West Virginia hits new high of virus cases, hospitalizations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — New confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations hit new highs in West Virginia over the past week as outbreaks grew in some of the most rural pockets of the state.

There were nearly 240 cases reported statewide on average over the past seven days Thursday, the highest ever. As Gov. Jim Justice frequently urges more residents to get tested in order to catch infected individuals not showing symptoms, positive cases are on the rise.

Statewide, there are a record 180 people currently hospitalized for the virus, including 31 on ventilators.

After a dip, the state’s positive testing rate has been rising for over a week, up to 3.64% over seven days. The state recorded about 3 deaths a day on average over the past seven days, down from the high of over 6 in late September. There has been a total of 393 virus-linked deaths.

Five counties — Barbour, Doddridge, Mingo, Randolph and Upshur — with populations under 30,000 people have more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents, the most severe category of spread under the state’s metrics.

The smallest of the five, Doddridge County with about 8,500 residents, on Wednesday became the only county in the red category on the state’s color-coded map. Doddridge was the last county in the state to confirm a positive case back in July.

The red category brings the most restrictions under the state’s map of five colors. Public schools are prohibited from conducting in-person classes while sports events and other extracurricular activities are postponed. Schools in Doddridge County were closed starting Oct. 6 due to the rise in cases.

Doddridge County is located in the north-central part of the state and has a population of about 8,400 residents. The largest city in the county, West Union, has about 800 residents. Doddridge is one of a dozen counties with populations under 10,000.

According to U.S. Census figures, about 22% of Doddridge County’s population is over age 65. The virus usually results in only mild to moderate symptoms, but is particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with underlying health problems.

Justice said Wednesday that state-sponsored testing was being offered Wednesday in Doddridge County, the same service that is offered in other counties whenever cases spike.

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