Gazette-Mail editorial: Case spikes warrant more COVID caution

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Novel coronavirus cases are climbing in some states, as are death rates, in some instances setting record highs, according to a report from The Washington Post.

Some sources attributed the spikes to reopening non-essential businesses and gathering places, saying Memorial Day weekend was the flashpoint for the rising numbers. Public officials in many of those states remain defiant, saying they will press on with wider reopening, despite the numbers. Others said the uptick also could be attributed to more widespread testing.

There’s been some speculation in the news media that recent mass protests of police violence in large cities across the country could lead to another rise in cases, although no one will know for about two weeks — COVID-19’s incubation time.

What does that mean for West Virginia? Like everything that has happened since this unprecedented pandemic broke out about three months ago, it’s hard to say. Positive-case and death numbers released by the governor and public health officials remain relatively low, despite the state’s more susceptible population — older and less healthy, on average, than the rest of the United States.

Of course, a pandemic is not bound by imaginary lines on a map, but it’s possible West Virginia has been aided by its more spread-out population and lack of mega-tourism hotspots that draw crowds from all over the nation. Rigorous testing in nursing homes and detention facilities likely has helped, as well.

It’s hard to gauge how well West Virginians have observed public health guidelines and practiced social distancing, but those practices are going to be more important than ever as the state begins to ramp up its own reopening process. Gov. Jim Justice has allowed fairs, festivals and amusement parks to resume operations on July 1. The State Fair is expected to proceed, and some school districts are now planning graduation ceremonies initially scrubbed by the pandemic.

A lot of these events and operations will look different than they have in years past, as venues try to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

West Virginians have to do their part, too, and be careful for their health and the health of others. Hopefully, with the right amount of planning and caution on everyone’s part, West Virginia won’t see the elevation of case numbers and deaths other states have experienced.

Funerals for Saturday, July 4, 2020

Hinzman, Mary - 3 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.

Payne, Gregory - Noon, Brookside Ministries, Mt. Carbon.

Spaur, Annette - 1 p.m., John H. Taylor Funeral Home, Spencer.