West Virginia To Again Suspend Elective Medical Procedures As Virus Cases, Hospitalizations Spike
Gov. Jim Justice says he is aiming to suspend elective medical procedures that do not require an overnight stay. That decision comes in response to the increased spread of the coronavirus and record high numbers for hospitalizations related to the pandemic.
In a Monday virtual news briefing, Justice said 597 West Virginians are currently hospitalized due to the coronavirus. Of those cases, 162 are in ICU units and 76 are on ventilators — the latter of which is also a record.
“This is coming at the state of West Virginia in waves from every different direction,” Justice said. “Now, what I'm trying to do with all in me is not shut stuff down. I am trying with all in me to keep people safe and alive.”
As of Monday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported 735 total deaths from the coronavirus — 40 of which were reported since the governor’s last briefing, which was held the day before Thanksgiving.
Of the 47,842 total cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic, more than a third — or 16,787 cases — are considered “active.”
“We felt like that additional testing — significant additional testing — was our way. And it has been our way,” Justice said. “But it's not enough. It's just not enough.”
Hospitals across the state have been dealing with the effects of the recent spike.
Wheeling Hospital reported Monday more than 70 of its employees were off the job after being diagnosed with the virus or quarantining due to possible exposure. At Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, officials have confirmed discussing plans to expand their intensive care unit dedicated to coronavirus patients.
Because of the increased need to treat coronavirus patients in recent weeks, Ruby Memorial Chief Operating Officer Dr. Ron Pellegrino said the hospital is enacting some contingency plans.
“It's getting tight. I hate the fact that, in order to make sure that we can provide care to all of the COVID patients, we have to start limiting other services,” Pellegrino said. “I mean, in an ideal circumstance, we'd want to be able to do both. But both physical space limitations and the number of trained staff in order to take care of folks ends up being a very limiting step.”
In response to the rising caseload and strains on health care resources, Justice announced hospitals are once again stopping some elective procedures.
Through an executive order that took effect March 31, elective procedures were halted across the state. In late April, health care providers were allowed to apply to resume those procedures.
But the recent uptick in cases has Justice and those in the medical field once again looking to roll them back.
“With the concern of the Hospital Association and everything, we have now decided — and now you're seeing right now — a significant cutback in elective surgeries at our hospitals in order to ensure that we will have hospital space,” Justice said Monday. “We're only cutting back, you know, electives that do not require overnight stays.”
Details of the plan to stop elective procedures was limited and it was unclear Monday whether Justice was planning an executive order to formalize the decision.
A spokesperson for Justice did not immediately return a request for more information on the matter.
Justice also said Monday he arrived late to his briefing because of a group of people outside the Capitol who were protesting his mask mandate.
The governor and his health advisers have repeatedly said wearing a mask is necessary to stop the spread of the virus until a vaccine can be distributed.
“The only thing we all know — the only thing we can possibly have to be able to slow this thing down right now — is that mask,” Justice said. “That's all we got.”