With 561 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases reported Thursday, West Virginia set a single-day record for the highest number of new cases, according to state data.
The new cases — 426 confirmed positive and 135 probable, both of which are record highs — came from more than 10,000 tests submitted, leading to a near-4% daily positive rate.
The seven-day average of confirmed cases in the state (331) also hit a new high this week.
As of Thursday, there were 26,547 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia, with 5,892 of those active, and 480 COVID-19-related deaths.
The previous record was set almost a month ago, on Oct. 15, when 346 new cases and 115 probable cases were confirmed. Today, the increase is compounded with record numbers of hospitalizations (281) and those in intensive care (93).
Of those hospitalized, 31 are on ventilators. That’s down from 35 on Monday, according to state data. The high for most people on ventilators at one time occurred Sept. 17, when 40 of the 175 people hospitalized were receiving that treatment.
Despite the continued increase in COVID-19 cases across West Virginia, 27 counties were classified as green on the state’s COVID-19 alert system map Thursday. Only two counties — Mingo and Mineral — were red, indicating extreme virus spread.
According to the latest Harvard Global Health Institute’s COVID-19 risk level map, which has been criticized in the past by Gov. Jim Justice, only one county — Gilmer — was green, while 13 were red, meaning a stay-at-home order is recommended for those areas.
The state’s cumulative positive-case average (the number of positives divided by the number of tests given) was at 2.99% Thursday, dangerously close to the 3% threshold Justice set early in the pandemic that would have meant slowing down or walking back reopenings that could come with spread of the virus.
If probable cases — such as instances where someone has not necessarily been tested for COVID-19 (such as a child), but has been exposed, might be exhibiting symptoms and is quarantining until a confirmed positive or negative is received — were counted in measuring the cumulative average, the rate would be at 3.26%.
Justice said Wednesday that, despite the increase in cases, he is not ready to implement further restrictions.
“From the standpoint of pulling the plug and shutting things down, we’re not going to do that,” Justice said. “I do not think we need to move aggressively at this point toward shutdowns.”
He did say, though, that all options will be on the table if the situation worsens.
Across the state and the nation, health officials warned of a spike in cases as cold weather and flu season approached. In West Virginia specifically, some health officers have expressed interest in having more control over their local responses to COVID-19 to help slow the virus. Justice has not expressed interest in such a system.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates a peak in COVID-19 infections in West Virginia — and nationwide — is still to come. The group estimates deaths from COVID-19 in West Virginia, which in April were projected to be about 500, will now top 1,200 if stricter guidelines are not issued. If guidelines are eased, the institute’s model predicts 1,500 residents could die.