As ballot-counting continues nationwide to determine the outcome of the presidential election, new cases of the coronavirus continue to surge. More than 100,000 new cases were counted in the U.S. in just a single day this week – a record. And in West Virginia, 540 new cases of the virus were counted in the past 24 hours.
Gov. Jim Justice said in his latest virtual press briefing that West Virginia has passed the three percent cumulative positivity rate of virus spread. Jump back to the end of April, as the governor announced the state’s reopening plan, 3 percent mark was a determining factor, in which the governor said he would close down the state again.
“Everybody right now is on super-high alert,” Justice said. “Our number of 3 percent that we came up with a long time ago, there’s lots of stuff that has changed since that point in time. And this shouldn’t be a line in the sand that says, you know, this is what we’re going to do, if we cross this, we’re gonna shut down the whole universe … but everybody is awfully concerned.”
Justice did not say if he would shut the state down soon, but noted that he and his team of experts are watching things closely.
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Dr. Bill Crouch explained the determining model has been adjusted based on how much testing is going on. Officials say the focus now is to encourage people to get tested to find asymptomatic carriers.
“We’ve said all along that we have to learn more about this disease as we go forward,” Crouch said. “And we have to change our approach to the disease based upon what we’ve learned … As we learned that the incentive to test was less, looking at just the infection rate, we realized we had to change the system … to get people to test.”
State officials continue to urge West Virginians to practice social distancing, wear masks and take advantage of free testing opportunities around the state to lower the risk of spread.
Meanwhile, 15 more people have died from COVID-19-related causes in the state since Wednesday. There have been more than 500 new cases in the past day, and 280 West Virginians are in the hospital with the potentially deadly virus. Of that figure, 93 are in the ICU and 31 are on ventilators.
These numbers, according to DHHR’s COVID-19 dashboard, have either been climbing in recent weeks or holding steady.
There are also more than 90 confirmed cases in West Virginia’s public schools, which equates to 19 outbreaks. Justice insists these are manageable numbers but also says he is concerned.
Nearly 60 outbreaks have been reported in the state’s long-term care facilities and 17 outbreaks in churches.
There are more than 6,100 active cases of the virus as of Friday afternoon, up by more than 1,200 since Friday of last week.