Health officials looking for days of improving numbers in response to mask mandate

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources added 19 positive cases to its COVID-19 numbers Tuesday morning on the first day of Gov. Jim Justice’s mask mandate.

According to the DHHR, the state has now had 3,461 total positive cases since early March including 831 active cases which is at the highest level since the pandemic began. The daily positive test rate is 4.35 percent while the overall positive test rate is at 1.82 percent. There have been nearly 190,000 COVID-19 tests given in West Virginia in the last four months.

Monongalia County has had the steepest climb in positive cases in recent days.

“Our numbers have just about doubled in the last seven days,” Monongalia County Health Department Dr. Lee Smith said Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “On June 30, we had about 160 cases and on the 7th of July we now have 300 cases.”

Morgantown and Monongalia County are watching 138 active cases, and that number is rising, Smith said. Contact tracers have been working seven days a week to to find all the people that may have been in contact with someone who has contracted the virus.

“Some of it vacation and travel-related, some is going to fitness and gymnasiums, a large number are bars and restaurants but the common denominator here is people are not wearing masks and they’re observing social distancing,” according to Smith.

He said he’s hopeful Gov. Justice’s mask mandate, which went into effect early Tuesday morning, will help reduce the community spread. He said those who question the effectiveness of masks don’t have access to all the data.

“Doctors and nurses that work everyday in the COVID unit where people are very sick,” Smith said. “They wear a mask, gloves, face shield and a gown and we’re not seeing outbreaks in these individuals in a work-related situation.”

State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said many studies show masks are very valuable in stopping the spread of the virus. Marsh said in states with no mask directive cases increase by 84 percent and in places that require employees only to wear masks or face coverings the rate of infection is 70 percent.

“However, in states with executive orders that require patrons and employees in indoor establishments to wear masks there’s been a 12 percent decrease in the number of COVID positive cases,” Marsh said on “Talkline” Tuesday.

The positive cases are trending younger, Smith said. Twenty to 29-year-olds have the highest percentage of infections in state at more than 20 percent, the next highest is 50 to 59-year-olds at 15 percent. Smith says until we take the threat seriously the case numbers will continue to increase.

“We know that it causes heart diseases and lung diseases and other serious health conditions and we don’t understand the disease to the extent that we can make those predictions, so the best thing to do is to not get it,” Smith said.

DHHR numbers Tuesday showed hospitalizations for COVID-19 holding steady at 41.

Overall positive cases per county include:

Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (17/0), Berkeley (475/18), Boone (29/0), Braxton (3/0), Brooke (14/1), Cabell (162/6), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (11/0), Fayette (72/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (15/1), Greenbrier (66/0), Hampshire (42/0), Hancock (29/3), Hardy (44/1), Harrison (79/0), Jackson (145/0), Jefferson (240/5), Kanawha (345/10), Lewis (19/1), Lincoln (9/0), Logan (27/0), Marion (86/3), Marshall (43/1), Mason (21/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (57/0), Mineral (56/2), Mingo (20/3), Monongalia (287/14), Monroe (15/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (14/1), Ohio (109/1), Pendleton (13/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (34/1), Preston (73/16), Putnam (69/1), Raleigh (62/1), Randolph (169/2), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (11/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (16/1), Tucker (6/0), Tyler (5/0), Upshur (20/1), Wayne (119/1), Webster (1/0), Wetzel (18/0), Wirt (5/0), Wood (127/8), Wyoming (7/0).

WAJR Reporter Mike Nolting contributed to this story. 

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