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W. Va. Leads The Nation In Acceleration Rate of COVID-19

Clay Marsh.jpg
WV Governor's Office
West Virginia's Coronavirus Czar Clay Marsh speaks at a virtual press briefing with Gov. Jim Justice on Oct. 23, 2020.

New cases of COVID-19 are accelerating faster than in any other state.

The data comes from Statnews and was presented Wednesday during Gov. Jim Justice's news conference.

State officials said they are alarmed but not surprised. West Virginia is less than two weeks away from its delta variant surge peak, Dr. Clay Marsh, the state's coronavirus czar told reporters.

“The delta variant has entered that explosive growth phase,” Marsh said.

The course of the delta variant has been documented in other countries and states. Southern states were hit harder and earlier.

West Virginia now ranks fourth in states with the most new COVID-19 cases per capita, according to Harvard's Global Health Institute. Tennessee ranks first and neighboring state Kentucky ranks third.

“Vaccination won’t get us out of this surge right now. It has already started, and it will need to consume itself out,” Marsh said.

Vaccination rates are increasing, but it’s not fast enough, said retired Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer, who leads the state’s pandemic response.

“We have to be prepared for what comes next,” he said.

Caseloads and hospitalizations now rival records set last January, but deaths are nowhere near where they were last winter. Still, health officials say death rates naturally lag behind these other metrics.

Unvaccinated West Virginians makeup 83 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations, 90 percent of those in ICUs, and 92 percent of those on ventilators.

“It's hard to sleep when you're worried,” Justice said. “You’re worried about everybody. You’re worried about the hard headedness of the people refusing to take the vaccine.”

Appalachia Health News Reporter, jleffler@wvpublic.org, 502-377-0438, @june_leffler

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