Chris Schulz Published

State Leaders Eye Hospital Capacity As COVID Cases Climb

Gov. Jim Justice and his COVID-19 advisors are keeping a close eye on the state’s hospitals as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across West Virginia.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 dashboard, there were 330 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thursday, up 24 from Tuesday.

However, during his comments Ret. Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer noted that there were 54 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals Thursday.

“Should things not change, we are on a path to a Labor Day timeframe to be at that 500 mark in the hospital,” Hoyer said.

The 500 mark is a reference to the state’s total hospital bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Hoyer discussed ongoing assessments and preparations for a continued rise in cases, including an upcoming tabletop exercise to be undertaken by the Joint Interagency Task Force the first week of August.

The tabletop exercise is a preparedness activity that allows participants like the state hospital association and the National Guard to deal with a simulated incident scenario that can highlight flaws in response planning.

Dr. Clay Marsh also emphasized the importance of maintaining and protecting the state’s hospital capacity.

“We are closely monitoring that and and looking at perhaps a lower threshold for us to to activate other approaches in anticipation, making sure that we maintain hospital capacity,” he said.

Marsh shared data from the genome sequencing of COVID-19 at West Virginia University and Marshall University. The data showed the BA.5 variant jumped from being just one percent of all COVID-19 cases in West Virginia in the last week of June, to representing 33 percent of all cases in the state in the first week of July.

“We know that the BA.5 variant is by far now the most infectious variant that we’ve seen today,” Marsh said. “And we know that it also has the ability to reinfect people.”

He said this included not only those who have recently recovered from a bout of COVID-19, but also those several months out from their last vaccination. Marsh said that is why the White House is considering making all adults in America eligible for a fourth vaccine shot.

West Virginians are encouraged to check if they are eligible for another shot using the state’s vaccine calculator.