CHARLESTON (WOWK) — As West Virginia and the rest of the nation try to reopen schools and businesses, health officials continue to warn we may be trying to do too much too soon.
As of mid-day Aug. 14, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported more than 5.1 million people have contracted COVID-19 in the US, with an average of 55,000 new cases being reported each day.
Additionally, the CDC says 165,148 people have died of complications related to the COVID-19, with nearly 1,500 reported in a single day on Aug. 13 nationwide.
The numbers in West Virginia are equally worrisome. The first death related to COVID-19, identified then only as “an individual from the Eastern Panhandle”, was reported on March 17, 2020 by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. At that time, DHHR said it had tested just 137 people, none of which at that time had proven positive.
At that time West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice held his first COVID-19 briefing in a statewide televised address.
“We knew it was coming and we are prepared for this,” he said. “We should try to live our lives as best we can and we should not panic. We should not be afraid, we should be smart at this time.”
The next day, March 18, Justice issued the first of several Executive Orders to start shutting down the state in an attempt to control the virus. Mountain State the numbers of infected people, and the death toll, slowly climbed.
On March 19, WOWK TV, in cooperation with its sister Nexstar stations in Beckley (WVNS), Clarksburg (WBOY), Wheeling (WTRF) and Hagarstown, MD (WDVM) broadcast statewide discussion of Justice’s plans. Justice and key members of his staff outlined the steps his administration were taking to try and contain the virus.
As the virus began to resurge through the state, Justice ordered on July 6 mandatory mask wearing in all public places and work places where social distancing of at least six feet could not be done.
That same day the state confirmed 95 deaths related to COVID-19 and that 3,442 cases had been confirmed of the more than 188,000 West Virginians had been tested.
But as some business slowly reopened, and discussions began about the possibility of reopening schools in early September the virus numbers, and the deaths, began to skyrocket.
On July 17, the death toll hit the century mark of 100.
Looking at WVDHHR’s weekly reports on consecutive Fridays from that point forward the numbers show 100 deaths on July 17, 103 on July 24, 116 on July 31, 127 on Aug. 7 and 157 on Aug. 14. Put another way, it took four months for the states fatalities to reach 100 and just four weeks to add another 53.
Health experts all agree, adequate testing can help control the pandemic’s growth and on that front there is some good news for West Virginians.
As of Aug. 14 more than 344,000 had been tested while there have 6,144 recoveries.