Raleigh County added a daily record of 136 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Thursday report by the Department of Health and Human Resources, a sudden explosion of cases that moved the county into the fairly restrictive orange category on the state’s color-coded metrics map that dictates what schools can and cannot do regarding in-person instruction and athletic competitions.
Playing to the district’s benefit, all county schools are scheduled to be closed after Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday break, which has been extended until Dec. 3 by Gov. Jim Justice.
The state’s Department of Education map, to be released Saturday, will be immaterial as far as the academic calendar is concerned.
Of all fall sports seasons in the county, however, Independence High School’s football team is still playing its fall schedule, meeting Fairmont High in the state football playoffs Friday night. If the Patriots advance, then the color the county is assigned Saturday by the DOE will take on greater significance to the school’s title hopes. The next round of playoffs, the semifinals, is scheduled for Nov. 27-29.
Because of elevated Covid numbers across the state this month, Justice has delayed the start of winter sports until Jan. 11.
Raleigh Health Department workers were tracing the new cases of Covid reported Thursday.
Dr. Brian Macaulay, the county health department director, is asking the public to help track the spread of Covid by doing one thing: He wants them to check their missed calls and voice mails and to return calls to the health department.
“In this day and age, when there’s so many telemarketers, people don’t answer their phones,” Macaulay reported Thursday evening.
Macaulay said that no particular location or outbreak was responsible for the sudden rise, although he said a prison, which he did not identify, reported a higher number of cases, he said.
On Monday, the governor said state officials were tracking a church outbreak in Raleigh County.
And on the DHHR website, no cases were recorded as of 3 p.m. on Thursday at Southern Regional Jail or Beckley Community Corrections.
The nonprofit CovidActNow, which tracks Covid cases, listed West Virginia on Thursday at the highest level of risk in case of an outbreak. The group reported that the state has six percent of necessary contact tracers hired – an eight percent drop from Oct. 31, when the group reported the state had 14 percent of the necessary tracers.
Macaulay suggested Thursday that it is difficult for county health departments to predict, in advance, a need for contact tracers and to request them ahead of time.
“It’s hard to prioritize,” he explained. “If you start getting more cases than you can handle, it’s hard to know which ones are most fruitful.”
In some calls, he explained, respondents answer the phone or call back, while others do not.
In other cases, contact tracers may face little cooperation from a respondent. Other respondents may provide a large amount of information.
He anticipates that cases may rise statewide, all at once, in case of a major outbreak.
“Right now, they’re certainly keeping up with it,” he said of Raleigh contact tracing. “If there comes a point that they’re unable to do that, they’ll discuss it with the state.”
The county saw a surge in testing results on Wednesday with 766 lab tests returned, yielding 128 confirmed cases and another eight probable cases, according to the DHHR’s online database. That resulted in a one-day positive test rate of 16.71 percent.
Since the pandemic showed up in the Mountain State on March 17, Raleigh County has recorded 1,146 confirmed cases and 155 probable cases for a total case count of 1,301 out of 43,945 tests. The cumulative positive test rate is 2.96 percent.
The jump in cases moved the county’s transmission rate, already in the most restrictive red category, to a seven-day rolling average of 44.69 cases per 100,000 population, up from 29.02 cases in Wednesday’s report. Red begins at a rolling average of 25.0.
The county also hit a seven-date positive test rate average of 5.86 – the second of two metrics that schools can use to determine its color for any given week. That reading moved the county solidly into orange territory, which ranges from 5.0 percent to 7.9 percent.
On Wednesday, the county’s positive test rate had been in yellow at 3.31 percent.
The county has 267 active cases. Over the past week, the county has added 252 cases, a 24 percent jump to its total. Since Nov. 1, the county has added 435 cases, a more than 50 percent hike in cases.
Statewide, the DHHR reported 1,122 additional cases in the Thursday report, a daily positive test rate of 5.22 percent and 11 more deaths, pushing the total to 623. There are 11,643 active cases, topping Wednesday’s record of 11,172 by 471.
Hospitalizations fell from a record 429 to 415 from Tuesday to Wednesday, and there were 123 patients in intensive care units on Wednesday, according to the DHHR’s online database, down from a record 126 on Tuesday.
There were a record 52 patients on ventilators on Wednesday, besting the previous record of 50 on Tuesday.
Elsewhere around the nine-country region that constitutes The Register-Herald’s primary market, McDowell, Wyoming and Mercer counties continued to struggle with controlling transmission of the highly infectious disease, each adding 22, 20 and 17 cases, respectively.
Fayette County added 10 cases while Greenbrier added eight, Nicholas added six, and Summers and Monroe counties each added five.
On Thursday, the DHHR confirmed the deaths of an 87-year-old woman from Cabell County, a 70-year-old man from Harrison County, a 68-year-old man from Berkeley County, a 75-year-old man from Ohio County, a 74-year-old man from Marshall County, an 82-year-old man from Kanawha County, a 63-year-old woman from Tyler County, a 92-year-old woman from Marshall County, an 85-year-old man from Kanawha County, a 64-year-old man from Wood County, and a 62-year-old man from Kanawha County.
Cases per county: Barbour (298), Berkeley (2,440), Boone (553), Braxton (98), Brooke (455), Cabell (2,349), Calhoun (49), Clay (100), Doddridge (95), Fayette (997), Gilmer (180), Grant (264), Greenbrier (344), Hampshire (242), Hancock (459), Hardy (177), Harrison (977), Jackson (620), Jefferson (1,060), Kanawha (4,934), Lewis (215), Lincoln (371), Logan (958), Marion (653), Marshall (911), Mason (290), McDowell (537), Mercer (1,125), Mineral (781), Mingo (873), Monongalia (2,905), Monroe (310), Morgan (219), Nicholas (281), Ohio (1,182), Pendleton (88), Pleasants (65), Pocahontas (84), Preston (405), Putnam (1,504), Raleigh (1,301), Randolph (592), Ritchie (106), Roane (141), Summers (232), Taylor (235), Tucker (91), Tyler (115), Upshur (397), Wayne (863), Webster (51), Wetzel (352), Wirt (73), Wood (1,843), Wyoming (559).