COVID-19 in West Virginia: One year after the first case

Coronavirus

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — A year into the COVID-19 pandemic in the Mountain State, West Virginia has now recorded a total of 136,334 cases of the virus. The first case was confirmed one year ago today on March 17, 2020, in Jefferson County.

As of March 17, 2021, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is reporting 315 new cases in the past 24 hours. 5,206 cases in the state remain active, down significantly from the peak of 29,257 just over two months ago on Jan. 10. West Virginia also reached 100,000 cases of the virus that same day following an uptick in cases around the holiday season. The state had reported just under 60,000 cases a month prior on Dec. 10 and just over 29,000 cases two months before on Nov. 10.

A total of 128,563 people in the state have now recovered from the virus. As of this morning, the numbers of hospitalizations and ICU admissions have both spiked in the state. 190 West Virginians are currently hospitalized, up from the 165 reported Tuesday, and 70 of those patients are in the ICU, up from 51 yesterday. 19 people across the Mountain State are on ventilators.

WV COVID-19 data for March 17, 2021 (Photo Courtesy: WV DHHR)

A week after the state’s first COVID-19 case was reported, West Virginia’s Stay-at-Home order, an Executive Action by Republican Gov. Jim Justice, began on March 24, 2020. The Stay-at-Home order remained in effect through May 4, 2020, when it was replaced with a Safer-at-Home order.

At the time Justice announced the Stay-at-Home order, the state had just 16 COVID-19 cases – 20 by the time the order went into effect – spread throughout eight counties. No deaths had yet been confirmed.

The first death related to the virus was confirmed March 29, 2020, just 12 days after the first reported case. By then, the case count had grown from one to 124.

Today, health officials say 19 additional deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of West Virginians who have died in connection to the virus to 2,565. West Virginia hit the grim milestone of 2,000 deaths from the virus Jan. 29.

Wednesday morning, the WV DHHR confirmed the deaths of a 90-year-old female from Morgan County, a 59-year-old male from Brooke County, a 72-year-old male from Cabell County, an 83-year-old male from Berkeley County, a 78-year-old male from Berkeley County, a 64-year-old male from Nicholas County, a 52-year-old female from Kanawha County, a 74-year-old male from Wetzel County, a 73-year-old male from Kanawha County, a 76-year-old female from Berkeley County, a 67-year-old male from Berkeley County, a 74-year-old male from Berkeley County, a 63-year-old female from Cabell County, a 72-year-old male from Brooke County, an 81-year-old male from Hampshire County, a 79-year-old male from Berkeley County, an 83-year-old female from Kanawha County, an 86-year-old female from Hampshire County and an 83-year-old female from Berkeley County..

At the time of the state’s first COVID-19 case, only 137 people had been tested for COVID-19. Due to a nation-wide lack of testing kits and proper testing equipment, only those showing possible symptoms were tested for the virus.

As testing kits became more accessible, state and local health officials, the West Virginia National Guard and community partners hosted multiple drive-thru free and community COVID-19 testing events throughout the state. By January 2021, testing opportunities had become widespread in the Mountain State.

Today, the state has received a total of 2,320,735 confirmatory lab results for COVID-19.

When Justice announced the Stay-at-Home order on March 23, 2020, he also announced the state’s first COVID-19 case reported in a nursing home. Sundale Nursing Home in Morgantown confirmed one of their residents had been taken to the hospital the day prior after showing symptoms and received a positive test result.

In the first nine months of the pandemic, nearly half of the reported deaths were in nursing homes or long-term assisted living facilities. To date, deaths in nursing homes or long-term care facilities make up approximately 31% of the state’s total COVID-19 deaths.

West Virginia then became the first state to mandate COVID-19 testing in long-term care facilities.

Ironically, the day before the first case was announced, the governor declared a State of Emergency in preparation for the state’s impending first case. West Virginia was the last state in the country to report a confirmed case of COVID-19.

On March 13, Justice had ordered the closing of preK-12 schools, issued a state-employee travel ban on both national and international travel, encouraged nursing homes and senior care facilities to limit visitation and ordered the cancellation of the state’s high school basketball tournaments.

