CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — For the second straight week, West Virginia has set a record for the number of weekly statewide confirmed coronavirus cases as officials continue to urge widespread testing.
The 1,644 positive cases reported from Oct. 12 through Sunday shattered the mark of 1,350 cases set in the previous week, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources website.
The number of active cases statewide also hit a record Monday at about 5,100 — up 25%, or about 1,000 more cases, since the end of September.
“We should all realize that this dreaded killer is ramped up across the United States, and that includes across West Virginia,” Gov. Jim Justice said at a news conference. “So we want to stay on our toes. Please, please take care of yourself, because this thing will bite you and absolutely we will not be able to get it off of you.”
Justice has pushed for more aggressive testing statewide over the past several weeks to identify people who otherwise may not be showing symptoms before they spread the virus to others.
The state surpassed 200 positive daily virus cases for the first time on Aug. 30. It has hit that mark 19 times since, including a record 334 cases last Thursday.
Critics say the increase in testing is aimed at lowering the rate of viruses in counties and thus enabling public schools to reopen under a color-coded map. The map has five colors, depending on the severity of community transmission. Counties in red and orange cannot conduct in-person classes and sports competitions and other extracurricular activities are postponed.
Justice also has felt criticism from some athletes and parents hoping to compete. Several fall sports are currently entering the championship phase, and some schools are at risk of being left out.
Justice reminded residents that as the girls basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School, his team was competing for a championship in the state tournament in March. But Justice made the decision as governor to stop the games mid-tournament before the state had reported a positive virus case. The tournament never finished.
“I know how much it means to kids,” Justice said. “I feel everybody’s pain and frustration. There is no right answer.”
Justice also was asked about the Legislature’s three-month session that starts in February. He offered no specifics but said it would be anything but ordinary because of the virus.
“We’re going to have a much different session, because I do not think that there’s going to be a magical cure by the time of our session,” he said. “Even though it’s a little bit later, I believe we’re still going to have an unusual session.”
West Virginia has reported at least 399 virus-related deaths but none since Friday. Statewide, there are at least 177 people hospitalized for the virus, down slightly from the record 180 last week.
In Huntington, testing was being conducted Monday at Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital, a state-run psychiatric facility that has reported positive virus cases involving 29 staff and 29 residents, said Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state’s health officer.
The virus usually results in only mild to moderate symptoms but is particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with underlying health problems.