West Virginia’s jobless aid filings rise amid virus spike

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The number of West Virginians who filed for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week amid a spike in coronavirus cases, according for federal data released Thursday.

Nearly 3,900 people in the state applied for jobless aid last week, an increase of 526 from the previous week, in a reversal of a downward trend in filings during Gov. Jim Justice’s plan to lift virus restrictions on the state’s economy.

Nationwide, 1.3 million people applied for the benefits last week, a historically high level that indicates companies are still cutting jobs as the outbreak intensifies.

In West Virginia, the Republican governor this week scaled back parts of his reopening plan in response to a rise in virus cases. Justice has ordered a 10-day closure of bars in Monongalia County after the area, which includes West Virginia University, emerged as the state’s biggest virus hot spot. He has also reimposed a 25-person limit on gatherings, though he has exempted sports, churches and other events from the rule.

At least 99 people have died from the virus and around 4,600 people have tested positive in West Virginia, according to state health officials. The state’s active virus cases are at one of the highest levels since the outbreak began. Hospitalizations and intensive care unit patients are also rising.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.

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