Covid continued to spread across West Virginia as 21,752 active cases – 252 more than the previous 24 hours – were reported on Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Resources, further complicating efforts by school districts to get school children back in the classroom.
If there are silver linings to the daily report, you have to squint to see them. But the rate of growth of new active cases was much smaller than it has been this past month.
In West Virginia in the past week, active cases have climbed by 5,009, or 30 percent. The gain over the past month has been 18,148 since Aug. 6 – more than a fivefold jump. Tuesday’s report, however, reflected a one-day gain of 1.2 percent.
Additionally, hospitalizations were up by a relatively small increase of four patients from Monday.
The state’s color-coded map was slightly less foreboding on Tuesday, too, with 39 counties in red, the color indicating the highest infection rate of the disease, compared to 41 the day before.
In The Register-Herald’s nine-county primary market, Summers and McDowell counties came out of red and joined Fayette County in orange – a one-step improvement.
And there were three deaths, down from an average of eight a day over the holiday weekend.
Greenbrier County’s infection rate improved marginally, falling from a seven-day average of 117.05 cases per 100,000 population to 113.34. Monroe County’s rate continued ticking up, however, posting a rate of 125.91, the fourth highest of the state’s 55 counties.
In Fayette County, school officials – working with the county health department – revealed 17 new positive Covid-19 cases on Tuesday.
One case was identified at New River Primary, three at New River Intermediate, two at Meadow Bridge Elementary, two at Fayetteville PK-8, one at Midland Trail High and eight at Oak Hill High.
As of Tuesday, three Fayette County schools were on the West Virginia Department of Education’s listing of Covid-19 outbreaks in state public schools. They were Oak Hill high and middle schools, each with four cases, and Meadow Bridge High, with 10.
Independence High School students, meanwhile, will continue their studies via remote learning until Monday, Sept. 13, Raleigh Schools Superintendent David Price announced Tuesday.
Independence High was one of five district schools that administrators were forced to close last Thursday due to a high number of Covid cases and a large number of student quarantines. All of the schools were initially set to return to school today, Wednesday.
Price said in a recorded call to parents on Tuesday afternoon that students at four of the schools – Liberty High School, Independence Middle School, Beckley-Stratton Middle School and Ridgeview Elementary School – are to return to school as planned on Wednesday as well.
Independence High students will remain on remote learning until Monday, Price said.
According to the WVDE, a confirmed outbreak involves two or more confirmed Covid-19 cases from separate households within a 14-day period in a single classroom or core group. The chart is based on information provided by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. The number of cases listed represents only those connected to an outbreak, not the total number of cases per school.
Across the state, 69 schools – 10 more than on Monday – were reporting outbreaks, with 10 of the schools from the region (three in Fayette, two in Monroe and five in Raleigh).
Reports from pockets from around the country indicate infections from the more aggressive and more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus have crested and are in retreat.
Gov. Jim Justice mentioned the phenomenon on Monday during his pandemic press conference, saying, “Either we’re going to reach a peak and it’s going to shut down relatively soon, or ... we’re going to have a lot more people die.”
Nationally, according to The New York Times database, the seven-day average of cases has fallen from 166,105 on Sept. 1 to 132,135 on Tuesday.
While new cases are declining across much of the Deep South, South Carolina is averaging more than 5,400 new cases a day with hospitalizations climbing towards peak levels from last winter.
Florida has seen declines, according to The New York Times, but more than 15,000 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the Palmetto State.
New cases appear to be leveling off in Washington and Oregon, both of which have set records in recent weeks.
The New York Times also reported that about 950,000 vaccine doses are being administered each day nationally, up from a low point of about 500,000 doses a day in late July.
In West Virginia, 7,948 people received their first vaccine dose on Monday while 4,524 more people became fully vaccinated. Through Monday, 51.3 percent of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated.
As the pace of vaccinations in the Mountain State lags the national rate of 53 percent, the DHHR’s daily report was also filled with other troubling numbers, including a positive test rate of 14.55 percent, the sixth highest daily mark during the pandemic.
The number of patients in intensive care units at hospitals continued its unrelenting climb, hitting a record 247, up six from the previous record of 241 posted the day prior. The high from last winter was 219 on Jan. 6.
The number of patients on ventilator support also set a new high in the Tuesday report, hitting 137, up 13 from Monday and well ahead of last winter’s high of 104 recorded Jan. 10 and 11.
— Reporters Steve Keenan and Jessica Farrish contributed to this report.