Once the case was confirmed, Justice ordered restaurants and bars to close dine-in service, only allowing drive-thru and carry-out options. The businesses would be able to reopen for outdoor dining the week of May 4, 2020 with restrictions slowly easing as the state’s COVID-19 situation improved. Most recently, Justice loosened restrictions March 5, allowing restaurants and bars to use 100% of their seating capacity.

Despite the numerous closures, the state’s mask mandate did not begin until well into the governor’s “West Virginia Strong – The Comeback” plan on July 7, 2020, and remains in effect until further notice from the governor.

The comeback plan began April 29, after the state remained below a cumulative positivity rate of 3% for three consecutive days. That rate rose back above 3% at the height of the pandemic, peaking at 5.62% from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. Since then, it has slowly continued dropping, reaching 5.31% this morning.

Free COVID-19 testing, as well as daily testing events and additional periodic and pharmacy testing events, are still available in West Virginia. For more information, visit the WV DHHR website.

Today, COVID-19 remains in every county although some counties’ active cases have returned to the single-digit numbers. The WV DHHR is reporting only one active case in Tucker County as of this morning. For months, Kanawha County has had the highest number of cases, today at 12,458 total cases. Doddridge County became the last county in both the Mountain State and the Tri-State of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky to report a COVID-19 case on July 25.

WV County Alert System map for March 17, 2021. (Photo Courtesy: WV DHHR)

West Virginia first announced its County Alert System Map in August, as schools were preparing for reopening. Shortly after the map’s inception, Dr. Deborah Birx, Coordinator of former president Donald Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, praised the map on her visit to the Mountain State. She said she had come to listen and learn how West Virginia had “got it right” with COVID-19 response.

On Jan 5., the map showed its highest number of red counties to date with 48 of the state’s 55 counties in red. Today, the map has only Hardy County listed in red. Nine counties are in orange, four are gold and nine are yellow. 32 counties are listed green on the map.

In late 2020, the state began transitioning from mass testing to mass vaccinations.

West Virginia first began receiving doses of the Pfizer vaccine Dec. 14 with the Moderna vaccine following after its Dec. 18 FDA Emergency Use Authorization. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine became available just weeks ago on Feb. 28.

Shortly after the Pfizer vaccine became available, Justice called for vaccinations to begin in long-term care facilities for any staff member or resident who wanted the vaccine. He wanted those first doses to be completed across the state within 30 days of the announcement.

On Jan. 6, the governor announced Operation Save Our Wisdom to vaccinate the state’s elderly population. The operation started with seniors in the general public over the age of 80. Slowly the age threshold was lowered and as of this week, those in the general public now eligible for the vaccine include people over the age of 50 plus any West Virginian over 16 with a variety of underlying health conditions.

Throughout the past few months, the Mountain State has been praised for its vaccine roll-out, now with 247,203 West Virginians fully vaccinated against COVID-19. West Virginians can pre-register for a COVID-19 vaccination at vaccinate.wv.gov.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 per county as of March 17, 2021, include:

Barbour (1,293), Berkeley (10,121), Boone (1,654), Braxton (798), Brooke (2,041), Cabell (8,114), Calhoun (236), Clay (384), Doddridge (488), Fayette (2,811), Gilmer (723), Grant (1,139), Greenbrier (2,451), Hampshire (1,574), Hancock (2,601), Hardy (1,333), Harrison (4,983), Jackson (1,703), Jefferson (3,753), Kanawha (12,458), Lewis (1,071), Lincoln (1,297), Logan (2,845), Marion (3,805), Marshall (3,116), Mason (1,824), McDowell (1,391), Mercer (4,306), Mineral (2,608), Mingo (2,211), Monongalia (8,346), Monroe (988), Morgan (952), Nicholas (1,281), Ohio (3,718), Pendleton (628), Pleasants (813), Pocahontas (602), Preston (2,638), Putnam (4,373), Raleigh (5,018), Randolph (2,436), Ritchie (633), Roane (510), Summers (707), Taylor (1,111), Tucker (508), Tyler (641), Upshur (1,730), Wayne (2,644), Webster (394), Wetzel (1,125), Wirt (364), Wood (7,264), Wyoming (1,778).

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