MORGANTON — Gov. Jim Justice said the recent spike in positive cases in Berkeley and Jefferson counties proved not to be an outbreak.
There was a lot of testing, and the National Guard and local medical officials all weighed in, he said. “Everyone concluded that at this time things are OK.” The counties are not on high alert.
It proved an overreaction, he said, but he wants to overreact to such situations to make sure they’re assessed and addressed. He attributed the spike largely to the increased testing done there because the Eastern Panhandle remains a high exposure potential area and is under closer scrutiny.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh expanded on that.
“This is a new word that we’re in,” he said. “As we start to focus on county-level information, we are trying to harmonize our assessment systems to make sure that as we see thresholds broken, even on a single day, then we have a more comprehensive and well-communicated set of strategies that we can employ back to those counties. … I think the Eastern Panhandle is really our first experience in this new approach.”
With the increased testing, he said, they saw case increases and were able to identify people who might have spread the disease to others and investigate their contacts.
Justice again talked numbers – COVID-19 and economic. As of Friday afternoon, there were 1,705 total positives out of 82,747 test results to date – a 2.06% cumulative rate – with 72 deaths.
Justice called the state’s relatively low case rate”The miracle in West Virginia. … It’s dad gum tough to argue the numbers we have produced thus far,” he said.
The economic numbers, meanwhile, are better than expected, he said. The state never totally shut down: essential businesses such as manufacturing kept working.
So, as of of Thursday, a previously projected $500 million revenue shortfall had been lowered to $350 million, with $200 million of that tied to shifting the income tax due date from April 15 to July 15.
The feds have already revised some of the CARES Act guidelines, he said, and he’s still optimistic the rules will be changed to allow backfilling of revenue shortfalls tied to COVID-19. “I truly believe the economic end of this thing is going to be OK.”
Justice talks daily of relying on his experts to help guide his decisions on handling the pandemic response, and said Friday that next week he plans to virtually convene at least one health official from all 55 counties for a conference to share knowledge.
Bureau of Public Health Commissioner Cathy Slemp said the Department of Health and Human Resources is updating its COVID-19 data dashboard – found at coronavirus.wv.gov – to include more information.
Included in the new information: searchable county specific information with demographics on positive cases,individuals tested, active and recovered cases; serology-based (blood-serum testing, more commonly called antibody testing) laboratory results reported separately from confirmed laboratory results, to better understand disease occurrence in communities; and probable cases, which are individuals that have symptoms and either antibody or epidemiologic (for example, a link to a confirmed case) evidence of disease, but no confirmatory test.
Public health takes all the same precautions for probable cases as confirmed cases, so those are now included on the dasboard, DHHR said.
DHHR cautioned that the updates will initially result in a one-time larger than usual increase in cases and a one-time unusual decrease in the number of lab tests on the 5 p.m. Friday update.
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