MORGANTOWN — West Virginia’s active COVID-19 case numbers continue to grow, reaching 1,938 as of Sunday, with 139 total new active cases over the weekend. The Princeton Health Care Center outbreak continues, and hospitals in Logan County and Beckley now have outbreaks.
Kanawha County continues to hold the top spot, with 312 current active cases, 142 of them reported during the span July 27 through Monday. Meanwhile Monongalia County’s numbers continue to improve: active cases stood at 136 with 70 reported over the same time span.
While Mon’s numbers are improving, Gov. Jim Justice chose on Saturday to extend the bar closure order another 10 days, through Aug. 13.
Justice mentioned the extension order during his Monday COVID-19 briefing. The Dominion Post pointed out that WVU move-in begins just two days later, on Aug. 15, while classes are set to start Aug. 26 – opportunities for a new outbreak.
Weighing public health against economics, the question then becomes what numbers trigger reopening the bars as opposed to keeping them closed for the whole semester.
Justice didn’t provide numbers, but did offer some thoughts.
“This is just killing your business, I get that,” he said. But the people want the bars closed. “We surely have an issue right at the moment that would not condone, in my opinion, reopening today. But at the same time that I do feel confident that we’ll be able to get back and reopen, and we’ll just have to be beter than we were before.
Wearing the masks and closing the bars made an impact on the Mon outbreak. “I’m wantingg to get them back open as soon as we possibly can.”
Three hot spots
Justice said again that COVID-19 is migrating from the south and what he referred to as three super hot spots are all in southern counties.
Princeton Health Care center now has 31 staff and 33 patients infected. Nineteen have been hospitalized. Department of Heath and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said 16 of them were hospitalized overnight. DHHR knows of three deaths, reported by the Mercer County Health Department and they’re trying to confirm additional deaths.
“The Mercer County health department is in disarray,” he said. Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad visited the nursing home and has made herself available to provide any help. The National Guard is also assisting there. As of Monday morning, DHHR reported, the county had 124 active cases.
Beckley ARH Hospital has 11 staff infected, Amjad said. Some positive cases are tied to travel. The hospital reported 12 patients infected but denied categorizing the numbers as an outbreak, according to news reports. Raleigh County had 68 active cases Monday morning, according to DHHR.
Logan Regional Medical Center had 22 staff and five patients infected, Crouch said. It’s corporate parent is lending help. “They seem very much on top of the situation.”
Logan County had 118 positive cases Monday morning, DHHR reported.
Justice said out-of-state travel restrictions are on the table – including mandatory testing and self-quarantine until the results are in. “This is like a can of night crawlers.” You think you have them all but see a bunch have crawled out.
Other COVID news
With numbers growing across the state, Justice said St. Francis Hospital in Charleston has been stood up as a COVID surge hospital.
Crouch said St. Francis will have 15 beds ready to go, and that could increase as needed. In April, St. Francis configured two floors with 75 beds to treat COVID patients and that number could also grow.
A COVID surge hospital is designed to accept patients from across the state who need active short-term care or rehabilitation services, he said. “In this case we’re running to the fire before there’s a fire to run to.” Thomas Health System owns the hospital.
Asked about schools reopening Sept. 8, Justice said he and education leaders are working on that and he plans an announcement on Wednesday.
Justice closed by commenting on the need to protect health care providers. Marsh had told him, he said, if we lose our doctors and nurses it could take decades to replace the level of care we have now. “We can’t take care of our people if we don’t have our doctors, we don’t have our nursing home staff, we don’t have our nurses. We gotta really protect them.”
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