State and local officials expressed concern about a jump in coronavirus cases in West Virginia’s largest county, Kanawha.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jim Justice said he’s continuing to watch cases in Monongalia County and isn’t yet ready to allow bars there to reopen.
Holding up a mask during a briefing today, Justice said, “This right here is the only bullet in the gun, except for shutting stuff down.”
Kanawha County has experienced a 47 percent leap in positive cases over the past month, officials said. Although testing has been aggressive in the county, health officials said the spike indicates broader spread of the virus.
“We’ve got to really keep a close eye on Kanawha County, and we don’t want those numbers going up, that’s for sure,” Justice said.
The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department announced Sunday there have been 564 total cases in Kanawha County. That includes 552 confirmed cases, 189 active, 355 recovered and 20 deaths, along with 12 probable cases.
The state Department of Health and Human Resources coronavirus dashboard shows that 112 cases have been confirmed in Kanawha County over the past week.
“We are seeing exponential rates of growth. Last weekend, we had a combined increase of 37 individuals with covid. This weekend that was a one-day total. That is bigger than the height of the pandemic,” Kanawha-Charleston Health Officer Sherri Young said during a news conference today.
“If we do not mitigate this, if we do not stop the spread, we are easily going to fatigue our health care system, we are easily going to cripple the backs of our healthcare communities. It is going to take our our police departments, our EMS.”
Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin, speaking at the same event, urged people to wear masks to limit droplets passing to other people.
“To keep our businesses opening and to keep our kids having at least a glimmer of hope they’re going to go back to school, we need to wear our masks,” Goodwin said.
“This is no more an inconvenience than watching someone have a respirator shoved down their throat.”
Goodwin said the youngest patient in Kanawha County is just one year old.
She said death is not the only negative outcome.
“Some of the side effects and long-term repercussions are significant. So please don’t let that leave your thoughts,” Goodwin said.
West Virginia’s daily positive testing rate on Monday morning was 2.16 percent, which was a little better than in in recent days.
The number of people in West Virginia hospitals continued to move to its highest ever, 77 on Monday.
Of those, 33 were in intensive care units and 17 were on ventilators.
In Monongalia County, which has been a hotspot in recent weeks, Justice said he is continuing to carefully watch.
“In Mon County we’ve got a potful of a problem,” Justice said today.
The governor ordered a 10-day shutdown of bars, which is set to expire at the end of this week.
“All indicators right now are, we’re going to have to extend that closure,” the governor concluded.
DHHR’s dashboard on Monday showed Monongalia County with 197 confirmed cases since July 13.
More than half of Monongalia County’s total positive cases — 52 percent — are people between ages 20 and 29.
Justice said he will carefully decide whether to reopen bars there, but will wait as long as possible to assess the situation.
“We’ll hold off as long as we can, but we’ll try to give you as much notice as we possibly can,” he said. “We’ve still got a ways to go to get out of this mess. We don’t need to just bounce back in it.”