MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — West Virginia currently rates poorly for COVID prevention and overdose deaths. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says no other state has a lower booster participation rate to fend off Coronavirus infection than West Virginia.
The state has established Babydog, cash prizes and pickup trucks to get those needles in our arms, but that really can only move the needle so far.
“You really have to get into the communities and really educate and have that solid message from everyone with the facts and evidence base,” said Angela Gray, nurse director for the Berkeley-Morgan County Board of Health.
Health officials will intensify their booster sales pitch. Meanwhile, the CDC also reports that West Virginia has the highest fentanyl overdose rate in the entire country. West Virginia is one of only five states to experience an increase exceeding 50% over the past year. Needle swapping isn’t helping things.
“We’ve had huge hepatitis rates in this state. We’ve been number one in the nation for more than a decade for hepatitis B and C rates, and prior to the pandemic, we had a huge hepatitis A outbreak in West Virginia related to IV drug use,” said Gray.
Gray may work in the state’s fastest-growing county, but with that comes a dubious distinction.
“Fentanyl is a huge issue, especially in Berkeley County,” Gray explained. “We are one of the top ten counties in the nation, not the state — in the nation — for the amount of fentanyl that is in our county.”
Berkeley County is not far from Washington, D.C. which has the nation’s second-highest fentanyl overdose rate.
Public health officials here in the eastern panhandle are the first to concede their resources are stretched really thin. Along with West Virginia, the other states experiencing such dramatic spikes in fentanyl death rates are California, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi.