PRINCETON — As the rate of COVID cases continues to increase, Princeton Community Hospital is seeing a jump in the number of those hospitalized with the virus, and more younger patients than before.

After averaging about five in-patient COVID cases for many weeks, PCH now has 11.

Rick Hypes, PCH director of marketing, said Monday of the 11 cases, seven are in critical care with five on ventilators.

“These patients are younger than had been typical – some in their 30s and 40s,” he said. “It is crucial that more people be vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Of those 11 patients, nine have not been vaccinated, he said.

This scenario is being reflected around the state.

Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, said Monday during Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing the number of those being hospitalized around the state has gone from 52 in early July to 269 on Monday, with those in ICU jumping from 17 to 101 and patients on ventilators going from six to 45.

“This is what the Delta variant does because it spreads so rapidly,” he said, also emphasizing it attacks younger people far more than in the past.

In Mercer County, for example, of the 67 new COVID cases reported during the last seven days, 38 of those are below 29 years old with six cases in the below 9 years old group, 19 cases between 10 and 19 years old, and 13 in the 20-29 age group.

Marsh said COVID sequencing of new cases shows the Delta variant, which is the most infectious variant, makes up more than 90 percent of those screened.

Justice said the virus is spreading rapidly around the country and in West Virginia, with more than 4,000 active cases around the state today and a daily positivity rate of more than 8 percent.

“Over the last few days we have had 1,037 new positive cases in West Virginia,” he said.

The Delta variant is a “different twist,” he added. “This variant can jump on our young people.”

That is concerning, he said, with schools getting ready to open this month.

Although the official number of the Delta variant cases stood at 129 on Monday, officials say that number is likely to increase dramatically as sequencing continues.

On the County Alert System map, the green is fading quickly.

“We now gave six red counties,” Justice said, referring to the higher rate of spread. “We only have 10 counties in the green.”

Early in July, 54 of the state’s 55 counties were green.

McDowell County is one of those red counties, with 37 new cases last week and six cases in the county that have been confirmed as the Delta variant.

Justice said the situation is likely to “get tougher in the weeks ahead.”

Nationwide, the average number of positive daily cases has once again exceeded 100,000 after dropping to less than 12,000 in June.

Justice also chastised residents who have not been vaccinated, saying this “fourth surge,” in reference to a USA Today article, could have been prevented and lives saved.

“A bunch of people will die,” he said. “We could have stopped this.”

Justice also said the Delta variant is “all around us,” especially in southern states where the vaccination rate is the lowest.

“You are taking a hell of a risk if you are not vaccinated,” he said, adding that parents are taking a risk if they don’t get their children vaccinated.

As of Monday, only 49.5 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

Justice said as of now he has no plans to bring back a mask mandate or to require state workers to get vaccinated.

He also is not yet backing off allowing county school divisions to make the decision about wearing masks in school, leaving it on a county by county basis decided by local leaders.

According to the state Department of Education guidelines for returning to school, “Any mask requirements are at the discretion of county boards of education working in collaboration with their local health departments.”

But Justice did not rule out considering bringing back some restrictions.

“We are on a collision course where, if we continue down this path we are on, we may very well get in a situation … I don’t want to do that,” he said, referring to a situation where masks are mandated. But he added that he is “not there” yet.

Rather, he said, everyone should do a “full stop” and do what is in the best interest of all residents and get vaccinated.

He urged everyone who is eligible to “run to the fire” and get vaccinated and take their kids along as well (12 and older) as schools will open their doors this month.

“Nothing in your life is as important as this,” he said of being vaccinated.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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