CHARLESTON — New COVID cases hit 55,000 on Monday in the country and 83 percent of case are now the Delta variant, Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia COVID-19 Czar, said Tuesday.
Marsh said during Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing Monday’s total of new cases was the most in one day in “several months.”
Not only that, he said hospitalizations from COVID went up 26 percent in one week in the nation and deaths rose 13 percent.
Marsh said 97.5 percent of those in the hospital and more than 99 percent of the deaths are among unvaccinated people.
The total number of the Delta variant cases so far detected in the state rose to 22 on Tuesday, but Marsh said that is only the beginning.
“The Delta variant is coming and is here and it will grow like it is around the country,” he said, adding that this variant also is more likely to infect children and kids, some of whom are being hospitalized and in ICUs.
“The numbers won’t be as high (among children),” he said. “But they are there.”
Marsh said getting vaccinated is the way to prevent it.
“We see from data that being fully vaccinated protects from getting infected about 90 percent,” he said, with vaccines protecting against hospitalizations, ICU and death in the 95 percent to 99 percent range.
Marsh said the people most vulnerable are older, unvaccinated and have comorbidity issues, particularly obesity.
Studies are showing the Delta variant causes more severe respiratory problems, he said, making breathing difficult.
Long-term manifestations are also a concern, he added, as many people show symptoms after apparent recovery.
Justice also said the state had not seen any COVID deaths since Friday, the first time in “long, long time” there were no reported deaths over that length of a reporting period.
With schools opening around the state next month, no decision related to wearing masks in schools and classrooms has been made yet by the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE).
Justice said educators, medical personnel and the DHHR all will be weighing in on that decision, but he at this point does not support wearing masks in schools.
“Things would have to change dramatically for me to support something that would require masks for our kids,” he said. “Where I am at now, I could no way today support a statewide mandate for kids (to wear masks in schools).”
But those decisions can change as the state pivots to face new situations, he said, as in dealing with a new surge of the virus.
Marsh said CDC guidelines at this time recommend that vaccinated kids (12 and older) do not need to wears masks in classrooms.
Some ideas on how to deal with unvaccinated kids is to test them once a week and athletes twice a week, he said.
The WVDE will make a decision soon on recommendations regarding masks in schools as well other precautions. It has already announced that vaccines will be made available in schools for those 12 and older.
Marsh has said that age could be lowered more as studies are being conducted in younger children who are taking the vaccine.
Locally, the number of active cases in Mercer County dropped again Tuesday, falling to 41, while Monroe County had only three active cases and McDowell County reported 16.
Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org.