PRINCETON — Six more COVID-related deaths have been reported in the region, including three new deaths in Mercer County.
The latest deaths in Mercer County include a 74-year-old female, an 82-year-old male and a 78-year-old male. The state DHHR (Department of Health and Human Resources) also reported this week the death of a 77-year-old female from McDowell County, a 34-year-old man from Monroe County and a new death in Tazewell County.
A total of 43 more deaths have been reported by DHHR since Monday, bringing the total number in the state during the pandemic to 3,106. Mercer County has seen a cumulative total of 132 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020.
Virus cases are surging again in Mercer County.
As of Thursday, the DHHR was reporting 656 active virus cases in Mercer County. That’s up from 611 cases on Wednesday. Active virus cases in Mercer County have been increasing for approximately two weeks now, fueled in part by the more contagious Delta variant. So far 31 Delta cases have been confirmed by health officials in Mercer County, but the real number is believed to be much higher.
The Monroe County Health Department posted Wednesday the county has the second highest infection rate in the state and is seeing the most active cases since the pandemic began.
Monroe County schools started using virtual learning only on Tuesday and as of now students are slated to return to classrooms Sept. 7.
Just a few weeks ago, Mercer County’s active cases number had dropped to 42 while McDowell County was in single digits. Monroe County dropped to only one positive case earlier in the summer.
Active COVID cases in West Virginia have soared to 17,664, up from 882 in early July. The daily positivity rate is at 9.54 percent.
Hospitalizations in the state from COVID reached 670 on Wednesday with 200 in ICUs and 109 on ventilators.
Jim Hoyer, director of the state Joint InterAgency Vaccine Task Force, said Wednesday during Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing the 109 COVID patients on ventilators is the highest yet, with the previous peak of 104 on Jan. 10.
“It all comes down to getting vaccinated,” he said, adding that everyone has constitutional rights, but “we have a responsibility to make sure we get vaccinated.”
That is how people protect themselves and others, he added.
“Unvaccinated people are taking up vital space in hospitals that impact other people’s health care,” he said earlier this week, pointing to the growing squeeze on hospitals to provide capacity for those who need critical care.
Another concern is the impact the Delta variant has on youth, with much higher infection rates than before. Health experts have said the number of active cases are almost all the Delta variant.
Justice said nationwide over 204,000 new cases of COVID in children were reported in the country last week and that trend has been seen locally.
Of the 354 new cases reported in Mercer County during the week of Aug. 24 through Aug. 30, 49 were 15 years old and under with 32 aged 16 to 20.
According to the CDC, after numbers declined earlier in the summer, cases in children have increased five times during the past month, rising from about 38,000 cases the week ending July 22nd to nearly 204,000 the past week.
Between Aug. 20 and Aug, 26, an average of 330 children were admitted to hospitals every day with COVID-19, the CDC said, adding it is not an adult disease anymore and hospitals report children in ICUs or on ventilators.
“What’s it going to take?” Justice said, referring to motivate people to get vaccinated. “Is it going to take a bunch of our kids to die?”
However, Justice said he sees no need at this time for any mitigation or vaccine mandates. “I don’t see a need to move that way at this point in time,” he said, adding that it would be too divisive.
The West Virginia Department of Education reported on Wednesday COVID outbreaks in 46 schools, with a total of 325 positive cases.
At 11 of those schools, the outbreaks were related to extracurricular activities.
James Monroe High School was one of the outbreaks with four cases associated with extracurricular activities.
Monroe County has switched to remote learning until Sept. 7 with all extracurricular activities canceled for this week.