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Justice pledges to ramp up COVID testing, discusses nationwide case spike

MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice made an impromptu announcement at the close of Monday’s COVID-19 briefing, about beefing up testing.

“I just really get the feeling in my gut that we need to step it up one more notch regarding our testing,” he said. “We need to continue expediting our tests and we need to do more and more. Today, I’m going to give you my pledge that we are going to do more. I’m going to get with the powers that be and we’re going to work through it. I’m not yet sure exactly what it’s going to look like, all I know is that we’re going to do even more than we have been doing.”

Justice and his COVID team had no other major announcements during the briefing. The announcement appeared to come in response to an earlier question about how the state will maintain its desired level of testing – at least 7,000 per day. Sunday saw a high of 13,097 tests reported. The prior three days saw 5,065 on Thursday, 5,330 on Friday and 7,471 on Saturday.

Otherwise, much of the conversation around the steady climb in cases nationwide. Justice noted that the seven-day rolling average of new cases as of this week was a record high of 68,767. It’s been steadily climbing – three weeks ago it was 43,089 according to the CDC. Friday and Saturday each saw new cases top 83,000.

“Things are heating up and getting tough,” he said.

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh noted that only one state, Mississippi, had an Rt value – an indicator of the rate of spread – below one. West Virginia was among several tied for eight best, at 1.08. “The coronavirus is spreading.”

Utah, he said is now rationing ICU care because its ICUs are over 80% full.”

That means we need to keep wearing masks and social distancing and getting tested to try to curb the spread. “It’s really important that we act today.”

Justice and Marsh both noted that people are getting tired of the virus and the precautions, which makes fighting the spread that much harder.

The Dominion Post asked what’s behind the nationwide spike – whether it’s people getting careless or overconfident as they deal with burnout, or if the virus has natural ups and downs, or something else.

Justice proposed several factors: the fall season and bad weather driving people inside, the traveling associated with the elections, sports and returning to school, among them. “Every bit of that is compounding this problem right now.”

Marsh agreed with those points but added that the pandemic is a generational event and we’re learning how to build an evidence base and treat it as we go.

The three measures he mentioned have an affect on the Rt score and it’s been seen that those parts of the world that combine mask wearing with social distancing do better than the states that don’t.

Areas are seeing outbreaks where small gatherings of families or friends are occurring and no precautions are take.

“Irrespective of the absolute cause, which we may not know, we know the approach and we know the intervention and we’ve just go to do it.”

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