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Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar, said Wednesday positive COVID-19 test rates for adults in West Virginia are beginning to increase, indicating a spike in cases among the older population might be looming.

More West Virginians between the ages of 30 and 64 are testing positive for COVID-19, Marsh said during Gov. Jim Justice’s coronavirus briefing Wednesday.

“We know that increases in these populations generally precede increases in older people because, in many ways, these are the ages of children of people that are older and most vulnerable,” Marsh said.

This rings especially true just seven days from Thanksgiving, where public health officials in West Virginia and nationwide are calling for smaller family gatherings to prevent further COVID-19 spread during the holidays.

Marsh said that, while West Virginia is able to handle the increased hospitalizations and intensive care stays at the moment, action must be taken to prevent a patient surge on hospitals that overwhelms the system.

Even with the good news that the potential Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are showing strong initial results, Marsh said, if West Virginians aren’t taking measures like mask wearing and physical distancing now, the increasing number of deaths will continue to rise long before a vaccine would be widely available.

As of Wednesday morning, 612 West Virginians had died of COVID-19, including 42 in the previous seven days, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard. There are 429 people hospitalized by the virus, 126 people in the ICU and 50 people on ventilators.

Also Wednesday, Justice again dismissed what he said are completely unfounded concerns that the state is headed for a second shutdown.

“Let me make one thing absolutely perfectly clear — perfectly clear — Jim Justice does not want to shut down anything in this state,” Justice said.

The governor said the only places in West Virginia that have been shut down since the initial coronavirus surge have been bars in Monongalia County and that it is false to say otherwise.

“What have I shut down? What have I shut down since the initial shutdown in which we all had to do all across this nation? What have I done? What have I shut down? The bars in Mon County, and it was a good move,” Justice said. “Other than that, what has been shut down? Nothing. Zero.”

Justice said the only thing that is going to lead West Virginia into a shutdown is “300 or 500 people a day” dying of the virus. He said, if that were to happen, then it would be the people calling for a shutdown, not the government.

“The outcry of the people will be crying so loudly to stop things that you won’t need input from me or the Legislature,” Justice said.

Reach Joe Severino at joe.severino@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jj_severino on Twitter.