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CHARLESTON — As West Virginia reported more than 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice — sick with the virus himself — directed state and pandemic leaders to approve requests from state hospitals for additional staffing support from the West Virginia National Guard.

Requests will be coordinated by the Joint Interagency Task Force to assign available Guard resources. Only two had been received as of Wednesday: Charleston Area Medical Center and Grafton City Hospital.

“From the very beginning of this pandemic, I have been committed to protecting our hospital systems, which are already struggling with staffing shortages due to the current COVID-19 surge,” Justice said in a news release. “We must keep our hospitals operating fully. I firmly believe that by reassigning our valued Guard members to this mission, West Virginia’s hospitals can get back up to capacity to care for our residents.”

When a hospital sees the need for extra staffing assistance due to a COVID-19 surge, a request by hospital leadership to its local emergency manager will be relayed to the JIATF, which will work with its partners for coordination, according to the release.

“The West Virginia National Guard is fully prepared to assist our hospital partners who have been at the front line of this pandemic,” stated Maj. Gen. Bill Crane, the adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, in the release. “A team of liaison officers and representatives from our JIATF have been conducting assessments today with our hospitals that are in need.”

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday that National Guard members in that state would deploy to 30 health care facilities this week. In December, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine deployed 2,400 members of the Ohio National Guard into hospitals to help overwhelmed staff members dealing with COVID-19 surges.

West Virginia reported a total of 4,440 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 13,607 of which are active, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ coronavirus dashboard.

A total of 5,481 West Virginians have died due to complications with the virus, with 29 of those reported overnight. Among the deaths reported were a 51-year-old woman from Cabell County and a 58-year-old woman from Putnam County.

The state’s cumulative percent positivity — which tracks the rate of positive cases compared to total tests given since the beginning of the pandemic — now rests at 7%, the highest it’s been since the pandemic began, after months of consistent increases.

As of Wednesday, 843 West Virginians were hospitalized with COVID-19 — 40 more than Tuesday and 99 more than Jan. 5, per the dashboard. Of those hospitalized, 216 were in intensive care units and 138 — 10 more than Tuesday — were receiving care on a ventilator.

The state dashboard began reporting pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations Wednesday. Based on that data, 17 children are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and three are in the ICU. No children are reported to be on a ventilator.

More than 73% of people hospitalized are unvaccinated. That increases to 87% for those in the ICU and 92% for people on ventilators.

Being fully vaccinated and boosted is the most effective way to avoid serious illness, hospitalization or death from a COVID-19 infection.

Active cases per county are: Barbour (58), Berkeley (1,580), Boone (137), Braxton (83), Brooke (129), Cabell (795), Calhoun (33), Clay (48), Doddridge (22), Fayette (292), Gilmer (18), Grant (74), Greenbrier (239), Hampshire (136), Hancock (214), Hardy (103), Harrison (414), Jackson (73), Jefferson (801), Kanawha (1,284), Lewis (74), Lincoln (127), Logan (184), Marion (420), Marshall (281), Mason (108), McDowell (94), Mercer (372), Mineral (288), Mingo (126), Monongalia (998), Monroe (89), Morgan (147), Nicholas (91), Ohio (449), Pendleton (37), Pleasants (44), Pocahontas (15), Preston (187), Putnam (440), Raleigh (799), Randolph (175), Ritchie (36), Roane (60), Summers (67), Taylor (98), Tucker (12), Tyler (39), Upshur (125), Wayne (200), Webster (25), Wetzel (120), Wirt (20), Wood (603) and Wyoming (124).

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