(The Center Square) – After West Virginia had a record number of daily COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday, Gov. Jim Justice said Friday that heavier restrictions are “on the table” if numbers keep trending in that direction.
West Virginia had 182 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday in a month in which cases trended significantly upward. There have been more than 100 new daily cases most days this month and several days in which it surpassed 150. Before July, the highest total of daily cases was 75 and most days had fewer than 50 new cases.
Justice attributed some of the spike to the state’s increase in testing, but hospitalizations and cases that end up in the intensive care unit have also been trending upward this month. The state currently has 102 hospitalizations, which is more than four times higher than the beginning of the month. The state has 40 ICU cases, which is four times higher than July 2.
“If these numbers keep heading the way they’re heading, we’re going to have to do more stringent things and take more things back away in order to try to some way slow it down and stop it because if we don’t we’re going to awaken to a situation that is really bad,” Justice said during a news conference.
The governor said he is watching the numbers and consulting experts about the daily trends, but added the state does not need to scale back the re-opening plan yet. However, he said every day, the state is getting closer to that point and he urged people to follow social distancing and face mask guidelines to slow down the spike.
“West Virginia, you have got to listen,” Justice said. “You can’t ease off. You’ve got to wear your mask. You’ve got to absolutely protect the elderly. You have got to absolutely use all the tools in the toolbox to stay socially distanced and on your game. … Life is too precious for me to sit here and read of West Virginians we’ve lost. Please West Virginia, I am pleading with you: wear your mask, wash your hands, do everything you possibly can. This thing is invisible and it is here with us.”
The state has 1,712 active cases. Kanawha has th most with 277 cases. Justice said his medical team believes the county is in stable condition, but said they are watching it.
Bill Crouch, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, also addressed the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak at the Princeton Healthcare Center, which has 38 active cases. The administration came under criticism after the health care center had its second outbreak in less than a month, but Crouch said the two outbreaks were not connected.
“Without sports on TV … it seems everyone’s pastime is to be an armchair epidemiologist. That’s not as easy as it seems,” Crouch said.
The previous outbreak was discovered on June 30 and testing began on July 1. Crouch said this was contained and monitored. More than two weeks later, an unconnected outbreak occurred after someone traveled to Myrtle Beach, he said. He then criticized people for turning the situation into a political tool and said the administration and the department have both handled the outbreaks properly.
“The only way we’re going to get through this pandemic is by working together,” Crouch said.