MORGANTOWN — Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing from the governor’s office was largely Go Team West Virginia – the numbers are a little sour but keep up the fight.
Gov. Jim Justice noted that the Monongalia County bars reopened on Tuesday and issued a reminder caution. “We expect them very much to be following the guidelines.” Failure to adhere will result in suspension of license to operate. “We know it can’t be perfect but it can be a whole lot better than it was before.”
On the numbers, deaths reached 391. The daily positivity rate was 4.21% and the cumulative positive rate continues inching toward the 3% benchmark, coming in at 2.81%. In the schools, there are 18 outbreaks with 50 students testing positive.
Justice put a positive spin on that, noting that 50 infected students out of about 209,000 total amounts to a .000023% rate. Among teachers and staff, 122 of 39,074 total are infected, a .003% rate.
“We want our schools to be super safe,” Justice said. And looking at the minuscule positivity rate system-wide, “It is one doggone safe spot to be.”
Also on the positive side, West Virginia proportionately ranked tied for 14th nationally for testing, ahead of all of its neighbors except Kentucky.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said the whole nation is seeing a rise in daily positives and hospitalizations, which also portends a rise in deaths. West Virginia’s RT rate, estimating the rate of spread, continues to hover below one, but also continues rising slightly, reaching .95, eighth best in the country on Wednesday.
That means residents need to show up and get tested, particularly in counties where the spread is climbing, he said. Containing the spread is important for the schools because people bring the virus from the community into the schools. And the evidence shows that kids are more likely to spread the virus to each other than to their family members.
People are getting tired, he said, but it remains important to wear mask, social distance and maintain all the other measures – to keep up commitment to stay healthy and extend that altruism to others.
Marsh fielded a suggestion The Dominion Post passed along from a reader. The reader suggested requiring that counties qualify as green only if they are green in both metrics – incidence and positivity – and not just in one.
Marsh said he understood the suggestion arising from human nature – people are more likely to take it easy when their county is green. But from the public health standpoint, re revisited the reasons for the dual metrics: to encourage testing and identify spreaders and thereby contain the spread.
Some states are using just one metric or the other, he said, so each is valid. But combined, they offer a reasonable and real way for residents to make their counties safer.
And going green, he said, doesn’t remove the need to do the mitigation measures. A county can go from green to orange in a few days. Every color is just a reflection of what’s going on at that time.
The reader had suggested that the more stringent green category might make the teacher unions feel more comfortable as the maps are under legal challenge. The Dominion Post acknowledged that’s a political perspective and Justice commented on that.
He said politics can’t play a role in the metrics and map adjustments. “I don’t want anything to do with it at all. This should have no political ramifications in any way.” Tweaks would need to be more substantive.
And he seconded Marsh’s thought that no one should relax because their county is green or yellow. “You best better keep your guard up.”
Marsh also fielded a question on the uptick of cases in north-central West Virginia, where Doddrige has gone red and Harrison and Harrison, Barbour and Upshur are gold.
Marsh said it’s sometimes possible to identify the source of a surge, such as the Morgantown bar situation that turned Mon red for a time. But across the state, they’re seeing a range of age groups becoming infected. And, as across the nation, small gatherings are seeing small outbreaks and spreaders from those small groups can contribute to a super-spreading event. So, in north-central, a lot of factors are contributing rather than a single source.
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