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State leaders say W.Va. projections are assuring, but they urge caution

Outlooks are improving for West Virginia’s fight against coronavirus, but Secretary of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch says now is not the time to let up.

WV DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch

Crouch warned during a Tuesday news briefing that the state could as easily experience the worse end of the predictions if precautions aren’t heeded.

But he also hopes to do even better than models suggest.

“The projections we’re looking at are essentially a midline, and we hope we get by with less cases than even the predictions show,” Crouch said.

“But there’s also a range there where we could end up with even more cases, several outbreaks in a row, and we could end up with numbers we don’t want to see.”

West Virginia will reach peak at on April 16 — in about a week and a half, according to an updated data analysis of all 50 states by The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which is affiliated with the University of Washington.

That does not reflect an end to the effects of the virus  — merely the peak.

“We are working for surge preparation,” Crouch said today. “We’re hoping to have that finalized this week.”

The model now predicts 182 coronavirus-related deaths in West Virginia through early August.

However, the model indicates significant uncertainty — with an upper possibility of almost 600 deaths and a lower possibility of more than 50 deaths.

The organization’s model, watched closely by West Virginia leaders and citizens, was updated recently to reflect additionally-available information from communities affected by the spread of coronavirus all over the world.

“So our general conclusion is that what we show now for West Virginia is likely more robust, but we will want to stay and watch carefully as new data comes in,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, during a separate Monday press conference.

And, Murray emphasized, the results assume the continuation of social distancing guidelines.

“As we noted previously, the trajectory of the pandemic will change – and dramatically for the worse – if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions,” he stated.

Gov. Jim Justice ordered school buildings to be closed on March 14 and issued a stay-home order on March 25.

State officials on a daily basis have cautioned residents to keep their distance from others and to wash their hands often to slow the virus spread.

By midday Tuesday, West Virginia DHHR was reporting four deaths, 412 covid-19 confirmations and 12,059 total tests.

The cumulative percent positive results — dividing positives by total number of tests — was 3.4 percent and holding steady in recent days.

Responding to a question about whether the earlier peak date could possibly mean the resumption of spring activities such as graduation ceremonies, Gov. Jim Justice expressed some hope but also said leaders need to view such decisions with caution.

“We’re doing a whole lot more than crossing our fingers and hopeful of just that,” Justice said today.

“And every day that goes by we have more hope, but we’ve still got to be very concerned and continue to stay the course. Nothing in the world would tickle me more, but there’s still so much uncertainty that it would be difficult for any of us to answer with certainty.”

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