Virus cases resurge in West Virginia as school year starts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Active coronavirus cases in West Virginia continued to resurge at an alarming rate as public school students in some counties returned Monday for the start of fall classes.

The number of active cases statewide has reached at least 4,010, a startling jump since bottoming out at 882 cases July 9, according to state health figures.

Gov. Jim Justice, who has said he will not consider reinstating an indoor mask mandate, said at a news conference Monday that the rate of cases are “probably going to continue to get tougher in the weeks ahead.”

“This stuff absolutely as we get a colder season, it comes, and as we get back to school, football games, state fairs, all that stuff, do you not think that this thing is not going to rear its ugly head even more so than it is now?” Justice said.

Instead, he continued to push for more people to get vaccines.

“You’re taking one hell of a risk if you’re not vaccinated,” Justice said.

About 57% of state residents ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated, while about 69% have received one dose.

Classes began in Kanawha County, the state’s largest, on Monday. Active cases in the county hit a two-month high Monday at 181, health officials said. Many other counties do not return to school until later this month.

Clayton Burch, West Virginia’s public schools superintendent, said last week that any decision on mandatory mask wearing in schools would be left up to local county officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC cited new information about the ability of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus to spread among vaccinated people.

While total cases of the delta variant statewide remained steady at 129, the number of people hospitalized from the virus Friday, the latest day available, was at 217, the most since late May. Hospitalizations during the coronavirus pandemic peaked at 818 on Jan. 5.

There have been at least 2,972 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic in the state of 1.8 million residents, including six more reported Monday.

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