Governor Jim Justice

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice is urging state residents to reconsider any plans to travel out of state, especially to Myrtle Beach, as the number of positive COVID cases is rising.

“The number of active cases is up over 100 since last Friday,” he said Monday afternoon during a pandemic briefing. “We are seeing the result of people traveling out of our state to other places like Myrtle Beach.”

The popular vacation spot in South Carolina is “really having a big-time outbreak,” he said. “We have many people involved who have traveled to Myrtle Beach.”

Preston County has seen 26 positive cases related to travel to that beach, he said, with a total of almost 50 in several counties.

That presents a “big-time problem in West Virginia,” he said. “If you have gone to Myrtle Beach, get tested. Myrtle Beach is an absolute hotspot. If I were you, I would consider going somewhere else (for a vacation). If you don’t have to travel out of state, why do it?”

Justice said there are plenty of things to see and do and enjoy in West Virginia.

The number of positive tests have also risen in church-related outbreaks.

Justice said Graystone Baptist Church in Greenbrier County has now seen 41 positive cases, with 18 cases in a church in Ohio County and nine in a Boone County church. Positive cases found in churches in three other counties are no longer active.

“While you are in church, wear a mask,” he said. “Stay social distanced in every other pew.”

Justice said church services with singing can be a “breeding ground” for the disease to spread.

Dr. Cathy Slemp, state Health Officer, said a 28 percent increase in active cases has been seen in the state during the last two weeks.

“It’s starting to change directions,” she said of the statistics. “We are seeing outbreaks at churches and from family gatherings.”

Slemp said the key now is for everyone to do what they can to prevent not only contracting the virus but also spreading it.

“It’s all about what we can do together to really prevent the spread,” she said.

The increase in positive cases is happening in many states, said Dr. Clay Marsh, the state COVID-19 Czar.

“We know … 12 states over the weekend saw their all-time high numbers of COVID,” he said, with 17 states seeing increases in hospitalization activity, and Florida, Georgia and Texas have some shortages of ICU (intensive care) beds.

“We are not immune from the spread of COVID-19 like those 12 states that are seeing an increase in activity,” he said, adding that residents cannot become complacent and should continue using protection, especially facial coverings.

Justice said the overall numbers, especially with the percentage of positive cases to the total number tested, remain strong, but everything is being monitored closely and he will not hesitate to take action if needed to protect people.

“We keep watching the numbers and if they are not good we will change,” he said of possibly backing up on reopenings and the easing of restrictions. “This is a very fluid situation and I am going to do my job and I am going to do it every single day … We are watching the numbers…”

Justice called said it’s a matter of putting together many factors to determine what decision to make.

“There is lot of real science to this and a lot of gut feeling,” he said, adding that when the experts are concerned and the situation gets “iffy” he will react.

The virus has not gone away, he said, and younger people are becoming more and more infected but can tolerate it easier.

“Right now we are still good,” he said. “All of us are trying to do the things to bridge ourselves to a vaccine, bridge ourselves to a drug. Managing the risk is what we are trying to do.”

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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