Essential reporting in volatile times.

Not a Subscriber yet? Click here to take advantage of All access digital limited time offer $8.99 for your first 3 months.

Interested in Donating? Click #ISupportLocal for more information on supporting local journalism.

CHARLESTON — Outbreaks of COVID-19 in West Virginia churches continue to be identified as health leaders warn of impending death as cases continue to increase in the Mountain State.

On Friday, Gov. Jim Justice announced that several new church-related outbreaks of COVID-19 have been identified at places of worship in Boone, Kanawha, Raleigh and Taylor counties.

“Church is a place where we sing. Church is a place where we’re together in a confined area for at least an hour. It’s not like being outside,” Justice said. “Please wear a mask.”

The governor reminded West Virginians in church settings to follow the state’s safety guidelines, including using every other pew, maintaining social distancing and wearing face coverings.

State coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh took time to reach out to the younger population, sharing new research that shows those ages 18-25 who smoke or vape are at greater risk of complications with COVID-19. Twenty-three percent of West Virginia’s positive cases are between the ages of 20 and 29.

The state confirmed the first Cabell County person to die of COVID-19 — an 84-year-old man reported Thursday by the Cabell-Huntington Health Department — was the 100th death in the state. No new deaths were reported Friday.

There were 136 new positive cases of COVID-19 reported statewide Friday, for a total of 4,783.

Cases per county (case confirmed by lab test/probable case) are: Barbour (24/0), Berkeley (539/19), Boone (53/0), Braxton (6/0), Brooke (35/1), Cabell (207/7), Calhoun (4/0), Clay (15/0), Fayette (98/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (21/1), Greenbrier (76/0), Hampshire (46/0), Hancock (51/3), Hardy (48/1), Harrison (133/1), Jackson (149/0), Jefferson (262 /5), Kanawha (472/12), Lewis (24/1), Lincoln (19/0), Logan (42/0), Marion (124/3), Marshall (77/1), Mason (26/0), McDowell (12/0), Mercer (68/0), Mineral (69/2), Mingo (48/2), Monongalia (654/15), Monroe (14/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (19/1), Ohio (173/0), Pendleton (18/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (37/1), Preston (90/24), Putnam (99/1), Raleigh (92/3), Randolph (196/2), Ritchie (3/0), Roane (12/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (26/1), Tucker (7/0), Tyler (10/0), Upshur (31/2), Wayne (144/2), Webster (2/0), Wetzel (40/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (192/10) and Wyoming (7/0).

More than 72,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported nationwide Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for a total of 3,555,877. There have been 137,864 deaths related to the virus.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.