Justice says coronavirus warning signs surround West Virginia

West Virginia officials warned about the spread of coronavirus in areas surrounding the state, including Pittsburgh, Columbus and Baltimore.

Clay Marsh

“So all around us we see there is a lot of activity from covid-19,” said Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus response coordinator.

Federal officials described about a dozen cities needing “aggressive” action on spread of the coronavirus during a call earlier this week.

Dr. Deborah Birx, head of President Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force, named Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

“What started out very much as a southern and western epidemic is starting to move up the East Coast into Tennessee, Arkansas, up into Missouri, up across Colorado, and obviously we’re talking about increases now in Baltimore,” she said. “So this is really critical that everybody is following this and making sure they’re being aggressive about mitigation efforts.”

Marsh made note of that message and also added a surge of cases in Kentucky.

Near the end of a daily briefing, Gov. Jim Justice also made reference to what’s happening in areas surrounding West Virginia.

“Know, West Virginia, know how absolutely ripe West Virginia is for this terrible killer to sweep across our lands,” Justice said.

Key numbers for West Virginia have been up and down recently.

A reproduction number used to gauge the rate of spread was at 1.03 for West Virginia on Friday afternoon. If Rt is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly. When Rt is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading.

A couple of weeks ago that number for West Virginia was listed as 1.37, making the state’s rate of spread the worst in the nation.

West Virginia’s daily percent of positive cases for Friday morning was 4.81.

That was a spike from the prior evening’s percent of 2.14. 

Ups and downs have been frequent lately, so Bill Crouch, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources, said the state will soon begin providing coronavirus updates once a day, instead of at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., to provide a more consistent view of West Virginia’s status.

Daily hospitalizations rose as far as 88 cases on Thursday evening before coming back down a bit to 76 on Friday. The state lists 37 people in the intensive care unit because of covid-19 and 15 people on ventilators.

West Virginia listed 1,604 active cases of coronavirus on Friday, with 3,946 considered recovered.

There have been 103 deaths in West Virginia attributed to the coronavirus.

“West Virginia, you’re doing a really good job but our work is not yet done,” Marsh said.

Justice extended a bar closure order in Monongalia County for another 10 days.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 15.9 percent of West Virginia’s active cases are in Monongalia County.

Monongalia County reported 103 new diagnosed covid cases Friday morning. That’s better than the peak of 304 daily cases earlier this month, but still one of the highest recent days of reporting.

Half of the county’s cases are listed as people between ages 20 and 29.

“The problem is young people just piling in on top of one another with no mask or whatever the situation may be,” Justice said.

Kanawha County is also an area to watch carefully, Justice and state leaders said.

Kanawha leaders earlier this week also expressed alarm about growing numbers and urged residents to comply with a statewide mandate for facial coverings.

“We may have to look at the bar situation in Kanawha County as we move forward,” Justice said, echoing what has been done in Monongalia County.

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