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Gov. Justice Decries Latest COVID-19 Death Numbers

CHARLESTON — As COVID-19 death totals in West Virginia continue their ghastly climb, Gov. Jim Justice expressed both his condolences and his frustration.

According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, 778 West Virginians have died from the coronavirus as of Wednesday. Since Justice’s last COVID-19 briefing Monday, 43 people died from the virus during the first two days of December.

“This is absolutely a tragedy that’s going on all across our nation, and we’ve got to take it so seriously right here,” Justice said. “It’s unbelievable.”

While the majority of deaths reported since the first death March 29 have been in their 70s and 80s, of the 20 deaths reported by DHHR on Wednesday, one was a 25-year-old woman from Cabell County. The Cabell County death makes the third person in their 20s to die due to the coronavirus.

“Please don’t let them become a number,” Justice said. “Please don’t let them become a statistic, West Virginia. God hears our prayers and let Him hear them all for all these great people.”

November was the deadliest month for West Virginia for COVID-19 deaths. The state reported 278 deaths in November alone, more than the 136 deaths reported in September and the 107 deaths reported in October. The state’s case fatality rate is 1.5 percent which is less than the 2 percent U.S. average case fatality rate. Of surrounding states, only Kentucky has a better case fatality rate at 1.1 percent.

According to the West Virginia National Guard, the number of reported COVID-19 cases in West Virginia increased by 91 percent since the end of October to the end of November. Nearly 50 percent of the total COVID-19 cases in the state were found in the last 30 days. And 50 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths occurred in the last eight weeks.

“From October to November, West Virginia saw an increase of 73 percent in the reports associated with COVID,” Justice said. “Forty-seven percent of our deaths have occurred in our long-term care facilities or assisted living facilities.”

According to DHHR, the state received 1,087 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday. The state reported 17,125 active COVID-19 cases Wednesday. Justice said he continues to encourage residents to get tested, and he is hopeful for a vaccine being available later in the month. But Justice continued to stress the need to wear masks, keep socially distant, and avoid large gatherings.

“This absolutely is coming at us in every direction,” Justice said. “Testing is helping, and it’s helping tremendously, but absolutely this alone is not enough to solve what is happening all across our land. We hope and pray what will solve what is happening all across our land is a vaccine, and we know we’re days away from it starting, but we are months away from it completing, so we’ve got to continue to do every single thing we can possibly do to try to prevent this thing from continuing to spread.”

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