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Record-breaking ventilator cases, COVID-19 deaths continue to rise

COVID-19 cases are rising in West Virginia and hospitals are continuing to see record-breaking numbers of patients on ventilators.

“As the governor said, we are still in the midst of that growth stage of the Delta variant spreading in West Virginia and we have seen the consequences of this,” Dr. Clay Marsh, COVID-19 czar of West Virginia, said during Friday’s press briefing. 

Currently, 816 hospitalizations are confirmed with 250 patients in the ICU and 151 patients on ventilators. Marsh said about 85% of hospitalizations and about 90% of ICU patients and patients on ventilators are unvaccinated.

COVID-19-related deaths are also on the rise. About six weeks ago, West Virginia saw an average of six deaths per week. During this week, more than 60 deaths have been reported.

Additional counties are beginning to implement mask mandates within school systems, with 51 of 55 counties having some type of requirement for masks in schools. Counties that have not yet implemented mask mandates in schools are Putnam, Pocahontas, Mingo and Ohio.

Emphasizing the importance of getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Gen. Jim Hoyer, leader of the state’s coronavirus task force, said a few nights ago a patient younger than 30 reached out in hopes of getting access to an ICU bed. Before assistance was available, the patient died due to COVID-19.

Before the briefing, he learned this patient was a foster parent to three children.

“This is not just impacting us as individuals when we get COVID,” He said. “It impacts our families and our communities and our entire state and our entire nation.”

To help relieve hospitals of the growing number of patients, Hoyer announced an initiative to expand antibody treatments with the Primary Care Association. Hoyer said the initiative will be rolled out next week and will expand testing capabilities.

Asked about Biden’s recent plan to mandate vaccines for businesses with more than 100 employees or require frequent testing, Gov. Jim Justice said he does not support this type of legislation.

“I truly believe it is not government’s place to tell private businesses what they can do,” he said.

Justice said he also believes this mandate is an attempt to shift the news cycle away from focusing on other current events.

“… All we’re doing is trying to double down to try to change the news cycle,” he said. “That’s what this is about. This is about changing the news cycle to where we will take the attention away from Afghanistan or the southern border or whatever it may be.”

Justice was unable to provide the number of employees that would be affected by this plan; however, he said he does not believe it will go into effect. Likewise, Justice said he doesn’t think government should try to halt businesses wanting to require vaccines.

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack, Justice announced flags will fly at half staff from dawn to dusk on Saturday. He also announced a proclamation declaring Saturday “West Virginia Heroes Day.”

A virtual 9/11 commemoration event will be held starting at 11 a.m. and can be viewed through the governor’s social media pages, website or through West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

“It truly, truly is a special day that all of us should sit back and have thanks and appreciation and love toward all those who have stepped up and helped us everyday,” he said, “especially right now, in this terrible pandemic that we are fighting.”

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