Numbers can be spun in a variety of ways, but the basic figures don’t lie. This week, West Virginia has seen a record-high number of active COVID-19 cases, a new high for coronavirus patients hospitalized over a 24-hour period and a statewide percentage of positive tests at its highest rate since April. West Virginia also surpassed 400 coronavirus deaths.
The Mountain State isn’t alone. COVID-19 cases are spiking in nearly every state in the United States. Nationwide, the death toll from the pandemic is more than 220,000, and as many as 50,000 new cases are detected every day.
West Virginia University’s Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s COVID-19 czar, said at a Wednesday briefing, “Look around the country. It’s getting a lot worse.”
Even the agencies tasked with tracking the virus and advising on public health policy are susceptible, as at least three West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources employees had tested positive for COVID-19 by mid-week.
There’s been plenty said on how the changing metrics and different ways of determining the risk level in every county are confusing, inaccurate and seem designed to heighten those risks, rather than erring on caution for public health.
But no matter how figures are skewed or cases are counted to make the risk appear lower, the raw numbers tell West Virginians what is really happening. It is getting worse, and it will become more complicated once people start spending more time indoors in closer proximity with each other and flu season hits.
Yes, the numbers in West Virginia are low when compared to other states. But keep in mind, the state has a relatively small population, and the figures here have been rapidly climbing over a much shorter time when compared to the earlier stages of pandemic response in West Virginia.
The mixed signals from Gov. Jim Justice and his administration can leave confusion or a false sense of security. Focus on the part of the message from Justice and Dr. Marsh that speaks of remaining vigilant and staying focused, even though it can be hard.
Get tested. Continue to take precautions, such as wearing a mask, keeping socially distant and frequently washing your hands. All of those things drastically reduce spread. West Virginians need to use the tools they have until a vaccine or effective medical treatment comes along.