As Dr. Clay Marsh pointed out during Friday’s COVID-19 briefing, one should never underestimate this virus and its ability to mutate.
Proving that point, Gov. Jim Justice announced the first confirmed cases of BA.2 in the state — that’s the omicron variant’s variant. The first omicron is known as BA.1. Cases have been reported in Berkeley and Ohio counties so far.
This mutation is known as a “stealth variant,” Marsh said, not because it’s worse than the original omicron, but because it displays different properties during genetic testing. It has not, so far, proved to be more severe than BA.1.
But it’s a perfect example of how COVID keeps the medical and scientific community on their toes.
It’s also unwelcome news, given that West Virgina’s hospitals continue to be taxed by COVID patients and staffing woes.
As of Friday, there were 1,061 people hospitalized, with 233 in ICUs and 126 on vents. Of those hospitalized, 17 were pediatric cases, with 3 in ICUs and 2 on ventilators.
Case numbers seem to be trending downward — with 2,911 new cases in the last 24 hours and an active case rate of 11,116 — Marsh said. But hospitalizations remain high, and deaths are expected to increase before the wave has passed.
As of Friday, 5,846 West Virginians had died of the disease.