The pandemic is getting worse in West Virginia.
The number of daily cases is rising more rapidly than any other time during the pandemic. The total number of active positive cases reached 16,787 Sunday night, seventeen percent higher than a week ago.
Hospitalizations are surging. The latest DHHR figures show 597 Covid-19 patients in state hospitals. That is the highest number since the pandemic began and twice as many as two weeks ago.
Hospitals are getting crowded. As a result, Governor Jim Justice has announced a cutback in elective procedures. “At this point in time, if truly we’re going to be overrun with our hospitals, we need to move immediately upon that guidance to stopping elective surgeries.”
That is going to be hard on West Virginians who have been waiting for procedures that will ease chronic pain or improve their quality of life. The move also puts additional financial strain on hospitals that rely on those surgeries as a steady source of revenue.
Yesterday, Justice was met by a small group of anti-mask protesters as he entered the Capitol. The protesters represent a percentage of West Virginians—I’m not sure how big—who believe the Governor’s mask mandate is an infringement on their personal liberties.
There is a great irony here.
West Virginia’s best defense against the spread of the virus is to follow the safety recommendations—wear a mask and socially distance. Justice, state and local health officials have stressed that over and over.
However, if not enough West Virginians follow the guidelines, the virus will worsen, forcing Justice to take more drastic steps, which represents even greater government intrusion, which is the very thing the protesters are objecting to.
And health officials fear the situation is going to get worse.
“Make no mistake about it, we are entering a new part of this pandemic,” said Covid-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, “and it’s one that poses a threat to us if we don’t act vigorously, consistently and altruistically.”
It is notable that Marsh referenced altruism, the practice of demonstrating unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Dr. Marsh has consistently refrained from threatening the heavy hand of government to try to force compliance.
Instead, he has appealed to the well-established willingness of West Virginians to help friends and strangers alike. That is not an order from the government, but rather a recognition of the power that each of us possess to make life a little easier for others.