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Among all of the calls to get vaccinated for the governor’s dog, the politics that leak into the discourse and the sometimes wildly oscillating tone, there is still value in the public briefings by Gov. Jim Justice, et. al., about the ongoing, although, for now, diminishing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justice stumbled into a poignant metaphor Tuesday when he said, no matter what people think of being entered into a lottery drawing for cash and prizes when they get the vaccine, those who avoid the shot are putting themselves in a lottery to be among the rolls of the dead the governor reads to begin every briefing.

Even more important words came from Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s COVID-19 czar, who gave a sobering warning about what could happen if vaccinations continue to stall out. Marsh noted that the United Kingdom and other parts of the world are still seeing surges in cases because of continually emerging variants of COVID-19.

New variants are more likely to cause health problems for younger people, are easier to spread and can be more lethal. Ironically, the home of the “UK variant” is now seeing almost all of its new cases caused by the Delta variant, which is a much more dangerous strain of the virus expected to soon dominate cases in the United States. The good news is that vaccines, particularly Moderna and Pfizer, are still proving effective against emerging variants, such as Delta.

But Marsh went on to explain that, as the virus has been studied, more and more long-term adverse health effects are being discovered, even among those who might not have gotten very sick from the virus itself. These include neurological impairments and what Marsh described as “shrinking” in some of the most important parts of the brain.

Many have checked out, in regard to COVID-19 precautions. In some ways, it’s understandable. The mask mandate is over. Many public health restrictions involving everyday life have been lifted. But as more is observed and studied each day, it’s clear that no one really knows the full extent of the damage the pandemic might still cause or the effect it will have on physical health in the long run.

Yet, vaccination rates in West Virginia are rising at a crawl, with only 45% of the state’s population and 52% of those eligible for the vaccine (everyone ages 12 and older) fully vaccinated.

Hopefully, Marsh’s words of warning will reach the right ears. If not, there’s always the governor’s blunt analogy.

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