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New Cases Are Not a Surprise

As we West Virginians get into “reopening” our state in earnest, some have observed, with more than a trace of concern, that the numbers of COVID-19 cases in our area and the state as a whole are increasing. Of course they are.

Does that mean we need to go back to stay-at-home orders and shuttered businesses? No. For one thing, doing so is unsustainable. Tens of thousands of West Virginians simply cannot afford to continue not collecting paychecks.

Strictly from a public health standpoint, however, it does not appear the coronavirus is expanding its beachhead in the Mountain State.

One obvious factor increasing the number of positive diagnoses of COVID-19 is that, as is the case in much of the country, more West Virginians — including many who were showing few or no symptoms of the disease — are being tested than during the epidemic’s initial stages. For several weeks, we had only enough test kits to check those demonstrating clear, sometimes severe, symptoms. Now we are uncovering previously hidden cases of COVID-19.

What is important is the rate at which those tested prove to be harboring the virus. Statewide, that was only 1.75% of all of those — more than 133,000 people — who had been tested since late March.

And on a daily basis, the number frequently dips below the cumulative rate, meaning that we are making progress.

Believe what you see with your own eyes: Go online to dhhr.wv.gov./covid-19. A variety of statistics, some presented graphically, can be found there.

Look under “Positive Case Trends.” There you will see a line graph charting the number of West Virginians diagnosed with the disease. You will observe that the increase during the past three months has been relatively steady — but without sharp spikes. An accompanying graph on day-by-day diagnoses shows some spikes but also some sharp declines.

While there is no cause for undue alarm, do not misunderstand the situation: Everything is not coming up roses in terms of COVID-19. The situation could change drastically for the worse. If we drop our guard, it will.

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