West Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers are going back up, and Gov. Jim Justice and his top adviser suggest the actual numbers are probably much higher because so many people have access to home test kits now.
“We know this is most likely an underrepresentation of the true number of people infected because people either aren’t getting tested or are testing at home,” Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus response adviser, said during a briefing Monday.
West Virginia listed its number of active cases Monday at 1,964.
Marsh and the governor noted that number is an increase from the 1,296 active cases registered by the state one week ago. But they took note of other rising numbers such as a daily percent positivity now at 11.58% and a reproduction number above 1 to suggest there could be a wave affecting more people than the state’s figures are capturing.
“It’s surely a bigger number. That’s got to concern us,” Justice said. “These numbers have to be under-inflated because of the home test kits that we have today that we didn’t have before.”
West Virginia’s hospitalizations attributed to COVID-19 are up somewhat, now at 138. That’s below the 1,097 hospitalizations recorded during a January peak.
West Virginia isn’t alone in an increase in COVID-19 cases. Many places across the northeast have also experienced spikes.
While encouraging state residents to continue seeking vaccinations or booster shots, Marsh said the current uptick is likely a spinoff of the omicron variant.
“We do see another surge that is happening both in the United States and in West Virginia,” Marsh said.
“We see that this variant is continuing to change, to mutate, and those changes allow the virus to escape our immune system more easily.”
Justice, who has continued to participate in regular briefings about the status of the virus over the past two years, said COVID is here to stay.
“The bottom line, without any doubt is, we’ve got to live with this,” Justice said. “We can live with it. It can absolutely be managed. The way to manage it, the way to live with it — booster shots, vaccinations, stay on top of your game, use our calculator that’s going to notify you as to when to get your shots.
“Absolutely, the way to live with this dreaded killer is to absolutely manage it.”