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West Virginia hits daily record in new coronavirus cases; GOP governors continue to rail at Biden vaccine initiatives

President Biden stands next to students working at a desk in a classroom
President Biden speaks with students in a sixth-grade science class during a visit to Brookland Middle School in Washington on Friday to speak about COVID-19 safety measures.
(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

West Virginia has set two daily records in the past week for positive coronavirus cases as the pandemic continues to ravage the state.

A total of 1,821 confirmed cases Saturday surpassed Thursday’s record 1,738 cases, according to state health data. The previous one-day high of more than 1,700 was set on Dec. 31.

The statewide total of 7,849 positive cases for the six days ending Saturday has already passed the seven-day total for the previous week, which had been the second-highest during the pandemic. Sunday’s figures will be released on Monday.

The highest for one week was nearly 8,200 cases in early January, a time before vaccines were available to most people under 65 years of age.

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The amount of weekly virus deaths statewide has gone up steadily since early August, when six deaths were reported for the week of Aug. 9. There have been 83 deaths in the past week and 3,207 overall.

Roughly 60% of West Virginia residents over age 12 have been fully vaccinated and about 75% have received one dose. About 83% of people currently hospitalized for the virus in West Virginia are unvaccinated, including 90% of ICU patients, said James Hoyer, a retired major general leading the state’s coronavirus task force, last week.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice has refused pleas to issue an indoor mask mandate. An earlier mandate was lifted in June.

U.S. studies released late last week show COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective against hospitalizations and death even as the highly contagious Delta variant has swept the nation. As Delta surged in early summer, those who were unvaccinated were 4½ times more likely than fully vaccinated people to get infected, over 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, several Republican governors continued to rail Sunday against President Biden’s sweeping new vaccine requirement, threatening legal action or complaining that the presidential action to protect the public’s health is “counterproductive.”

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, speaking on Fox News Sunday, said he plans to join other Republican governors in challenging Biden in court.

Ricketts said that Nebraska’s attorney general has been consulting with other attorneys general who say the federal government is overstepping its authority by mandating that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. The roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.

“This is really going to create huge problems for all small businesses and for our American workers. and again, you shouldn’t have to make the choice of keeping your job or getting a jab in the arm,” Ricketts said.

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Biden, in a visit to a school Friday, accused the Republican governors of being “cavalier” with the health of young Americans. Asked about those who would file legal challenges, he replied, “Have at it.”

In Nebraska, Ricketts has encouraged people to get vaccinated and wear masks while resisting mandates to do either.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska has risen over the past two weeks from 715.14 new cases per day on Aug. 27 to 822.86 new cases per day on Friday as the Delta variant spreads.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, another Republican, said in an appearance on “Meet the Press” that federal mandates hurt efforts to overcome resistance to taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Hutchinson has been working to persuade reluctant Arkansas residents to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. But on NBC, he said a comprehensive federal vaccination mandate “hardens the resistance.”

Hutchinson said federal requirements are “counterproductive,” interfering with state vaccination efforts instead of supporting them.

“We talked about the fact that we’ve historically had vaccination requirements in schools,” he said. “But those have always come at the state level, never at the national level.”

“And so this is an unprecedented assumption of federal mandate authority that really disrupts and divides the country. It divides our partnership between the federal government and the states. And it increases the division in terms of vaccination when we should all be together trying to increase the vaccination uptake,” he added.

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Hospitals in Iowa’s second-largest city, Cedar Rapids, are now limiting elective procedures because of increased numbers of patients driven partly by a surge in COVID-19 admissions.

The Cedar Falls Gazette reports that both UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital and Mercy Medical Center confirmed Friday their facilities are preserving capacity because of high patient counts in recent weeks. Cedar Rapids hospitals had not delayed or postponed elective surgeries and procedures since last fall.

St. Luke’s is limiting surgeries that require a hospital stay to 10 per day.

Mercy officials confirmed that it also is temporarily reducing the number of elective procedures that require hospital stays after surgery.


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