Essential reporting in volatile times.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.

Learn more about HD Media

West Virginia surpassed a 3% cumulative percent positivity rate for COVID-19 cases Friday, a threshold the governor previously said would mean slowing down or stopping reopening measures.

Now, state officials say that measure should not be used for such.

“The positivity rate is another example of how things have changed,” said Bill Crouch, secretary for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. “As we test to find more individuals in the counties, in our communities, that are positive — symptomatic or asymptomatic — we want to find those individuals. The positivity rate going up isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Crouch said going by the cumulative positive rate did not do much to incentivize testing, which state officials are relying on now as a key defense against the virus.

At his briefing Friday, Gov. Jim Justice said West Virginia is not at the point of needing further restrictions that could mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but that action might not be far away.

“Everybody right now is on super high alert. Our number of 3% [cumulative positive rate] that we came up with a long time ago, a lot of stuff has changed. It shouldn’t be a line in the sand,” Justice said. “We are on heightened alert and really, truly, if we continue on this trajectory, we’re going to reach a point in time that we’re going to have to pull back the reigns on some things. We’re not there yet, but we’re sure getting closer.”

When pushed to clarify what specifically would be the impetus for shutdowns or further regulations, Justice did not answer.

As of Friday morning, there were 27,087 cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia, 6,135 of which are active, and 487 COVID-19 related deaths.

Friday was the second day in a row the state recorded record-high cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 560 new cases in the previous 24 hours.

This week, too, saw records for the highest number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 and the most people so far receiving care in an ICU, according to state data.

Justice acknowledged Friday that COVID-19 — in West Virginia and across the nation — is quickly spreading, with no indication that a peak or slowdown is coming any time soon. His acknowledgement came with a plea for West Virginians, no matter where they are or how they feel, to continue getting tested for COVID-19, and to not give in to pandemic fatigue.

“When we test, we are finding people that don’t have a clue they have this. If we slack up on testing, we are absolutely going to blow ourselves out of the water,” Justice said. “You’ve got to show up, West Virginia, and get tested. You have to.”

Also Friday:

  • There are 17 COVID-19 outbreaks at churches in 12 West Virginia counties
  • There are 53 active outbreaks at long-term care facilities in the state
  • Justice said there was a COVID-19 exposure at the Capitol after a staffer for the attorney general tested positive for the virus Friday morning. Justice said everyone potentially exposed, including himself, were tested Friday morning.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, said the Guard is moving forward to develop more community partnerships for testing across the state to build “a steady testing capability.”