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KEYSER, W.Va. — While 261 Mineral County residents over age 80 have received the COVID-19 vaccine, county health administrator A. Jay Root said Wednesday the process has been slowed by supply.

During his Wednesday press conference, Republican Gov. Jim Justice said vaccine availability would be extended to include folks 70 and older, effective immediately, after announcing a push in late December to vaccinate West Virginia’s oldest residents.

Distribution has gone well, Root said via email, but the challenge has been receiving adequate amounts of the vaccine. The most they have given in a single day is 106 doses, Root said.

“The demand has been greater than the supply given to WV federally,” Root wrote. “... We are putting the vaccine in arms as quickly as we receive it from the state.”

While he didn’t say how many people are on it, Root said folks are on a waiting list to receive the vaccine as it becomes available. There was also a near-immediate demand from the newly-eligible once Justice’s announcement was made.

“The announcement today has our phone lines tied up with those 70+ wanting to get vaccine,” Root wrote shortly after the press conference. “As with the 80+, we will put the 70+ on a list and take care of them as vaccine is made available to the health department. The list for 70+ is growing very rapidly.”

Root said he did not know when they would receive more doses of the vaccine for distribution.

A vaccine clinic that was scheduled Thursday in Hardy County to serve residents from there, as well as Mineral, Grant and Hampshire counties, filled up rapidly for some of the participants, illustrating the high demand among the region’s elderly residents. Grant County health administrator Sandy Glasscock notified residents of the clinic shortly before noon Wednesday, and by 2 p.m. announced that their list was full.

“As we have Hardy, Hampshire, Grant, Mineral and EA Hawse (health centers) all participating, we only had 100 spots available for each agency,” Hardy County health officials wrote on Facebook shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday. “We are full for the Hardy County Health Department spots tomorrow. As soon as we get more vaccine we will set up another clinic.”

‘Moving forward’

Toward the end of a monthslong spike in COVID-19 cases in the county, Root said that half of the staff of nine in December ultimately fell ill from the disease, himself included.

“We have a small staff to begin with, so it made the two weeks at the end of December challenging, but everyone stepped up,” Root wrote. “We are back to full staff and moving forward. I can’t say enough about the performance of all our staff here at the Mineral County Health Department. They are truly amazing.”

On the subject of having COVID-19, “It definitely hits everyone differently,” Root said. “Thankfully for my family and my staff, we were fortunate to come out of everything OK. For me, I have never experienced anything like it. It put me down for several weeks.”

While case numbers have begun a slow recession in Mineral County in recent weeks, they continue to rise in the neighboring West Virginia counties. Per Wednesday’s update of the daily map, Mineral County has an infection rate of 39.88 per 100,000 and percent positivity is 6.67%. Hardy County, which is currently experiencing the worst outbreak among the four counties, had a seven-day average infection rate of 132.74 per 100,000 and its percent positivity is 19.69%.

Per figures posted Tuesday afternoon, 2,185 Mineral County residents have contracted COVID-19 and 70 have died. Another 1,936 people have recovered, and there were at least 217 active cases.

Lindsay Renner-Wood is a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News, covering West Virginia and more. Follow her on Twitter @LindsayRenWood, email lrenner-wood@times-news.com or call 304-639-4403.

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