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West Virginia Tops 900 Coronavirus Deaths As Surge Continues

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STEVEN ROTSCH
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West Virginia health officials reported Wednesday a record number of new daily deaths from the coronavirus as the pandemic rages on and the state continues to feel the effects of a sharp increase in the number of new cases.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources recorded 31 new deaths from the coronavirus in the last 24-hour reporting period. The agency also noted 1,402 new cases in the past day.

The number of new deaths and virus cases has been surging in the state and across the nation in recent weeks, with West Virginia reporting 123 deaths in the last week. Health officials report more than 8,500 new cases over the last seven days.

To date, a total of 901 West Virginians have died in the pandemic. Of the 58,462 cases of the virus reported since the pandemic began, 20,059 are considered active.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice also announced Wednesday funding for a rapid-result testing lab at West Virginia University.

“We funded the lab out of our CARES Act dollars. We’ve waited for this to become a reality, and now it’s here,” Justice said. “West Virginia, this is your CARES money at work right here.”

Experts advising Justice say the recent uptick in cases may not fully reflect the effect of Thanksgiving gatherings.

State coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh cited the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has said it can take up to four weeks after a particular event for cases to manifest.

“[Dr. Fauci] has said publicly that we have not seen the peak of the Thanksgiving holiday. And I think that's just projecting that particular set of data — the two to four week period,” Marsh said. “But the concern is that we may not have seen the peak here either. You know, we'll have to see as time goes forward.”

Marsh and other state health experts are cautioning residents against gathering for any end-of-the-year holidays and urging people to wear a mask when indoors outside of their homes.

“It does provide a very risky situation for people here in West Virginia, as far as transmission, and people in the U.S. And we really, really urge people to be very, very thoughtful and cautious,” Marsh said.

Justice also noted Wednesday that the state expects to receive 32,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in an initial allocation. That’s up from earlier projections that put West Virginia’s initial allocation at 26,000 doses. Sixty thousand doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to come to the state in a first shipment.

Both drug makers await federal emergency use authorization, although officials with the Federal Drug Administration will meet Thursday to discuss the research on Pfizer’s vaccine.

“FDA officials have said they plan to make a decision on approving this emergency authorization within four days of the meeting. I hope to the good Lord above they approve it faster than that,” Justice said.

In recent weeks Justice suggested he would consider targeted, county-level restrictions to stop the spread of the virus, but has announced no such measures.


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