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State sees largest one-day spike in COVID-19 cases

CHARLESTON — Despite continued pleas for West Virginians to get tested, avoid groups of people, social distance and wear masks, West Virginia continues to see substantial increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

“We’ve got a problem, a real real problem,” Gov. Jim Justice said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing at the State Capitol Building. “Today, we have become lackadaisical to some degree, and that makes us tired.”

According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, the state saw 642 confirmed cases of the coronavirus Tuesday. In a 24-hour period between Wednesday and Tuesday, the state saw 885 new coronavirus cases. Both numbers shatter previous one-day records.

As of Wednesday, the state had 7,771 active COVID-19 cases, which is a 31 percent increase from 5,892 active cases one week earlier. The state also saw 23 new COVID-19 deaths since Monday, bring the total of deaths to 553.

With Wednesday being Veterans’ Day, Justice encouraged all West Virginians to tap into that fighting spirit to help limit the spread of the virus and protect older and at-risk populations.

“You’ve made yourselves mentally tired, but if the threat … was an enemy at our border that was threatening our lives, we would pick it up like you can’t imagine,” Justice said. “We’ve got to pick it up and we’ve got to pick it up right now.”

Justice said all options are on the table for slowing the virus should numbers keep increasing, though he declined to say whether a shutdown and stay-at-home order similar to the spring would be forthcoming.

“I don’t know what else to do, I’ve given it every single thing I have,” Justice said. “Legally I can’t start going out and arresting people. We absolutely have to test more. We have to absolutely wear our masks and do all the things out there available to us to try to slow this virus down until we get to a vaccine.”

Testing is also up in West Virginia, with 10,928 test results coming back Tuesday. However, the daily percent of positivity of those tests was 5.9 percent – the highest the daily percent of positivity has been since Sept. 21.

There have been 30,201 COVID-19 cases in West Virginia since the first case was reported in state on March 17. Since the state started keeping track of cases on March 11, there have been 871,867 confirmed lab tests for the coronavirus, with the cumulative percent of positive at 3.11 percent – the highest that number has been since April 24 before the end of the statewide lockdown.

State health officials and the West Virginia National Guard have worked hard to increase testing capacity, with numerous free drive-thru testing events posted at coronavirus.wv.gov. As of Tuesday, 18 counties now offer weekly reoccurring testing. The state is also partnering with Walgreen’s and Fruth pharmacies across the state to offer free testing by appointment.

But even with multiple ways to get tested for COVID-19, it doesn’t completely explain the rising number of cases. Dr. Clay Marsh, the state coronavirus czar, said the increase in cases is due in large part to people not following the guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus, including not wearing masks, not keeping 6 feet of distance from others, and gathering in small groups.

“We understand that while increased testing does identify new cases, that those new cases are real activity in the State of West Virginia,” Marsh said. “It’s not just a proportion of more tests and more positive cases, but there’s actually more disease in the State of West Virginia.”

“It will pay big dividend for us if we just continue to test,” Justice said. “I again encourage all West Virginians, especially before this holiday period, to take us up on our free testing.”

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