What the Governor has directed us to do is to give him, as the commander of our response, a better focus on what is out in front of us and what we need to do to maintain the level of effort to achieve those two objectives that we need to get to.”
Increasing Briefing Schedule:
The Governor also announced that, in order to continue keeping the public adequately informed about developments in regard to the State’s response to the Delta variant, that he will be increasing the frequency of his COVID-19 news briefings to three per week.

“I wish to goodness we could be announcing that we could be changing our briefings to one day per week or eliminating the briefings altogether. But we need to be here,” Gov. Justice said. “We need to be ahead of the curve. West Virginia has always been ahead of the curve.”
COVID-19 DATA AVAILABLE AT CORONAVIRUS.WV.GOV
Also on Thursday, Gov. Justice reported that West Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers continue to increase across the board.

The total number of active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia has now reached 1,910; a 116.6% increase from the number of active cases less than three weeks ago.

The Governor went on to note that Webster County has become the state’s first Red county on the County Alert Map System in several weeks.

The map also now features seven Gold counties and 21 Yellow counties, meaning that more than half of the counties across the state are now above the Green category.
There are currently 10 active outbreaks associated with churches throughout West Virginia. These churches are located in Braxton, Cabell, Fayette, Jackson, Jefferson, Marion, McDowell, Nicholas, and Putnam counties. Additionally, there are currently five active outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state. Both of these numbers are up from the Governor’s previous briefing on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, there is currently one active inmate case and one active staff case across the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation system. To view the latest DCR case update, click here.
For more information about West Virginia’s latest COVID-19-related data, visit the West Virginia COVID-19 Dashboard at Coronavirus.wv.gov.

The dashboard provides a detailed breakdown of case numbers, vaccination data, and more; including the color-coded County Alert Map system, hospitalization data, and several additional features.

The dashboard is updated Monday-Friday at 10 a.m.
VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES
Free COVID-19 vaccinations are available to all West Virginians ages 12 and older.

All West Virginians interested in being vaccinated are urged to visit Vaccinate.wv.gov or call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965. The info line is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

All West Virginians who have received one dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines need to remember to get their second dose as well to ensure maximum protection against COVID-19.
FIND A VACCINE NEAR YOU
In addition to clinic locations, vaccinations continue to be made available at Walgreens locations, the Med Shoppe/Leader network of pharmacies, Walmart locations, and additional independent pharmacies throughout the state as part of the federal pharmacy partnership in West Virginia.

West Virginians can visit Vaccines.gov for assistance in locating and securing an appointment at one of these federal pharmacy partners.
DO IT FOR BABYDOG: GOVERNOR INTRODUCES LATEST PRIZE WINNERS FROM 6TH ROUND OF GIVEAWAYS
Also, Gov. Justice recapped his journey across the state on Wednesday to surprise the winners of the three biggest prizes given away in the 6th round of the “Do it or Babydog: Save a life, Change your life” Vaccination Sweepstakes.

Ronceverte resident and former healthcare worker Wanda Coleman’s life was changed forever when she received a surprise visit from the Governor, First Lady, and Babydog, who announced that her name had been drawn as the latest million-dollar prize winner of the sweepstakes.
The Governor and Babydog also surprised Ellen Taylor – a surgical team member at CAMC Memorial Hospital in Charleston (below left) – and surprised Michael Quinn from the community of Hacker Valley in Webster County (below right), presenting each of them with a brand-new custom-outfitted truck.
A total of 50 West Virginians were announced as prize winners Wednesday. Additional prizes included two full four-year scholarships to any public institution in the state, five lifetime hunting licenses, five lifetime fishing licenses, five custom hunting rifles, five custom hunting shotguns, and 25 weekend getaways to West Virginia State Parks.
During Thursday’s briefing, the Governor was joined by John Fox from Martinsburg; one of this week’s two college scholarship prize winners through the sweepstakes.
“Thank you for getting vaccinated, John. I’m really proud of you. Tell all your peers they need to get vaccinated too,” Gov. Justice said. “You just go on and do greatness with your life. You’ve got a real opportunity – a full, four-year scholarship – so take advantage of it.”

The Governor also offered his congratulations to this week’s other college scholarship prize winner; Keelin Howes of Buckhannon.

