Is this the pandemic dark winter public health officials and noted epidemiologists have been predicting?
As the United States reported more than 152,000 daily coronavirus cases on Wednesday – the nation’s seventh record for new infections in the last nine days – more than 66,000 hospitalizations were also reported. That, too, is a record.
West Virginia was busy setting its own high water marks on Thursday. There were a record 8,187 active cases in the state, according to the Department of Health and Human Services daily report, and 306 patients hospitalized, also a record. There were 93 patients in an intensive care unit, which tied a record set one week ago Wednesday.
The DHHR reported 711 new cases – second highest to the 904 confirmed the day prior, according to updated numbers on the agency’s online database. The daily positive test rate came in at 3.87 percent, pulling the cumulative percentage up to 3.13 percent.
Over the first 11 days of November, the DHHR has reported 5,712 new cases across the state – 22.7 percent of all 30,897 cases that have been counted since March 17 when the first case of Covid-19 was discovered in the Mountain State.
In southern West Virginia, the Beckley Walmart had to be closed for a deep cleaning twice this week after workers – 25, according to store employees – had tested positive, and “several” individuals who voted at the Mount Hope Fire Department on Election Day have also tested positive.
The Fayette County Health Department posted a press release on its Facebook page which read, in part: “It has been determined that several people who voted at the Mt. Hope Fire Department on Nov. 3 have now tested positive for Covid-19.”
Anyone who voted at the polling site should monitor for symptoms and minimize interactions, health officials said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing close contacts between five to seven days after contact.
Gov. Jim Justice is scheduled to hold a pandemic briefing Friday at 11 a.m. At his last one on Wednesday, the governor said the time had come to make tough decisions. He said that may include shutting down parts of the economy and closing schools at the Thanksgiving break.
“If you can tell me something else other than just going out and wholesale shutting things down, shutting down our businesses that will cause us more and more and more repercussions – and it may very well be that we have to move in that direction,” he said at the Wednesday briefing.
“When we go home for the Thanksgiving holiday, should we come back for the next two or three weeks and then go home for Christmas?”
Already, school districts have been making their own adjustments, some in anticipation of a continued spike in the state, others in reaction to positive test results.
On Thursday, a person at Lewisburg Elementary School in Greenbrier County was reported to have tested positive for Covid-19. As a result, all students at the school were sent into distance learning on Friday to allow for contact tracing and additional sanitization of the school, which is scheduled to reopen Monday.
In the state’s Eastern Panhandle, Mineral County school officials said two of its prep teams would have to forfeit state playoff games this weekend because of a heightened spread of the virus.
Frankfort and Keyser will not take the field Sunday as scheduled. In his decision to shut the sport down for the season, Superintendent Troy Ravenscroft cited the county’s infection rate of 90.39 cases per 100,000 on a rolling seven-day average, nearly four times the 25.0 standard for red – the most restrictive – on the state pandemic metrics map that dictates what schools can and cannot do.
Four counties in southern West Virginia, when looking only at infection rates, are also in red with Wyoming and McDowell counties posting infection rates of 50.44 and 68.09, respectively.
Both schools have managed to stay in orange by virtue of better readings on their daily positive test scores, a second metric that schools are allowed to use, but orange dictates that distance learning protocols be adopted.
They are joined in orange by nine other school districts across the state.
A dozen school districts – including Fayette and Nicholas – are in gold, one color step away from orange.
Raleigh (26.29) and Mercer (30.15) counties are also in red with their infection rates but have been able to avoid distance learning by keeping their positive test rates in yellow.
On Tuesday, Raleigh Schools Superintendent David Price said district administrators and teachers were taking steps to prepare a remote learning program in the event of a sudden rise of Covid cases.
As of Thursday night, the state Board of Education, which tracks school outbreaks, had 21 schools listed as outbreak sites including Jumping Branch Elementary School in Summers County.
There were 25 school outbreaks in September and 37 in October with most of the cases being adults, according to State School Superintendent Clayton Burch.
An outbreak at Stevens Correctional Center in Welch, involving both inmates and staff, pushed McDowell County numbers higher in the DHHR daily report on Thursday with 46 newly confirmed cases.
Raleigh County added 33 cases and Mercer County added 24 in the Thursday report, joined in double-digit additions by Fayette County with 14, Summers with 11 and Wyoming with 10.
Elsewhere across the nine-county region that comprises The Register-Herald primary market, Nicholas County added eight cases and Greenbrier and Monroe counties each added six cases.
The DHHR confirmed the deaths of two more state residents – a 95-year-old woman from Marshall County and an 87-year-old man from Cabell County – pushing the state’s total to 555, 98 more than on Nov. 1.
Cases per county
Barbour (246), Berkeley (2,062), Boone (477), Braxton (92), Brooke (326), Cabell (1,948), Calhoun (41), Clay (92), Doddridge (83), Fayette (893), Gilmer (166), Grant (222), Greenbrier (278), Hampshire (193), Hancock (326), Hardy (136), Harrison (816), Jackson (482), Jefferson (822), Kanawha (4,401), Lewis (182), Lincoln (332), Logan (866), Marion (530), Marshall (659), Mason (218), McDowell (232), Mercer (975), Mineral (463), Mingo (797), Monongalia (2,625), Monroe (290), Morgan (191), Nicholas (238), Ohio (898), Pendleton (80), Pleasants (50), Pocahontas (79), Preston (293), Putnam (1,260), Raleigh (1,049), Randolph (515), Ritchie (79), Roane (127), Summers (195), Taylor (199), Tucker (72), Tyler (95), Upshur (336), Wayne (723), Webster (43), Wetzel (288), Wirt (63), Wood (1,285), Wyoming (468).