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COVID-19 deaths decrease for third time, but active cases climb

CHARLESTON — West Virginia experienced the third straight decrease in deaths attributed to COVID-19 infections, but the number of active cases in the state broke 5,000 as of Monday.

According to data from the Department of Health and Human Resources released Monday, the state reported 399 total COVID-19 deaths.

Sunday was the first day the DHHR reported no deaths since Sept. 5. West Virginia saw a third straight decrease in deaths three weeks in a row – a 15-percent decrease just this week. There were 41 deaths reported between Oct. 5 and Oct. 18 and 48 deaths reported between Sept. 21 through Oct. 4.

“I’m pleased with the fact we didn’t have additional deaths on Saturday or Sunday, and we have not been advised of additional deaths as of this morning,” said Gov. Jim Justice during his Monday coronavirus briefing. “When it boils down to it though, for these families being pleased is anything but the case.”

Justice and state health officials attributed the decrease in deaths to improvements in hospital outcomes for those with serious COVID-19 symptoms and new therapeutic treatments available today. They also praised the increased amount of testing, which is helping health officials find asymptomatic spreaders and people with mild symptoms, allowing them to be treated sooner.

“The number of positive tests are going up even more, which suggests to me that we are targeting in areas where we’re seeing more spread and are able to identify them,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, the state coronavirus czar.

The number of positive cases over the last 14 days was 3,470, which was a 34-percent increase in positive cases from the previous 14 days. As of Monday — the most recent data available — the state reported 221 new cases in a 24-hour period. Active COVID-19 cases — the number of infected people in self-quarantine or hospitalized — was 5,095 cases as of Monday — an 11-percent increase from 4,578 active cases seven days ago and an 18-percent increase from 4,330 active cases 14 days ago.

As of Monday, all 55 counties have active cases. Active cases have increased in 37 out of 55 counties. Cases in 16 counties have decreased, including in the two counties with the largest number of cases: Kanawha and Monongalia counties. Two counties have seen no changes in case numbers.

West Virginia’s Rt number – the rate that shows how quickly the virus is spreading in the community – was 1.03 as of Monday. The state’s Rt number shifted from the second best in the nation two weeks ago to third best as of last week to 15th. Any Rt value below 1 means the growth of the virus is slowing, while numbers above 1 mean the virus is spreading.

“Being above 1 is not good,” Justice said. “We should keep that in our thought all the time. We don’t even want to be close to 1 … we want to be significantly below 1.”

West Virginia’s daily percent of positive cases was 2.21 percent. The cumulative percent of positive cases 2.82 percent. West Virginians cumulative percent of positive cases was the best when compared surrounding states or the U.S. average of 6.5 percent.

“Both of those numbers are the envy of the nation,” Justice said. “At the same time, they’re higher than what we want them to be in West Virginia.”

The total numbers of test results over the last 14 days was 93,778 between Oct. 5 and Oct. 18, which was a 24-percent increase in testing compared to 75,691 tests results between Sept. 21. through Oct. 4. The state broke a record for test results last Thursday with 11,104 results reported to DHHR.

There were 177 hospitalizations as of Monday – a 2-percent increase from seven days ago. The average number of hospitalizations between Oct. 5 and Oct. 18 increased by 2 percent over the average number of hospitalizations the previous 14 days. The number of infected people in intensive care units was 67 and 26 people are on ventilators.

According to the Department of Education, there are 19 outbreaks in 16 county school systems consisting of 59 COVID-19 cases. The County Alert System map, maintained daily by DHHR, shows only Wyoming County in the red for both its infection rate and its percent of positivity.

Doddridge County – which was previously in the red and had to close their schools and cancel extracurricular activities when the Department of Education’s County Alert System map was updated Saturday night — has moved to orange, joining Berkeley, Morgan, Pendleton, Wirt, Jackson, Clay, Wayne, Mingo, and Monroe counties.

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