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West Virginia officials say battle against COVID not over yet

CHARLESTON — West Virginia still hasn’t plateaued in the latest surge of COVID-19, the state coronavirus adviser said on Thursday.

“We always track a bit behind the more urban parts of the country when it comes to realizing the full impact of the different variants that circulate most commonly in the U.S.,” Dr. Clay Marsh said during the governor’s pandemic briefing with state reporters.

The newest omicron BA5 variant is the most infectious to date. It has become the predominant mutation in West Virginia, Marsh said.

“Therefore we do anticipate we well might see additional hospitalizations before we plateau,” he said.

Walgreens each week takes a national tracking and has found about 38 percent of people tested in West Virginia test positive.

“So we’re seeing still that slight rise, at least, in some of those indexes and we do anticipate and we’ll be ready to see the hospitalizations go up some,” Marsh said. “But remember the hospitalizations are a measure of people being admitted to the hospitals and people leaving the hospitals.”

Hospital admissions and discharges in West Virginia have been from 50 to 55 daily, according to Marsh.

“The thing that we’re really very worried about is not only the capacity of hospitals, but the impact to our most vulnerable citizens,” he said.

Thursday’s hospital census of COVID patients was 341 statewide, 183 of those unvaccinated. The number was eight fewer than on Wednesday.

The average age of people dying in the last month from West Virginia from COVID-19 is 79, Marsh said. Nationally, most Americans dying from the virus are older than 65, he said.

By staying current on vaccinations and boosters, testing and following treatment as required, people rarely die of COVID-19, Marsh said.

Also speaking at the briefing was Shannon McBee, a state epidemiologist at the Bureau of Public Health, who said two cases of the swine flu have been confirmed in people in Jackson County. The local health department reported cases appear to have originated at the Jackson County Fair where people developed influenza-like illness after working with swine that exhibited respiratory symptoms and fever.

Those at high risk could be children, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems or pregnant women, she said.

“Right now the risk to the general public is low,” McBee said.

Anyone who visited the swine barn before it was closed and who have symptoms such as fever, cough or sore throat should contact a health care provider, McBee said.

Other issues discussed during the briefing was the sales tax holiday Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday for back-to-school clothing, supplies and equipment.

“I’m sure you can save some real dollars,” Gov. Jim Justice said.

Jess Mancini can be reached at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com.

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