MORGANTOWN — As the coronavirus surges, hospitals across the state will be cutting back on certain elective surgeries to keep room open for COVID-19 patients.
The announcement came during Monday’s COVID briefing as Gov. Jim Justice and his team talked about the surge.
The briefing started about 30 minutes late, Justice explained, because anti-mask protesters outside blocked his way into the building. He acknowledged their right to protest and their right to not wear masks, but expressed his frustration with them in light of the surge.
“They’re protesting they don’t want to wear a mask, but 40 more people died. … The only thing we can possibly have to be able to slow thing down right now is that mask. That’s all we’ve got. I don’t understand it.”
A sampling of the latst numbers: 735 deaths (40 since last Wednesday’s briefing); daily positive rate, 7.07%, the highest since April; cumulative positive, 3.64%; 16,737 active cases; 597 hospitalized with 162 in ICUs and 76 on ventilators.
On the hospital issue, Justice relayed a conversation he had with WVU Medicine President and CEO Albert Wright and another with COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh. “Albert Wright is genuinely, really concerned that our hospitals are going to be overrun,” he said.
Justice proposed to Marsh suspending elective surgeries that was the agreement.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh explained some details in response to a press question.
He explained that COVID cases use space and resources that then become unavailable to people wioht other conditions. As smaller hospitals fill up with COVID patients, their capacity is taxed and they transfer patients to the bigger systems with more resources, which in turn taxes those. So it’s important to maintain capacity across all systems.
Each hospital system has surge plans, he said, and they’ve been asked to update them and submit them to the state Hospital Association for review and to coordinate plans.
Looking at the next 45 days or so as an initial time frame, Marsh said, hospitals will prioritize their surgical schedules, postponing those that are not urgent or emergencies. They are initially focused on surgeries that would require an inpatient overnight stay, in order to maintain bed space. Day surgeries aren’t in view at this point.
He cautioned at this time, there is still sufficient capacity; this is a proactive measure to keep space open.
Justice also fielded a question on a recent question by Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Close the bars and keep the schools open.” The reporter asked if West Virginia ought to reconsider its approach in light of that.
Justice answered that Fauci has been wrong before, and from time to time he and his advisors will be wrong. “It is a very difficult balance.”
They have to consider fairness, business owners, other complexities, teachers and teacher unions. If they close the bars and a county stays red, he said, then teachers won’t want to go to work.
Justice also addressed a question about dealing with people who fear and won’t accept one of the vaccines soon to be offered.
“We’ve proven to ourselves we know how to die,” he said. Referencing the anti-maksers, he said He knows very few people who say the best thing to do is do nothing. “We’ve figured out how we can die. New we’ve got to figure out how we can live.”
The medical information shows that the side effects of the vaccines will be minimal, he said. Some trail participants feel flu-like symptoms for a few hours but recover. But getting out of bed involves risk.
“The vaccine is an opportunity for us to live.”
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