COVID numbers have expected holiday rise

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Dec. 21—West Virginia is once again seeing COVID numbers rise, as was predicted for the holiday season.

Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday during his pandemic briefing that active cases are back over 1,000 again, standing at 1,168, with 20 of the state's 55 counties back into the yellow on the state County Alert System map, including Mercer and Monroe counties.

Justice said the number of positive cases is most likely higher than the 1,168 because so many home tests are conducted and the results are not reported.

"We have jumped well above 200 in hospitalizations ... to 225," he said of the COVID-related hospitalizations in the state, with 30 patients in ICU and 13 on ventilators.

Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, said the rise in hospitalzations is a big jump from pre-Thanksgiving numbers, when the number fell to 114.

Marsh and others had predicted before Thanksgiving that all numbers were likely to rise after the holiday because of indoor gatherings. The same is expected after the Christmas and New Year's celebrations.

Variants keep getting more contagious, he said, with the new variant in China, BF.7, very potent.

Marsh said each person infected with that variant will likely infect 16 other people.

The new variants are "powerful," he said, but vaccines strengthen immune systems to help prevent serious illness.

Marsh also said that, with more than 90 percent those dying from COVID 65 and older, the Omicron booster shot is badly needed for protection.

"Protect yourself and the people you love," he said.

The flu and RSV cases are still an issue as well, he added, encouraging everyone to get a flu shot.

In Mercer County, a rise in COVID cases account for the yellow status, with 81 new cases reported during the last seven days and active cases rising to 58. Both of those numbers had been steady in the 20s recently.

"We have seen an increase in both COVID and flu," Mercer County Health Department Administrator Bonnie Allen said, with 58 "known" cases of COVID.

"I know it's higher than that," she said, reflecting the Governor's concern about home testing.

Allen said "quite a few" flu cases are also being seen as well as strep throat.

"I'm sure the colder weather and people being inside together more (are the main causes)," she said. "I expect to see an increase after Christmas as well. Wearing masks in public places can help decrease the incidence of all three."

Monroe County saw 29 new COVID cases during the last seven days with 20 active cases, numbers that had dropped to the single digits.

Justice once again emphasized the importance of the Omicron booster and flu shots, adding that residents need to be "protective" and avoid flooding hospitals.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com