Vaccinated West Virginians only have ONE MORE CHANCE to win in the “Do it for Babydog: Save a life, Change your life” Vaccination Sweepstakes.
CLICK TO REGISTER
All West Virginians who have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can register at DoitforBabydog.wv.gov for an opportunity to join the list of winners. Over 370,000 West Virginians have registered for the sweepstakes to date.
FIND A VACCINE NEAR YOU
Due to the Governor adding an extra briefing to next week’s schedule, online registration to be eligible to win in the final prize drawing will be extended one extra day.

Registration will remain open until Monday, August 2, at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

The final prize drawing of the vaccination sweepstakes will also pushed back one day to next Thursday, August 5.

The final drawing will include two cash prizes – a grand prize of $1.588 million and a second prize of $588,000 – in addition to all of the standard non-cash prizes given away weekly.
REGISTRATION DEADLINES & PRIZE GIVEAWAY SCHEDULE
COVID-19 TESTING STILL AVAILABLE ACROSS STATE
Also on Thursday, Gov. Justice provided an overview of the 50 counties across the state that currently have free COVID-19 testing sites available through the Governor’s Aggressive Testing initiative.
Testing is available to all residents, including asymptomatic individuals. Proof of insurance is not required. Attendees should bring identification, such as a driver’s license or proof of address, to help in returning test results. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

An interactive online map of all free testing locations across West Virginia is available online. Users can filter the map by type of testing site or by county. Each location is marked on the map with a pin. After finding a testing location nearby, users are able to click on the pin for more information about that particular testing site, including the specific location and timeframe during which testing will be held.

Click here to view all locations, dates, times, and more details
MONOCLONAL ANTIBODY TREATMENT
Once again today, Gov. Justice urged any at-risk West Virginians who test positive for COVID-19 – especially those ages 65 and older – to ask their doctor if they qualify for monoclonal antibody treatment.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses.

This type of treatment for COVID-19 only works if patients receive it within a few days of testing positive.
DONATE BLOOD AND PLASMA
Gov. Justice also encouraged all West Virginians to consider donating blood and plasma through the American Red Cross.

Those fully recovered from a verified COVID-19 diagnosis may have plasma in their blood containing COVID-19 antibodies that can attack the virus. This plasma may be able to be used as a treatment for currently ill COVID-19 patients.

For more information, visit redcross.org or call the local American Red Cross offices at 304-340-3650.
WEST VIRGINIA NAMED NATION’S 10TH-BEST PLACE TO DO BUSINESS
Additionally Thursday, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks on COVID-19 to announce that Business Facilities magazine, which is a source for corporate site selectors, ranked West Virginia as the 10th-best business climate in the country; marking the first time ever that West Virginia has earned a top-10 spot in the magazine’s business climate rankings.

“They said the drivers behind this ranking, primarily, were Hyperloop on the way and all the great stuff we’re doing in north central West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “Congratulations to all West Virginians and thanks to this wonderful magazine.”
GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES NEW VETERANS ASSISTANCE SECRETARY
Also on Thursday, Gov. Justice took time to announce that he has appointed Edward A. “Ted” Diaz as Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance (WVDVA).

Born and raised in Huntington, WV, Diaz has spent the past 10 years working at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, most recently serving on the staff of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs at the VA Central Office in Washington, DC.

Diaz logged 20 years of active-duty service in the United States Navy before his retirement in 2007. He earned numerous awards and commendations, including the Navy & Marine Corps Medal for Heroism for his actions in support of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, during the 1996 Civil War.

Click here to read more
Diaz will step in for former WVDVA Secretary Dennis Davis, who passed away unexpectedly in January.

“We miss Dennis Davis so much,” Gov. Justice said. “I cannot tell you enough what a great man he was and what a great job he did.

“We mourn losing Dennis Davis,” Gov. Justice continued. “But we’re going to carry Dennis’ torch and continue to run forward.”
SALES TAX HOLIDAY STARTS AT MIDNIGHT
Additionally, Gov. Justice took time to offer a reminder to all West Virginians that the statewide back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday will begin at midnight.

During the holiday, certain back-to-school items are exempt from sales tax, such as clothing, school supplies, school instructional materials, laptops and tablets, and sports equipment.

The Sales Tax Holiday will begin at midnight on Friday, July 30, and will continue through Monday, Aug. 2, at 11:59 p.m.

Click here to read more
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Click here to view all Executive Orders and other actions taken by Gov. Justice to combat the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.

For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.
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Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

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State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

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