Positive COVID-19 Cases Still Going Up in West Virginia
CHARLESTON — The number of infections caused by the novel coronavirus continues its upward climb in West Virginia, but some indicators show the virus might be slowing down.
Gov. Jim Justice and state officials gave a COVID-19 briefing Monday at the State Capitol Building.
“This is a terrible killer and a terrible pandemic we’re dealing with, but we’re fighting it every way we can,” Justice said. “Some way somehow you and all of us will get through this.”
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Resources, the number of positive cases in West Virginia over the last 14 days between Sept. 7 and Sept. 20 was 2,578, which was a 10-percent increase in positive cases from the previous 14 days. As of Monday — the most recent data available — the state reported 102 new cases.
Active COVID-19 cases, meaning the number of infected people in self-quarantine or hospitalized, was 3,544 as of Monday — an 11 percent increase from 3,184 active cases seven days ago and a 29 percent increase from 2,747 active cases 14 days ago. Active cases have increased in 39 out of 55 counties, while cases in 12 counties have decreased and two counties have seen no changes in case numbers. Only two counties have no positive coronavirus cases.
On the County Alert System map maintained by DHHR, only Putnam and Mingo counties are in the red, meaning they have more than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Monongalia, Kanawha, Fayette, Boone, and Logan counties are orange, meaning they have between 15 and 24.9 cases per 100,000 people. Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Wyoming, Summers, Nicholas, and Pocahontas counties are gold, meaning they have between 10 and 14.9 cases per 100,000 people.
Counties in the gold, orange, and red counties face further social distancing restrictions, including limiting outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people. The colors also determine whether nursing homes are forced to limit visitations and group activities in long-term care facilities.
The total numbers of test results over the last 14 days was 60,391, which was a 4 percent decrease in testing compared testing conducted between Aug. 24 through Sept. 6. Last Friday, Justice announced several testing opportunities in counties listed as gold, orange, or red in the County Alert System. The colors denote the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people based on seven-day and 14-day rolling averages depending on the population size of the county.
“The one thing we’ve got to do to be able to do something about is we’ve got to know where the problems are,” Justice said. “You’ll never get out of any hole unless you know how deep in the hole you are and unless you know where you’re at.”
Justice and state health officials said they have the ability, along with multiple testing labs, to test as many as 10,000 per day and would like to get up to at least 8,000 COVID-19 tests per day.
“The more we test, the more we know,” Justice said. “We just haven’t gotten amped up to the levels we need to get it amped up to. What we’re going to do, at my direction going through the National Guard and DHHR and local health officials, is we’re going to test red and orange counties and effective immediately, we are going to significantly ramp up the testing in those counties.”
Dr. Clay Marsh, the state coronavirus czar, said the state is starting to see increases in people getting tested since Justice started call for people to get tested to both lower the number of cases per 100,000 people in counties and to lower the percent of positivity in the counties.
“What we understood after a while was after a while that metric alone made it less likely that people were going to get tested because folks figured out that the way you try to being your infection rate down is you just don’t measure it,” Marsh said. “Since we have made this change, we have seen the daily number of tests start to pick up, which is really really good.”
Despite higher case numbers, West Virginia’s daily percent of positive cases dipped below 3 percent for the first time since Aug. 29. As of Monday, the daily percent sits at 2.03 percent. The cumulative percent of positive cases dipped for the first time since June 23, from a late summer peak of 2.74 percent on Saturday. The cumulative number is 2.73 percent as of Monday morning.
“I hope that will level off and start declining more than you’ll ever know,” Justice said.
West Virginia’s Rt number — the rate that shows how quickly the virus is spreading in the community — was 1.11 as of Monday. At one point the state with the worst Rt value in the country, West Virginia’s rate is now the 12th worst and coming down.
Death in West Virginia are also down for the first time since late July. DHHR reported 312 total COVID-19 deaths as of Monday, with two new deaths reported to DHHR Monday. The death rate decreased by 6 percent when comparing two 14-day periods. There were 64 deaths reported between Sept. 7 and Sept. 21 and 68 deaths reported between Aug. 24 through Sept. 6.
There were 162 hospitalizations as of Monday due to COVID-19. The average number of hospitalizations between Sept. 7 and Sept. 20 increased by 8 percent over the average number of hospitalizations the previous 14 days. Hospitalizations peaked at 175 on Sept. 17 before coming back down. The number of infected people in intensive care units remained at 58 and 28 people are on ventilators – up from 24 last Monday.