MORGANTOWN — A sudden dip in state COVID-19 cases, tied to a paperwork problem, led Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday to urge county health departments to call on the state for help when they need it.
Total active cases were 5,031 on Sunday, 4,428 on Monday and 4,557 on Tuesday. The problem occurred because Kanawha County finally completed the paperwork on 496 active cases and turned them in all at once, he said.
“I would say to any county,” he said, “if you’re having trouble processing the paperwork … if you need additional assistance, the National Guard is standing ready. … Just let us help you.”
Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said health departments are pushed in terms of their workloads as they respond to outbreaks. “We are looking at a way to try to take this burden off those local health departments.”
They have to monitor cases and make calls daily, and at the end of symptoms manually note the person as recovered. “We’re trying to automate that to the extent possible.” So the numbers on the COVID dashboard may change in the next week or two.
There were 226 people hospitalized with COVID on Wednesday, an all-time high, Justice said. Two counties, Mingo and Wyoming, were red.
The state’s Rt value – an indicator of the rate of spread – was at 1.03 Wednesday afternoon, tied for fifth best in the nation. Anything above 1 indicates the virus is spreading in that state, which shows that the virus is spreading across the nation.
“This disease is running across America, and running across America in a tough way, so we’ve got to tighten up,” he said. That doesn’t mean closing things down, but being more diligent about wearing masks and social distancing and all the rest.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh followed that line of thinking.
“Around the country we are seeing a clear trend,” he said. People are getting sicker, hospitals are filling up and some states are looking at rationing care. “That is really a profound moment for us.”
West Virginia saw 2,310 new cases in the past week. So in two to four weeks – they typical lag – the demand for hospital beds could rise. And it’s once again older and older people testing positive. “We’re really pleading with you to start to really focus down on what we need to do.”
The Dominion Post noted that people in other states are wearing masks and social distancing and so on. And it’s evident from social media and TV that people know what to do, yet the numbers keep climbing.
So The Dominion Post asked, apart from closing down again, or the federal government issuing a possibly unconstitutional federal mandate, what can states do – other than the daily cheerleading already going on?
Justice responded at length. “We in this incredible union have liberties beyond belief. They drive us to our excellence all throughout the globe.”
People don;t want their freedoms encroached upon, he said, and we know the ramifications of shutting down on a large scale. “The actions could be worse than the disease.”
The stock market was at record highs and unemployment at basement lows, when the pandemic hit. Justice said. But at the advice of health officials, President Trump had to order shutdown the economic engine.
But the hope is we can bridge to a vaccine, he said, It may not be here for months, “but we hope and we pray there we’re really close.” Until then, exercising our power to do the right thing is our vaccine today.
“We’ve got to use the power we have today. We’ve got to cheerlead,” he said.
Right after that, he wrapped up the briefing saying, “I know everybody is tired all across the spectrum. For crying out loud, I am too. … What are the choices? There isn’t any. We’ve got to someway do it.”