West Virginia virus cases surging, another weekly record set

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia has set another weekly record for the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, even with one day left to count.

Health statistics released Sunday show there were 3,718 positive cases reported statewide from Nov. 9 through Saturday. That six-day mark broke the record of 2,696 cases set for the seven days in the previous week.

The state set three daily marks for confirmed cases in the past week, including a record 821 cases Friday. Daily records have been set seven times in the past three weeks. There had been no daily records set in the six weeks prior to that, an indication of the recent surge in the virus.

The past week’s cumulative cases are more than triple the number of confirmed cases reported for the week ending Sept. 1.

Gov. Jim Justice on Friday announced that face coverings will be required at all times in businesses and other indoor spaces. He first issued an indoor mask order in July that did not require masks if social distancing was possible. The new mandate requires masks at all times except when eating or drinking.

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

There were a record 365 people hospitalized from the virus in West Virginia on Saturday, up from 277 on Tuesday. Since the start of the pandemic, at least 582 people have died, including a 48% increase in the past month.

“I know, eight months into this pandemic, we are all tired and frustrated,” Justice said. “I don’t like wearing a mask just as much as you, and I surely don’t want to see our fellow West Virginians in violation of the law. However, no one has the right to risk anyone else’s health.”

Dr. Sherry Young, the chief health officer in Kanawha County, the state’s largest, went one step further, telling residents in a statement Sunday to “stay home when you can.” The county accounts for one-fifth of the statewide deaths.

County public school districts typically have the week of Thanksgiving off, an annual nod to the start of the state’s gun season for deer. Justice has extended the time off from in-person instruction to Dec. 3, although counties and schools can still decide to hold virtual classes the week after Thanksgiving.

The governor, himself a high school girls basketball coach, also has postponed all winter youth sports until Jan. 11.

The virus has wreaked havoc on the state high school football playoffs. A dozen teams were eliminated from the 48-team playoff field in three classes because their respective counties’ higher-risk health status did not improve on a color-coded map released Saturday. The map determines whether athletic competitions can be held.

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