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Explaining West Virginia’s “high-risk” status for COVID-19 cases

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(WVVA) - Time and again, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has stressed one particular point in his press conferences.

"We've got to realize just this," he said in his Monday address. "We are a very high risk, if not the highest-risk state."

But what does it mean to be a high-risk state during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Clinical Director of Primary Care at Princeton Community Hospital, Nancy Lohuis, explains its all about the state's population.

"When we look at West Virginia, we have certain demographics that show that we are indeed at very high risk," she said.

The list of factors that increase a person's risk for contracting a serious case of COVID-19 varies from age and gender to specific medical conditions.

via Nancy Lohuis M.D.

Three of the largest factors include high blood pressure/diabetes, COPD and chronic kidney disease.

Studies show West Virginia ranks first in the nation for patients with cardiovascular disease, second in the nation in diabetes and first in the country in residents with COPD.

Individuals with cardiovascular disease are up to three times more likely to contract a serious case of the virus, while those with COPD are up to 11.5 times more likely to do so.

But, Dr. Lohuis insists the solution for high-risk residents is simple.

"My new motto for patients who are high risk is stay home, stay healthy," she urged. "Stay away -- don't go out. Have people bring things to you and drop them off at the door. Whatever is necessary to stay away from this disease, if you are high risk, is very important."

Dr. Lohuis shared that primary care providers are hoping to conduct most of their patient meetings via video conference through a company called Telehealth. Individuals with fever or respiratory symptoms are urged to call their primary care doctor prior to scheduling an appointment.

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