West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said officials are bracing for a spike in new coronavirus cases as businesses slowly reopened, but so far, the state hasn’t seen it.
In his daily virtual press conference Tuesday, May 26, Justice said officials were waiting, though, to see if Memorial Day festivities could negatively impact that trend.
“You’re seeing lots of places and lots of states where everybody's crowded together, for crying out loud, you know, they're having a pool party, they've got 1000 people that are all around the pool and all, you know, just rubbing ours and touching each other,” he said. “So please, West Virginia, come on now. Please, just try as hard as you can to stay socially distanced, and absolutely, someway, somehow, you know, we're going to get through this and we're going to get through this without more and more catastrophes.”
Currently, the Department of Health and Human Resources reports a 2.29 percent positive test rate.
In his remarks, Justice condemned the large Memorial Day gatherings documented in other states and urged West Virginians to continue to use caution, such as wearing masks, hand washing and staying socially distant.
Over the weekend the state did see two small spikes in daily positive cases. On Friday the rate jumped to 3.41 percent from 2.01 percent Thursday. Saturday the rates dropped again and Sunday they rose before dropping to .99 percent Monday.
Justice said the jump was largely due to an outbreak among inmates at the Huttonsville Correctional Facility in Randolph County.
Free community testing initiatives run by the West Virginia National Guard and DHHR have also turned up new cases, according to state officials.
State health officer Dr. Cathy Slemp said last week 2385 people in Berkeley, Jefferson, Mercer and Raleigh counties were tested. Thirty-one new cases of the virus were found in the Eastern Panhandle; Jefferson and Berkeley counties each had 15.
“Folks did a nice job of reaching out to the African American community with this, with between 18 percent and 41 percent of those coming to sites being African American,” she said. “That compares to the population of those counties being between six and 8 percent of their population.”
As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the DHHR was reporting 1,854 positive coronavirus cases and 74 deaths.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.