The number of COVID patients in West Virginia hospitals almost hit 400 on Tuesday, raising concerns related to hospital capacity as the statistics keep gradually increasing.
Gov. Jim Justice said during his pandemic briefing Tuesday 399 COVID-related hospitalizations were reported with 61 in ICUs and 15 on ventilators.
Justice said 500 is the number of COVID patients hospitals can “comfortably” deal with.
Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, said that is primarily due to staffing issues at hospitals as many have retired, left the profession or moved to another state since the pandemic began.
“We are watching that very closely,” he said of the number hospitalized. “We are working with the West Virginia Hospital Association and the different hospital systems.”
An Aug. 22 “table top” planning exercise is planned to bring various agencies together to plan for any contingencies related to handling more than 500 COVID patients and all the other patients as well.
Marsh said the capacity limit for COVID patients is not just because of staffing shortages, but also because many in-patients now are there for surgeries that were postponed during the pandemic.
“They (hospitals) are very busy,” he said.
While the impact of the Omicron BA.5 variant seems to have plateaued in the country, he said, it is not over and West Virginia continues to see new cases with active cases remaining above 3,000.
Justice said most counties in the state are yellow now with four in gold, including Mercer, McDowell and Wyoming counties.
Justice also read a list of 19 more people who died since Friday because of COVID.
“We are not finished with COVID,” he said. “Please get your booster shots.”
Justice also once again warned of “long COVID,” which occurs when people previously infected again experience related symptoms, and some can be serious and impact the heart, lungs and brain.
“The side effects can linger and linger and linger,” he said, and that is another reason to be fully vaccinated and up to date on boosters.
Marsh asaid the treatment for COVID, Paxlovid, is also being examined for its effectiveness against BA.5.
“It may not be as effective,” he said, and people who have been treated with it are getting “rebound” cases of COVID, including Pres. Joe Biden.
On another issue, Justice was asked about whether state Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch is asking to leave that position voluntarily or has been asked to do so by the Governor or a representative.
Burch made the announcement late last week that he has requested a transfer to be superintendent of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind.
“No way,” Justice said of his involvement. ‘I thought Clayton Burch was dong a great job. I haven’t changed my feelings in any way.”
Justice said he had no idea Burch wanted to leave and only found out about it Friday afternoon after attending a ribbon-cutting for the new Peterstown School in Monroe County with Burch.
“I was with Clayton in Peterstown,” he said. “I did not know anything about it.”
Justice said he was told about by a member of his staff after the ribbon-cutting.
“I am a believer in Clayton,” he said. “He has done great work.”
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com