Local West Virginia school officials have seen enough of the latest wave of Covid-19 to postpone football games this weekend, adopt distance learning protocols and enforce masks as the spread of Covid-19 is doing its best imitation of its worst moments from last winter.
Active Covid-19 cases in the state reached 10,980 in Tuesday’s Department of Health and Human Services report, a gain of 437 cases in the past 24 hours, a gain of 56.5% compared to a week ago and the most in a day since more than 11,000 were counted on February 14th.
The rate of daily positive tests also continued to climb, reaching 12.76 percent, its highest level since Jan.4, when it recorded a reading of 14.32 percent.
The state’s color-coded map, used to measure the prevalence of the virus, was again inundated with reds and oranges, color categories that last year would have compromised face-to-face instruction and competition sports.
Of the state’s 55 counties on Tuesday, 17 were in red, up from 22 on Monday. There was no change, however, in southern West Virginia where six of the Register-Herald’s nine main market counties remained in red.
In Mercer County, where transmission and positive test rates have both increased daily over the past week, school officials have postponed the Beaver-Graham football game scheduled for Friday night. Typically, the 10,000-seat Mitchell Stadium is packed for the annual tilt.
Amy Harrison of the Mercer County School System told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph the game will be rescheduled.
“For the safety and health of our players, students and community, the 2021 Beaver-Graham football game has been postponed,” said a post on the BHS football Facebook page. “An announcement will be made as soon as a catch-up date has been set.”
In the upstate, the opening of the football season for Robert C. Byrd in Harrison County and Keyser in Mineral County has been canceled due to accelerated transmission of Covid. With 11 preseason practices at this point, Keyser did not have enough players available to meet the minimum of 14 practices required by the West Virginia High School Activities Commission prior to the competition.
Elsewhere, Capital High in Kanawha County is switching to distance learning for the remainder of the week, according to MetroNews reports. The county’s most populous school district in the state is reporting 210 positive cases of Covid-19.
Harrison County Schools Superintendent Dora Stutler said on Monday the school system would impose masks on buildings for the next 30 days, according to WVNews.
The Exponent Telegram reported that the Lewis County Board of Education voted to institute a mask mandate for all students and staff until October 1. The vote was taken at the board meeting on Monday – one day before the students returned to class for the new school year.
More than 100 staff and students at Lewis Schools were exposed in a week, with 16 students and nine staff testing positive.
Taking mitigation further, Marion County Superintendent Dr. Donna Hage, according to WVNews, released a statement over the weekend declaring a mask warrant for all schools in the county until at the end of the fall semester.
Governor Jim Justice, who is due to hold a press briefing on the pandemic on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., did not issue a mask warrant, preferring, he said, to leave this decision to local authorities. He said at his last briefing on Monday that he could step in if the Covid numbers continued to worsen.
And that’s exactly what they’ve been doing since the weekend of July 4th.
The number of hospitalizations rose in Tuesday’s report to 491, 18 more patients than Monday. On July 4, the number was 52.
Patients in intensive care units were at 169 on Tuesday, one lower than Monday but up from 17 on July 4.
There were 68 patients on ventilators on Tuesday, up 4 from Monday’s report and 6 from July 4.
In Wyoming County, where the school board did not impose masks, the infection rate reached 85.46 per 100,000 population, the second highest after Barbour County’s rate of 87.76.
Infection rates in southern West Virginia in Tuesday’s report were Fayette 39.08, Greenbrier 53.58, McDowell 69.71, Mercer 50.57, Monroe 39.82, Nicholas 50.74, Raleigh 52.97 and Summers 22.16.
The silver lining of the pandemic’s dark cloud is that while deaths continue to rise, the pace is much lower than it was last January. On Tuesday, the DHHR reported one additional death in the previous 24 hours, the tenth Covid-related death in the past week. In the first week of January, there were 180 such deaths.