Justice: ‘West Virginians, you’re going to have to buckle down’
CHARLESTON — As West Virginia’s daily percent of positive COVID-19 cases jumped to the highest number on record since April, Gov. Jim Justice told the state to start taking the virus seriously in order to prevent a return to further lockdown.
“West Virginia, we are absolutely getting worse by the day and this situation right now is very critical,” Justice said Wednesday. “You need to all know that everyone is trying their hardest to do the best they possibly can for you, but West Virginians: you’re going to have to buckle down.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, West Virginia’s daily percent of positive coronavirus cases was 7.78 percent as of Wednesday, the highest percentage since the rate was 10.94 percent on April 18 in the middle of the shutdown of non-essential businesses and the stay-at-home order.
“That’s really bad,” Justice said. “Just know, we are reaching a very very critical time. A time when we have got to do better. We have got to do anything and everything we can to do better.”
The state’s cumulative percent of positive cases was 2.55 percent, the highest number since 2.56 percent on April 29. The state’s Rt value — any rate above 1 means the virus is spreading quickly and above 1 means the virus spread is slowing — was 1.35 and remains the highest Rt value in the nation. West Virginia was just added to a list of restricted states by New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut Wednesday due to spread in the state.
The state saw 147 new cases during a 24-hour period between Tuesday and Wednesday. There were 2,806 active cases as of Wednesday, a 24-percent increase over seven days.
The County Alert System used to guide nursing homes on visitation and school systems on whether to re-open showed eight counties in the orange, meaning they had between 10 and 24.9 cases per 100,000 residents on either a seven-day or 14-day rolling average: Kanawha, Putnam, Fayette, Wayne, Mingo, Logan, and Monroe counties. Pocahontas County joined those counties in going orange Wednesday, jumping from a rate of 2.6 on Monday to 11.26 on Tuesday.
“We are reviewing to make sure Pocahontas County is legitimately orange, but from what we know right now, it is,” Justice said.
Monongalia County is the only county in the red, meaning they have 25 or more cases per 100,000 residents. The number is largely attributable to a growth in cases among students at West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus. All bars in the county have been closed indefinitely. As of Wednesday, the county has 423 active cases. Kanawha County has 579 active cases, due mostly to outbreaks in nursing homes.
Justice said there are no plans to return to a statewide shutdown of non-essential businesses alongside orders for people to remain in their homes. Yet, Justice said officials were considering localized responses similar to the bar closure order in Monongalia County. Justice was vague on what those solutions might be.
“When you’re in this job, it’s all going to come to rest with me,” Justice said. “We’re going to listen to all the experts, but we are going to first and foremost listen to our medical experts, because we’re not just talking about nothing here. We’re talking about people dying.
“We need to be ready to move,” Justice continued. “That’s why we’re going to get more and more information, more and more looks at the numbers, more and more input from the medical team. Then if we have to move in the next days, we’ll move. Right now, we don’t have to do that and I hope and pray we don’t have to do that.”
West Virginia has tested more than 26 percent of the state’s 1.8 million residents, putting it ahead of the national average of 24.9 and ahead of all neighboring states.
However, with 254 deaths, West Virginia had the fourth worse death rate of neighboring states at 2.14 percent, slightly ahead of Virginia (2.1 percent) and Kentucky (1.9 percent).