W.Va. follows nation in COVID surge

CHARLESTON — West Virginia ended the week with COVID-19 cases on the rise, following the national trend.

According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, as of 10 a.m. Friday, the state had 4,987 active COVID-19 cases, a number that had dipped to 4,428 Monday, before beginning to climb again.

West Virginia reported 524 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period as of Friday morning. By Saturday morning’s report from DHHR, the state was likely to break 24,000 total cases since data collection started on March 11.

“If I were to just guess, I’d say 400-plus of them didn’t have a clue they had it,” Justice said. “If that be the case … if we find 400 people who didn’t know they even had this and we’re able to isolate them for a little while, do the contact tracing, and we’re able to ensure we stop their spread … we’re going to save somebody’s life.”

Justice attributed the 524 cases to increases in testing. There were 9,598 test results received by DHHR at the end of Thursday. But the governor said in some parts of the state, people are not taking advantage of multiple free drive-through testing sites.

“We’re testing more and more and more, and therefore finding more and more and more new cases,” Justice said. “If we do not find these people, think what kind of mess we could be in … by finding these people, we’re helping ourselves. We’re going to get through this, but we have got to find these people.”

Friday’s daily percent positivity rate was 3.77 percent, but the cumulative percent positivity rate was 2.91 percent — the highest that number has been since April 25. The state’s Rt value — the rate that shows how quickly the virus is spreading in the community — was 1.10. West Virginia had the 17th lowest Rt value, though all but two states have Rt values higher than 1, meaning the virus is spreading to more than one person.

Deaths are also starting to show a slight increase. According to DHHR, 451 people have died due to COVID-19 as of Friday, with eight deaths reported: a 93-year old woman from Cabell County, a 90-year old man from Wetzel County, an 84-year old man from Kanawha County, a 55-year old man from Cabell County, an 82-year old woman from Monongalia County, an 83-year old man from Monongalia County, a 73-year old man from Fayette County and an 89-year old woman from Fayette County.

Over the last seven days, 29 people died from COVID-19, an 11.5 percent increase from the previous seven days.

Hospitalizations are also continuing to climb, with 240 people in the hospital since the state broke 200 hospitalizations last week. There are 75 people in intensive care units and 27 people on ventilators.

State officials are working to increase free testing sites around the state and expand their partnerships with pharmacies, such as Walgreen’s and Fruth Pharmacy. The West Virginia National Guard is working with DHHR and county health departments to increase testing capacity. So far, no shutdowns similar to the spring stay-at-home executive order are expected.

Dr. Clay Marsh, the state coronavirus czar, urged West Virginians to keep wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing, as well as to get tested. He said more than 88,000 tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. Thursday, an all-time record for one day.

“If we are able to really serve each other and stick to the discipline, even though we’re tired and even though it’s hard … then we are going to be the place in this country that people continue to look at and say, ‘How did they do it?'” Marsh said. “We need to answer the call together, because if we don’t, I am very worried that dark days are coming.”

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)


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