If the uptick in Covid cases and related hospitalizations continues in West Virginia, state hospitals could hit a critical capacity point by around Labor Day.
Retired Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, director of the state Joint InterAgency Task Force, said during Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing Thursday an analysis of the current data shows “we are on a path to sometime around Labor Day to hit the 500 mark in hospitalizations.”
Hoyer said that is important because staffing issues in hospitals limit the availability of beds for Covid patients.
As of Thursday, state hospitals had 330 Covid patients with 39 in ICUs and five on ventilators. In April, only 77 Covid patients were hospitalized.
According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, the state also saw 1,030 new positive cases in the previous 24 hours with almost 3,000 active cases.
Hoyer also said another key metric in hospital cases is the number of daily Covid admissions.
“Our numbers are rising,” he said, with 54 admitted on Thursday.
State Covid-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said that as the number of Covid cases grows, so do the incidents of the Omicron BA.5 variant, which is already dominant in the country, making up more than 70 percent of cases.
Ongoing sequencing of Covid cases in the state showed the BA.5 variant at only 1 percent of cases during the last week, Marsh said, but jumping to 33 percent the first week of July.
“We have anticipated the BA.5 is taking over the other variants,” he said, which is not good news.
“We know the BA.5 is by far the most infectious variant we have seen to date. It also has the ability to reinfect people who have been infected previously and also people who have not been keeping up to date with vaccines.”
Data from other countries also show an increase in hospitalizations and deaths in those countries with older populations.
Marsh said that trend is also being seen in Los Angeles with the BA.5 variant as the death toll is increasing.
This is another reason why people 50 and over should take all vaccinations, he added, since being up to date reduces the risk of dying from the variant by 42 times, and West Virginia has an older population.
Hoyer said the task force continues to work with hospitals and long-term care facilities to discuss resources and possible solutions if problems were to arise. A “table top exercise” of coordinating all of those involved in such a scenario is set for the first week in August.
Hoyer said some issues on the table include when to reinstall Covid mask and sanitation policies in facilities and at what point members of the National Guard would be called in to help.