Gov. Justice Revises List Of COVID-19 Hot Spots, Officials Dispute Excess Death Report From CDC
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said he is once again revising the list of COVID-19 “hot spot” counties. Those changes come as state officials relax a stay-at home order and businesses begin to reopen under Justice’s plan.
Justice announced Sunday that Jackson, Kanawha and Ohio counties had been removed from a list of hot spot counties. Counties on the list had more restrictive measures in place due to the high number of cases.
On Monday, Justice also removed Cabell, Wayne and Wood counties from that list — leaving only Berkeley, Harrison, Jefferson, Marion and Monongalia.
However, the governor urged residents to remain cautious as the public resumes activities that had been shut down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This disease is still with us,” Justice said Monday. “It is here right now and, absolutely, you should take all the caution in the world, especially if you're in excess of 65 years of age or you're older than 50 and you have certain chronic problems.”
As of Monday morning, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reports 50 confirmed deaths related to COVID-19. State health officials say there have been 1,118 confirmed cases of the disease.
West Virginia Disputes Excess Death Report From CDC
West Virginia health officials also said Monday they’ve found errors in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on excess deaths in the state The report illustrates deaths that could potentially be attributed to COVID-19 but have not officially been recorded as such.
According to the report issued last week, West Virginia saw about 2,100 more deaths statewide since the pandemic began — compared the same time frame in previous years.
State health officer Dr. Cathy Slemp says the CDC projections are inaccurate. Slemp says when she and other officials saw the report, they questioned the CDC’s methodology in reporting excess deaths.
“When we saw the numbers we actually did not think it resonated with the ground truth — what we see in our communities in terms of deaths,” Slemp said. “We know roughly how many deaths occur each month.”
The CDC defines excess deaths as the difference between recorded deaths and expected numbers.
Slemp said West Virginia reported deaths more rapidly to the CDC in past years and that resulted in projections that skewed higher. She said the CDC told state officials there are plans to update the report.
A request for comment from the CDC was not immediately returned.