Senate majority: How is that working? Just days after Democrats won two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia to flip majority rule, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, indicated Friday that he could oppose $2,000 direct payments, jeopardizing one of his party’s priorities for when it takes unified control of the White House and Congress. Adding a bit of clarity in a tweet, Manchin wrote, “If the next round of stimulus checks goes out they should be targeted to those who need it.”

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Trends say the state is in the thick of a surge

Gov. Jim Justice may be hedging on when he will let schools open up to in-person instruction, but nothing is moving him off his footing on delaying high school athletics.

It was clear at his Friday pandemic meeting that the governor was perturbed with a small group of protesters rallying outside the Capitol. They wanted Justice to let winter sports start sooner rather than later. Justice has previously announced that sports can start back up March 1.

“They can yell and bark at the moon all they want but I can tell you that without any question we’re doing the right thing here,” Justice said, pausing during the reading of the daily tally of Covid deaths which, as of his presser, had reached 1,554 souls. Saturday’s report from the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) added 16 more.

It’s been a rough patch for the state on the Covid front this week, with 194 deaths over the past six days – an average of 32.3 per day. That catches your attention, especially in comparison: In November the daily average was 10; in December, just a hair below 20.

With 1,880 more confirmed cases reported by the DHHR on Saturday, and a record 1,896 the day prior, the state is also racking up a record number of active cases, sometimes on a daily basis. On Saturday, active cases jumped to 28,980, up 791 from its previous record – set Friday.

Hospitalization statistics are hanging in a tight range, but the long view offers perspective as to where we are.

On Nov. 1, before the holiday season when airline statistics say Americans traveled a lot to be at traditional family gatherings, there were 5,558 active cases in West Virginia. In a little more than two months, that number had jumped by 23,422 – or 424 percent. From Sept. 1 to Nov. 1, the needle moved by 3,412 cases.

That recent acceleraton also applies to Covid-related hospitalizations, which moved from 254 on Nov. 1 to 768 on Saturday; intensive care patients, which were 84 on Nov. 1 and are now 200; and patients on ventilator support, which numbered 33 on the first day of November to 98 on Saturday.

So the trend is definitely up – substantially – and there may be yet more to come. We are not two weeks out from New Year’s. And that is the magic timeline that epidemiologists say the presence of a spread needs to fully announce itself.

In the meantime, according to a New York Times database, the United States recorded 300,954 new cases on Friday – a record. And it added 3,895 Covid-related deaths on a single day. Respectively, those numbers are up 40 percent and 29 percent over the past 14 days.

Here in The Register-Herald’s nine-county primary market, Mercer County added 102 Covid cases in the Saturday report, but that could not beat the 188 that it recorded one week ago.

Raleigh County added 56 more cases after piling on 105 on Friday.

In the nine-county region, there were an additional 296 cases one day after 321 cases were recorded.

 So that is what the governor is looking at when he says he is not ready to let the kids get back to sports and it is why he is rethinking the Jan. 19 date for reopening in-person instruction.

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Overheard:

“Last semester we did have over 300 cases; however, most of those cases were isolated. We had zero outbreaks in a residence hall and we did not have a single secondary case that occurred from an in-class exposure. Our cases mainly arose from large gatherings outside of Marshall University.”

Tracy Smith, director of Environmental Health and Safety at Marshall, at a town hall forum to discuss a return to class scheduled for Jan. 19.

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