Emily Allen Published

W.Va. Governor, Health Leaders Urge Caution As COVID-19 Statistics Take A Turn For The Worse

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

West Virginia’s governor and health officials warned in a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the state’s reproductive and daily positive rates for COVID-19 were noticeably high.

In fact, West Virginia’s reproductive rate – 1.35 as of Wednesday, per the governor – has been the highest in the country for the last four days, according to coronavirus czar Clay Marsh.

The Mountain State had a daily positivity rate for the coronavirus of 7.78 percent Wednesday, the highest since reaching roughly 12 percent in mid-April, according to data posted on the state’s COVID-19 response website.

“West Virginia, we are absolutely getting worse by the day,” Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday, shortly after listing off four new coronavirus deaths to reporters at a virtual press briefing. More than 250 West Virginians have died of COVID-19 since March. 

“You need to all know that everyone is trying their hardest to do the very best that they possibly, possibly can for you,” Justice said. “But West Virginians, you’re going to have to buckle down.”

The state’s dreary outlook hit less than a month after the governor was touting the state’s lower coronavirus-related statistics – throughout the first four weeks of August, the DHHR reported that West Virginia had daily positive rates of less than 4 percent. 

“It’s really, really important that everybody be particularly committed to protecting yourselves and protecting each other,” Marsh said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding close contact with individuals outside of one’s household and wearing face coverings in public settings. 

Forty-six out of 55 county school districts opened for in-person classes on Tuesday. Nine counties with high daily averages of coronavirus cases, according to a color-coded county alert system from the state, were not allowed to hold in-person classes this week.

On Wednesday, Justice announced Pocahontas County toward the southeast end of the state was the latest to go orange, referring to the second worst color on the map.

“We’re reviewing to make absolutely certain that Pocahontas County is absolutely, legitimately orange, but for what we know at this moment, it is,” Justice said.

West Virginia Public Health Officer Ayne Amjad later clarified that the county went from yellow to orange this week after 10 new people tested positive for the coronavirus in the 8,400-person county on Tuesday.

“We are going to review some information for that county over the next day or so,” Amjad said.

Outbreaks And Testing

The governor reported on Wednesday there were 32 outbreaks in long-term care facilities throughout the state and four church-related outbreaks.

According to data from the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation posted Wednesday, there were more than 30 active cases of COVID-19 among prisoners at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County. The DCR reported that more than 130 prisoners at Mount Olive have recovered from the coronavirus, and roughly 60 test results for that facility are still pending.

The governor said Wednesday more than 20 employees for Mount Olive have active COVID-19 cases.

Two more prisoners in the regional jails also have active coronavirus cases, one in Charleston and another in Cabell County.

Statewide, West Virginia health officials report there have been more than 463,000 coronavirus tests since March.

West Virginia has had 11,800 confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus, nearly 2,800 of which were active Wednesday.

The DHHR reported more than 8,700 West Virginians have recovered from the virus since March. However, experts nationwide are still learning how COVID-19 continues to impact patients following recovery from the disease.

“Most people need to follow up with their health care providers for those questions,” Amjad said Wednesday. “Of course, we know of the case of the child that was here in West Virginia [who was diagnosed with Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children], and it’s very important for children who have COVID-19 to follow up with their health care providers. As far as adults go, we do think it’s important as well, and we do see a lot of aftereffects. We’ve seen things with the heart, definitely, and even vascular issues.”

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.