CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One week after West Virginia’s first confirmed case of coronavirus, West Virginia health officials are closely monitoring newly-confirmed cases to predict whether the spread will be steep or more gradual.

The goal of the “social distancing” advice and the closure orders put in place over the past couple of weeks is to slow the spread to avoid overwhelming the medical system.

Clay Marsh

“We would expect about seven days after our first case, we’ll start to see the curve go up. We haven’t seen that yet,” said Clay Marsh, executive dean at WVU Health during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

“The more days the curve does not go up it tells us we have pushed it out to the right, which means we have bought ourselves more time.”

By 5 p.m. Tuesday, the most recent statistics posted by the state Department of Health and Human Resources show 20 coronavirus confirmations in Jackson (1), Jefferson (3), Kanawha (4), Marshall (2), Mercer (2), Monongalia (5), Putnam (1) and Tucker (2) counties.

DHHR says there have been 610 negative tests from state and commercial labs.

Everyone is certain those numbers will go up, but a big question is at what rate.

The confirmations include a cluster at a nursing home in Morgantown that signified the presence of “community spread” in West Virginia. And there were two confirmed cases associated with the Kanawha County judicial annex.

If the spread is charted, state health officials are concerned about how steep that would look.

“We are early in the uprise. We would expect in the next several days to get a sense more of what’s happening with this,” state Health Officer Cathy Slemp said today in response to a MetroNews question about when the spread might peak.

“That’s why we’re watching the data so carefully and looking at those models. And how much you can flatten that curve extends it out.”

One week out from the first confirmation, Marsh said West Virginia’s early situation seems like neighboring Pennsylvania’s — “which has had significant problems” — than Kentucky, “our border state that has done a good job.”

West Virginia’s shutdown orders are wise precautions, Marsh said.

“What we really want to do is to continue to let the curve come down so it’s not so high-sloped and also so it’s delayed,” Marsh said.

During a Fox News virtual town hall on Tuesday, President Trump said he hopes to have the country “opened up” by Easter — Sunday, April 12.

“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump said.

Gov. Jim Justice, who often speaks of his close relationship with Trump, was asked during the West Virginia news conference about that goal.

Justice expressed doubt about the likelihood.

“From the standpoint of everything going back to normal by Easter, is ambitious,” Justice said. “But at the same time I would celebrate in every way, shape, form or fashion if we could do that.”

Justice continued, “While I think it may be a little too optimistic, I hope and pray our president might know something we don’t know.”