Confirmed cases of Covid-19 continued surging across southern West Virginia and the state a day after Raleigh County reported its first death caused by complications from Covid-19.
A rise in Raleigh County confirmed cases, 25 in the past two days, is at least partly associated with Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital. On Saturday, Gov. Jim Justice directed the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) and the West Virginia National Guard to monitor rises in Covid-19 cases in both staff and patients at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital.
In an afternoon press release on Saturday, the governor did not detail the number of cases at the hospital.
DHHR’s epidemiologists are working with the Beckley-Raleigh County health department as well as assisting the hospital with contact tracing.
DHHR Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch has been in contact with the hospital on a regular basis, according to the Justice press release.
Statewide, West Virginia set a record for newly confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday as the number of infections, deaths and hospitalizations accelerated in the state, according to health data released Friday.
In its Friday report, the state reported 182 new cases, the highest daily total since the outbreak began. On Saturday morning, there were another 159 cases reported by the DHHR.
Like the state, the nation saw a surge in coronavirus infections during July, according to a report by The Washington Post, with more than 1.9 million new cases reported — by far the most tallied in a single month.
On July 1, West Virginia had 3,006 confirmed cases of the disease. On Saturday, the DHHR reported 6,735 cases.
Officials also reported record highs in the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations, intensive care unit patients and virus ventilator use on Friday.
And while cases across the state have increased 62.4 percent over the past three weeks, the spread – as a percentage – is even greater, 89.0 percent, across nine counties in The Register-Herald’s circulation market. Since July 11, cases in that nine-county area has increased from 336 to 635. Statewide, the cases have grown 4,146 to 6,735.
On Friday, Justice renewed his call for residents to wear masks and urged people to take the virus seriously. Saying “we’re not there yet,” Justice said he was not ready to reimpose additional restrictions.
"It may be that we need to start backing up and backing up in a more aggressive way," Justice said.
In its afternoon press release on Friday, the DHHR said a 98-year-old man from Raleigh County became the county’s first and the state’s 116th victim of the highly contagious disease. It is not known if the man’s death is associated with the apparent outbreak at BARH.
Also in the Friday report, the county said it had recorded a total of 166 cases of the disease, 15 more than on Thursday afternoon.
On Saturday, the DHHR added 10 more cases to the county tally, pushing it to 176.
With 12,435 lab results, Raleigh County’s overall positive test rate is 1.41 percent – lower than the state’s overall rate of 2.35 percent.
Justice has directed the National Guard and DHHR’s Health Command, in coordination with the Beckley-Raleigh county health departments and emergency management directors, to hold a free COVID-19 testing events on Monday, Aug. 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Beckley ARH Southern Clinic, 250 Stanaford Rd, in Beckley.
According to the DHHR, of the 176 cases reported for Raleigh County so far, 58 are considered “active.” The county also has six cases that are considered “probable.”
The number of confirmed cases in the county has been rising rapidly, especially in the last three weeks.
On July 11, the county had recorded 73 cases. A week later, on July 18, the county had 92 confirmed cases, a rise of 19 cases or 26.0 percent. From July 18 to July 25, there were another 34 cases, and then on Saturday, 50 more cases over the course of the previous week, a spike of nearly 40 percent in that time.
Over the past three weeks, the county has added 103 cases, a 141 percent jump.
Other counties in southern West Virginia have been experiencing an increase in cases as well, especially in Mercer County where an outbreak at a nursing home in Princeton has resulted in three deaths and 47 confirmed cases. Mercer’s confirmed case grew by 11 from Thursday’s report, pushing its total to 139. On July 11, it had 62 cases.
Since Thursday, McDowell County added 11 cases also, according to the DHHR, bringing its total to 31. Fayette County has added five more cases, Greenbrier added one as did Wyoming, Nicholas and Summers counties. The Wyoming County Health Department reported Thursday that it had counted 26 cases, five more than the DHHR count.
On Saturday, the DHHR began issuing one press release a day with updated numbers instead of two.
CASES PER COUNTY (Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (29/0), Berkeley (629/22), Boone (76/0), Braxton (8/0), Brooke (60/1), Cabell (316/9), Calhoun (6/0), Clay (17/0), Doddridge (4/0), Fayette (129/0), Gilmer (16/0), Grant (72/1), Greenbrier (85/0), Hampshire (74/0), Hancock (96/4), Hardy (53/1), Harrison (186/1), Jackson (157/0), Jefferson (282/5), Kanawha (795/13), Lewis (25/1), Lincoln (62/0), Logan (137/0), Marion (168/4), Marshall (122/2), Mason (46/0), McDowell (31/1), Mercer (139/0), Mineral (107/2), Mingo (123/2), Monongalia (893/16), Monroe (18/1), Morgan (25/1), Nicholas (30/1), Ohio (249/0), Pendleton (36/1), Pleasants (7/1), Pocahontas (40/1), Preston (100/23), Putnam (162/1), Raleigh (176/6), Randolph (204/3), Ritchie (3/0), Roane (14/0), Summers (6/0), Taylor (51/1), Tucker (10/0), Tyler (12/0), Upshur (36/2), Wayne (180/2), Webster (3/0), Wetzel (40/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (223/11), Wyoming (21/0).