Coronavirus Cases Continue to Multiply in West Virginia as Data Trickles in Slowly
CHARLESTON — A nursing home in Monongalia County. The judicial annex in Kanawha County.
These are two of the hotspots for the spread of the coronavirus as of Wednesday, with new counties reporting cases every day, though the state’s website tracking new cases has been slow to update.
According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, there were 52 positive cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus as of Wednesday night with the first case reported eight days ago. There have been 1,083 total test results reported to DHHR, with 1,031 negative cases.
As of Wednesday, 17 counties have reported positive cases, according to the DHHR coronavirus dashboard, with the most in Monongalia and Kanawha counties — the state’s two largest urban population centers.
The majority of Monongalia County’s cases come from one nursing home.
However, while the DHHR dashboard showed five positives cases for Kanawha County, the Charleston Area Medical Center website showed 17 confirmed cases Wednesday. In Monongalia County, the health department reported 20 cases from the Sundale Rehabilitation and Long-Term Care in Morgantown, but DHHR showed 18. In Ohio County, two positive cases were reported Tuesday afternoon, but didn’t make the DHHR’S total Tuesday evening.
During a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday afternoon with Gov. Jim Justice and other state officials, DHHR leaders said they were not surprised by the increase in positive coronavirus cases, as those cases coincide with the increase in COVID testing across the state. These include tests conducted at the DHHR Lab in South Charleston, more than 49 hospitals, and commercial labs.
DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said he hopes to have a more detailed coronavirus dashboard up and running by next week, but starting Friday DHHR will start including more detailed information about positive cases and more frequent updates.
“We will compile those and try to have them available and updated three time per day,” Crouch said. “Clearly, county health departments have the right to publish and announce those positives, so there is a little lag in what comes from the counties and what comes to the state in terms of the Public Health Bureau.”
Dr. Cathy Slemp, state health officer and commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health, said hospitals and commercial labs report positive case numbers to the local county health department, which then gathers information about the positive cases and submits that information to the state. The state then reports that information to the federal government.
“With these systems, there’s always a little bit of a lag time, or a day or two before it can catch up,” Slemp said. “It’s a natural part of the reporting system. We want to make sure to the nation that we have good, solid data. That data takes time when you have this many cases this fast. What is important is that they have this information at the local level so they can do that response.”
The West Virginia National Guard said Wednesday that guardsmen are delivering personal protective equipment across the state and even working on ways to make certain items, such as masks. More than 53,000 N-95 masks, 50,000 surgical masks, 21,000 gowns, 18,000 coveralls, and 2,800 pairs of gloves have been distributed.
“We’re starting to develop the numbers we think that we may need over time,” Adj. Gen. James Hoyer said. “With the national shortage and the worldwide shortage, what we’re having to do is develop different sources of suppliers and then from that be able to build what we need to receive at a daily burn rate. This is a much more complicated logistics operation than might normally take place. We can’t place an order for 2 million masks and expect they’ll come in at the same time.”
The guard is working with career and technical centers to use 3D printers to make masks, and the guard is also testing material used for parachutes to see if the fabric can be used for masks.
“We’re using assets to develop some prototype masks,” Hoyer said. “Those are being evaluated over the next day or so. If they are determined to be effective, then we’ll go into production with those and that will give us one more source of support for (personal protective equipment) going forward.”
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that causes fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is especially dangerous to people over the age of 60 and people with chronic health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.
Since the virus was first discovered in China last December, there have been 467,594 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide with 21,181 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., there are 65,778 confirmed cases and 942 deaths.