Rate of confirmed virus cases grows in most populous county

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s most populous county has joined two others in possibly not being able to offer athletics and extracurricular activities when school starts next month, because of an increase in confirmed coronavirus cases.

Kanawha County was color-coded orange Wednesday on a state map used to gauge counties’ readiness to support in-person attendance and extracurricular activities at schools, which open statewide Sept. 8.

Most of the state’s 55 counties are color-coded green, meaning they are among the lowest rates of confirmed community-spread virus cases. The other categories, in order of increasing severity, are yellow, orange and red.

Colors for counties with populations of under 16,000 are based on the number of new daily confirmed cases per 100,000 residents on a 14-day rolling average. Those with higher populations use a seven-day rolling average.

The number of confirmed cases in Kanawha County, which includes the state capital of Charleston, increased from 8.82 per 100,000 people on Aug. 20 to 12.11 per 100,000 people on Wednesday. Counties reach the orange stage when they record at least 10 per 100,000.

Logan and Monroe counties are the two others currently color-coded orange. If the three stay at an orange level or higher when school starts, they won’t be allowed to host athletic events or extracurricular activities. No counties are in red, a level that would require schools to conduct online learning only, with no athletics or extracurricular events.

Kanawha County had at least 1,329 confirmed cases and 29 deaths as of Wednesday, the most in the state, county health officials said.

“Nobody ever said this was going to be easy,” Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday. “You’re doing a great job, but we’ve got to get those counties out of orange. That’s for sure. Our guide path for starting school is not very far away, so we’ve got to really, really button up.”

The map also is being used for nursing home visits, which were allowed to resume earlier this week.

Justice said marching bands will be allowed to perform at public school football games, reversing a governing body’s ruling from a day earlier.

The virus usually results in only mild to moderate symptoms, but is particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with other health problems.

Statewide there have been at least 9,360 confirmed cases and 190 virus-related deaths, including a 64% surge in reported deaths this month, most of those senior citizens.

“Please, please. We’ve got to turn this tide,” Justice said in a plea for residents to wear masks, maintain social distances and self-quarantine upon returning from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a favorite vacation destination. “We have got to be more careful for our elderly.”

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.