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HUNTINGTON — A church in Cabell County joined the list of places of worship in West Virginia with an outbreak of COVID-19, Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday.

Eighty-nine of West Virginia’s 1,797 active COVID-19 cases are connected to West Virginia churches in Cabell, Logan, Mason, Grant and Taylor counties. There are seven outbreaks among those five counties, Justice said. None of the churches have been identified.

Dr. Clay Marsh, state coronavirus czar, said with the way the virus spreads — through droplets and aerosol — church is a vulnerable place.

“I think what’s important for parishioners or the clergy oversight know, is that singing or chanting increases those droplets and aerosol,” Marsh said. “So that is something to think about as we are in churches together, if we are having problems or we can’t distance sufficiently — that is a documented instrument to reduce spread.”

In an interview with The Herald-Dispatch on Friday, Cabell-Huntington Health Department medical officer Dr. Michael Kilkenny said he believes Cabell County is doing well adhering to the mask mandate, but due to lag time in testing and data collection, it will be a few more weeks before we see the benefits.

“A couple of weeks could show a reduction,” Kilkenny said. “That’s what we look for to tackle some of these other challenges, to see the opportunities we have and to keep moving toward the day we have a vaccine: 2021 being a better year than 2020.”

Though spread of the virus is down (the state has the eighth-lowest r-values — rate of spread — in the nation), hospitalizations Friday were the highest than at any other point in the pandemic, with 122 hospitalized, 46 in ICU and 14 on ventilators.

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said the reported patient admitted to the surge hospital at Saint Francis Hospital in Charleston was actually not admitted. No patients have been admitted to the surge space as of Friday afternoon, but Crouch said they would be coming.

There were 156 new positive cases reported Friday, as well as three new deaths: an 81-year old woman from Pleasants County, a 66-year old man from Mingo County and a 73-year old man from Mingo County. The total deaths related to COVID-19 is now 127.

Total cases per county (case confirmed by lab test/probable case): Barbour (29/0), Berkeley (658/28), Boone (97/0), Braxton (8/0), Brooke (61/1), Cabell (364/9), Calhoun (6/0), Clay (17/1), Doddridge (5/0), Fayette (140/0), Gilmer (16/0), Grant (116/1), Greenbrier (91/0), Hampshire (76/0), Hancock (105/4), Hardy (57/1), Harrison (213/1), Jackson (162/0), Jefferson (288/6), Kanawha (885/13), Lewis (28/1), Lincoln (81/0), Logan (209/0), Marion (179/4), Marshall (126/4), Mason (54/0), McDowell (57/1), Mercer (177/0), Mineral (115/2), Mingo (156/2), Monongalia (918/17), Monroe (20/1), Morgan (25/1), Nicholas (35/1), Ohio (263/3), Pendleton (39/1), Pleasants (11/1), Pocahontas (40/1), Preston (101/21), Putnam (185/1), Raleigh (208/7), Randolph (204/4), Ritchie (3/0), Roane (15/0), Summers (7/0), Taylor (55/1), Tucker (11/0), Tyler (13/0), Upshur (36/3), Wayne (198/2), Webster (4/0), Wetzel (42/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (231/12), Wyoming (31/0).

The health department reported 166 active cases.

In Ohio, the Lawrence County Health Department reported 19 new positive cases, with patients’ ages ranging from 2 to 90. Two are children.

There are now 97 active cases in Lawrence County, with two new patients reported hospitalized Friday.

Statewide, 1,204 new positive cases were reported, as well as 34 new deaths, for a total of 3,652.

In Kentucky, the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department reported two new positive cases Friday: 65-year-old and 58-year-old women, both isolated at home. There are 41 active cases in the county.

Statewide, 573 new positive cases were reported, as well as four new deaths, for a total of 764.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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