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COVID-19 Cases Rising As 1 in 5 State Residents Who Are Tested Register Positive

Gov. Jim Justice's office
Gov. Jim Justice addresses the COVID-19 pandemic in January of 2022.

West Virginia is following a national trend, seeing recording-breaking upticks in COVID-19 infections.

More than 1 million new cases were detected Monday in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. That number is not only the largest new daily case count recorded, it is three times greater than the previous high of 294,000 cases.

West Virginia recorded its largest single-day caseload on New Year’s Eve with 3,019 cases. Unlike the national uptick, that number is only slightly greater than the previous high of 2,554 on Sept. 23 of last year. West Virginia's seven-day average of new cases is now higher than it’s ever been.

“We do have tools to treat people but we need people to be tested or contact your primary care provider,” said state coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh.

Marsh said data from last week show about 15 percent of new cases are tied to the omicron variant. Current research shows it is more contagious, but less severe, than delta.

Caseloads in West Virginia took an unexpected dip over the holidays; so did testing. Both rose after Christmas. Now, one in five West Virginians that gets tested is COVID positive.

Active cases in West Virginia have doubled since Christmas Eve and tripled since Thanksgiving.

These numbers, and possible complacency, are alarming state officials.

“We should not accept that this is not good and that we should just live with it being not good,” Gov. Jim Justice said.

At his regular COVID-19 press briefing Tuesday, the governor said he would not consider reinstatement of a mask mandate right now.

Retired Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer said hospitals and patients, COVID positive or not, will bear the brunt of this surge.

“Unvaccinated West Virginians are delaying critical care for other fellow West Virginians,” Hoyer said. “We can’t accept mediocrity, and we can’t grow numb to this.”

Statewide, hospitalizations have risen 29 percent since Christmas. Of the more than 700 COVID-19 patients, Hoyer said 11 are kids.

Monoclonal antibodies have been a key COVID-19 treatment, but Hoyer said the state routinely gets half of the doses it asks for.

“Nationally, the supply chain is not keeping up,” Hoyer said.

Contact tracing in West Virginia is also struggling to keep up with the surge. State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad said anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 might end up getting a text message, rather than a phone call, from state or local health workers.

“We have such a large case volume,” Amjad said.

She recommends that anyone who tests positive should isolate for five days and notify close contacts to also get tested.

That includes those who use at-home tests. State and local health departments won’t be contacting those people since they aren't made aware of the results.

“We could be undercounting,” Amjad said.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.

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