WASHINGTON, D.C. — West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh spoke on the state’s successes and strategies when fighting the COVID-19 pandemic while testifying in front of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Tuesday.
U.S. Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.), a member of this subcommittee invited Marsh.
In opening statements on YouTube, Marsh numbered issues critical to West Virginia’s successes including the culture of service, commitment to higher purpose and resilience for West Virginia.
“Doing nothing to mitigate or doing things by force was not as effective as doing things collaboratively,” Marsh said. “That’s been a hallmark of what we have tried to do. Move toward a level of committed purpose and service to people and our state.”
Marsh pointed to the creation of the “Team of Teams” approach led by National Guard logistic experts to adapt, pivot and create rapid learning cycles in this dynamic “Black Swan” COVID-19 event.
He also stated strong leadership from Gov. Jim Justice that has resulted in one of the highest vaccination distribution rates in the country.
“The governor gave us the directive to save lives, improve well being and maintain the capacity and function of vital healthcare and industry sectors in West Virginia,” Marsh said.
According to the latest numbers from the state Department of Health and Human Resources on Tuesday, 70,948 West Virginians have been fully vaccinated and 195,825 citizens have had at least the first dose of a vaccine administered.
West Virginia is one of seven states that have vaccinated at least 10% of the state’s total population. A large majority of those vaccinated in the state include frontline workers and the elderly population.
Marsh said in West Virginia that the average age of the over 2,000 COVID-19 related deaths is 77. 77% of the deaths in the Mountain State have been people 70 years of age or older, 92% over the age of 60, and 97% over the age of 50.
He said there’s been clear and consistent guiding principles and priority scheme for vaccination.
“We were able to immunize all of our nursing homes and assisted living residents before the new year. We’ve just finished our second doses which is great because we know half of our deaths come from this population,” Marsh said.
He detailed West Virginia’s hub system for vaccines when asked about distribution to the general public. He explained how the Mountain State has five hubs to make it a short distance to move a vaccine to place. Each dose is sent with a GPS tracker and Marsh said the state keeps track of the inventory that way. If a vaccine is not administered within seven days, it is brought back to the central hub.
Marsh said one of the best things that could happen to West Virginia in the coming days and weeks it to just have more vaccines. He said West Virginia receives 23,600 doses per week but has the capacity to receive 125,000 per week without having to change infrastructure.
Marsh said with a slight change to infrastructure and plans, the state could receive 200,000 doses per week.
A final issue critical to success according to Marsh is creating a Joint Interagency Communication team including social media behaviors to drive messaging, constant communication and evaluation.
He said leaders need to be able to share best practices and learnings.
“I don’t think that there is an integrated portal or pathway to allow each of the leaders of the states, along with the leaders of the federal government response, perhaps with the coronavirus taskforce experts, to be able to come together and freely and quickly exchange information,” Marsh said.