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West Virginia leaders again warn of national coronavirus spike

West Virginia coronavirus response coordinator Clay Marsh today described “a clear, national trend of increased illness.”

“It is really the time today to take maximum effort to focus on getting tested, to wear your mask, to stay physically distant,” Marsh said during a regular briefing.

The seven-day rolling average of new coronavirus cases in the United States passed 70,000 Tuesday, more than previous records set at the height of the pandemic’s first wave.

Across the country, 29 states have reported record numbers of infections in the past week. About 43,000 people are hospitalized, a figure near the worst of the midsummer peak.

“This disease is running across America, and it’s running across in a tough way,” Gov. Jim Justice said today. “So we’ve got to tighten up.”

West Virginia was among a majority of state’s today with a rate of spread above 1 — although West Virginia was on the lower end at 1.03. If Rt is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly. When Rt is below 1.0, the virus will slow.

West Virginia recorded 358 new cases in the past 24 hours, and the percent positive was 4.29 percent — “too high,” Justice said.

Marsh described a two to four week lag between new cases and demand for hospital beds.

Hospitalizations in West Virginia hit 226, a record, but state officials said it’s not yet at capacity. Cases in the intensive care unit numbered 83, also a record.

“We do see a very early increase in the use of hospital beds,” Marsh said.

But he said West Virginia hospitals are not overwhelmed right now.

“We certainly do have bed capacity and we’re not being overwhelmed by patients at this time,” Marsh said.

Albert Wright
Albert Wright

WVU Medicine president and CEO Albert Wright today described similar increases during an appearance on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“When I talk to colleagues in Charleston and Huntington we’re starting to see those same upticks in our WVU Medicine hospitals in the northern part of the state,” Wright said. “But, it’s still very manageable.”

Wright serves as the chairman of the West Virginia Hospital Association board. As this surge unfolds, he ha spent some of his time working behind the scenes to make sure hospitals have the staff and equipment to manage their patient load.

“Coordinating calls with hospitals to make sure we’re sharing resources and ideas and equipment and even personnel at times,” Wright said. “We’re keeping an eye on it, but it’s a little more concerning than it has been.”

The details behind the numbers is what has the attention of healthcare professionals.

According to the DHHR seven-day trend, 719 of the 2,310 active cases in the state — or 31 percent  — are in people 60-years-old and above. Three-hundred and seventy of those infected are 70 or older.

“We’ve seen a shift from younger folks being infected to older folks being infected and your older folks — that 70 and above population — is more likely to end up in the hospital,” Wright said. “So, we’re watching it.”

Surge plans across the state include provisions to roll back elective procedures when needed to care for people infected with COVID-19. Wright said early in the pandemic when elective procedures were halted the contingencies were developed.

“If we ever needed to create immediate capacity we could do that by slowing down some elective procedures,” Wright said. “We’ve not had to do that yet, but I think your bigger more tertiary centers around the state are prepared to do that if we need to.”

WAJR Reporter Mike Nolting contributed to this story.

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