The Other McCain

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West Virginia’s COVID-19 ‘Hot Spot’

Posted on | May 23, 2020 | No Comments

After our trip to the Longbranch Saloon in Hedgesville, W.Va., I discovered that we had actually been in more danger than I knew:

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday that West Virginia National Guard members were being sent immediately to the Eastern Panhandle because of an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases.
Depending on their findings, Justice said he may consider making it mandatory to wear a face covering or mask while in public in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
“We have been really watching an issue that’s been brewing in the Eastern Panhandle in Berkeley and Jefferson counties again,” he said during a news conference.
“Those numbers are not good and that’s all there is to it. Berkeley and Jefferson had 15 and 20 (new) positive cases, respectively, yesterday,” he said.
It’s time for action, but not time to panic, he said.
“We’re running to the fire. I’ve directed our National Guard to go, and go within hours, and to report back to me first thing in the morning as to all of their findings — with the assistance of the health people there — and any and everything they can come up with,” Justice said. . . .
State Department of Health and Human Resources’ numbers have consistently shown a local increase in the number of positive cases and especially during the last 10 days.
Berkeley had 191 cases on May 12, and that number had grown to 248 Thursday morning.
Jefferson had 88 on the same date, but the number had risen to 131 cases Thursday morning, according to DHHR data posted on its COVID-19 dashboard.
Justice said the increase in cases may stem from the counties’ proximity to nearby metropolitan areas like Washington, D.C., where the virus is also on the uptick. . . .
Both counties had previously been declared coronavirus “hot spots” because of their higher number of positive cases.

You’re going to see lots of stories like this about different parts of the country as statewide lockdowns end. In the case of West Virginia, which has a very low rate of infection ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Eastern Panhandle was a “hot spot” only in comparison to the rest of the state, and an increase of about 45 cases in 10 days in Berkeley County is really a drop in the bucket, by nationwide standards.

Georgia, Florida and Texas have all reopened without experiencing disaster — so far, so good — but that doesn’t mean there won’t be “spikes” or localized outbreaks that cause public-health concerns. If your local area’s current level of infection is low, a couple dozen new cases can produce a troubling “spike” in the statistical trend, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in imminent danger. The liberal media have spent weeks trying to promote the narrative that corpses will soon be stacking up like cordwood in rural America (e.g., “The coronavirus invades Trump country”), but most of this is just statistical voodoo: “Look at this outbreak at a North Dakota meat-processing plant! ICU overcrowding in Montgomery, Alabama! See? We told you so!” If you examine such stories with a skeptical eye, however, you find that anomalous events are being dishonestly portrayed as examples of a “trend” that doesn’t actually exist. Meanwhile, in West Virginia:

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — State officials are moving forward with a plan to address the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
But people won’t be required to wear face coverings while in public, Gov. Jim Justice said during a news conference Friday.
The decision comes at the same time results have been announced for the approximately 1,600 local residents who were tested last weekend in Martinsburg and Charles Town.
Justice said officials had been compiling information on the situation from a number of sources including the West Virginia National Guard, legislators, local health departments and other state health professionals.
“The net of the whole thing, at least at this time, is that everyone concluded things are OK and aren’t at high alert,” he said.
“We want people to continue to know in Berkeley and Jefferson counties that it’s a high-exposure area. So we want them to continue to wear a mask as much as possible but we’re not going to make it mandatory,” he said. . . .
[T]here will be a greater emphasis on community testing in the Eastern Panhandle, including Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard.
Bill Kearns, executive director of the Berkeley-Morgan County Board of Health, said results are now available from the testing conducted May 15 and 16.
Fifteen positive cases were reported each from Berkeley and Jefferson counties, he said.
“You have to remember that we’re talking about testing 872 people in Berkeley County, which has a total population of about 119,000, so the number was relatively low,” he said.
“But out of those 872 people who tested positive, the amount only comes out to be about 1.6 percent,” he said.

Widespread testing with a low rate of positive results will produce an increase in the number of known cases, but that doesn’t mean the community is experiencing an emergency situation, and so the governor is not going to make it mandatory to wear masks in Berkeley County. This is eminently sensible, far more sensible than what is going on in Michigan, where the wretched Gretchen Whitmer has extended her statewide lockdown order until June 12. She’s doing everything possible to make sure Trump wins Michigan by a landslide in November.


 

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