West Virginia’s public schools have 22 active COVID-19 outbreaks in 15 counties that total for 272 cases as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout West Virginia and across the country during the winter months.
A COVID-19 incident is classified as an outbreak in a school setting if there are three or more cases within a specified core group or multiple cases comprising at least 10% of students, teachers or staff within a specified core group, according to the West Virginia Department of Education. An incident is also classified as an outbreak if it is epidemiologically linked to the school setting and there are cases within 14 days of each other that were not close contacts of each other in another setting.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are also rising in the state. According to the most recent numbers from the Department of Health and Human Resources, there are 634 hospitalizations, 190 people in an intensive care unit and 105 people on ventilators.
The omicron variant, which many health officials believe is less severe than the original strain and the delta variant, is not strongly present in West Virginia at the moment. During a Tuesday news conference, Gov. Jim Justice said the number was 18, which is six times higher than it was last Thursday when the state only had three cases.
“These numbers aren’t big yet, but it’s a big increase in just a few days,” Justice said. “We really haven’t seen Omicron in West Virginia yet, but we know it’s sweeping across the nation right now.”
The governor has been encouraging eligible West Virginians to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the booster shot. More than 71% of adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine, but slightly less than 60% are fully vaccinated. More than one-third of West Virginians have received a booster shot. Vaccination rates are higher among older residents and lower among younger residents. Death and serious complications from COVID-19 are rare for younger people, but the risk increases if a person has a compromised immune system or other health issue and as a person gets older.