In all nine counties in southern West Virginia, rates of Covid-19 infection and positive testing have risen over the past week as the Delta variant, a more aggressive and contagious variant of the coronavirus, brings more people to the hospital and infects more children Schools are open for the fall semester.
Wyoming County, whose school board did not mandate masks for its students, teachers, and staff, now has the fifth worst rate in the state for both infections per 100,000 population (58.14) and positive test rates (10.21 percent).
A trend that has doubled in the southern regions of the state. Both rates for Wyoming got worse every day between August 13 and past Thursday, August 19. The statistics for Friday will be released by the Department of Health and Personnel (DHHR) on Monday.
This trend also continued in Raleigh County, where the infection rate rose from 24.34 to 39.73 in the past week, while the positive test rate started the week at 4.90 percent and ended at 7.56 percent.
Even Summers County, which had the best numbers in the entire region, nearly tripled its infection rate from 6.82 to 17.61, while the positive test rate more than doubled, rising from 1.88 percent to 4.15 percent.
Raleigh County’s superintendent David Price told The Register-Herald on Friday that nine cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed in the state’s fifth largest school district, with 10,849 students enrolled last year, according to the West Virginia Department of Education.
In Fayette County, where a mask mandate was in place on Monday to welcome students back to school, 10 positive Covid-19 cases had been identified.
Officials from the Raleigh General and Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital noted an increase in Covid-19 patients last week.
With the fall sports calendar turning to football next weekend, school administrators will be keeping a close eye on the color-coded card that dictated last year whether schools can play their games as planned.
If schools marked in red on the state’s color-coded map were banned from playing games, Wyoming and Nicholas counties would be sidelined – starting Saturday – and their opponents looking for a game to play.
If conditions don’t improve in the coming week, 18 school districts currently marked in red may have to close their sports teams, messing up the fall calendar. On Thursday it was 12.
In southern West Virginia, Wyoming and Nicholas counties stayed red, while Fayette, Raleigh, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, and Greenbrier were all orange, the color category with the second highest rate of infection and contagion. Summers County, which had been yellow on Thursday, saw its Covid numbers deteriorate further and switched to gold.
Meanwhile, many school districts, like Raleigh County, where the infection rate is already red and the positive test rate is getting closer, are getting dangerously close to staying home as well.
Six of the nine counties in The Register-Herald’s primary market are already in the red with infection rates.
This comes at a time when the DHHR reported 4,870 more Covid cases as well as 21 deaths in the past week, according to the DHHR online database.
At a news conference on Friday, Governor Jim Justice said it was too early to trigger the withdrawal of public health mandates such as the requirement for face masks.
“We do not currently have enough data to issue a mandate,” said the governor.
West Virginia Covid-19 cases continued to rise on Friday, with 911 new cases, 8,806 active cases, seven more deaths, and a 9.26 percent positive test rate.
The number of active cases rose by 681 in the past 24 hours, an 8.3 percent increase. Last week, the number rose from 5,100 last Friday, adding 3,706 more active cases – an increase of 72.6 percent.
Hospital admissions rose by 19 patients to 447, with nearly a third – 143 to 12 – bad enough to warrant intensive care. The number of ventilated patients increased by nine to 57.
Justice on Friday continued to urge the approximately 50 percent of eligible West Virginians who are not fully vaccinated to get their vaccinations and encouraged those with risk factors to consider wearing masks indoors.
However, he said it was too early to discuss reinstating government public health mandates such as
“We just hold out as long as possible to hold everyone together,” Justice said on Friday.
The governor said public health mandates were controversial and he was trying to appease West Virginians who oppose vaccines and the wearing of masks.
Justice said that for the time being, he would leave it to the communities to set the public health requirements of a pandemic. Several school systems, including Kanawha County, reintroduced mandatory face masks in public schools this week.
The DHHR confirmed seven more Covid-related deaths on Friday: a 73-year-old man from Harrison County, an 89-year-old man from Ohio County, a 76-year-old man from Wood County, a 74-year-old old man from Upshur County, a 48-year-old man from Jefferson County, a 60-year-old man from Wetzel County, and a 53-year-old woman from Wood County.