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Mineral County deals with community spread, looks ahead to vaccination efforts

KEYSER, W.Va. — So far this month there have been more than 30 COVID-19 related deaths in Mineral County and more than 500 new cases reported.

Mineral County Health Department Administrator A.J. Root said of the more than 50 total deaths since the pandemic began a recent nursing home outbreak has been attributed to about half of those deaths.

“It has been a tough time for Mineral County over the last couple of weeks and actually over the last month and a half beginning of November we were at somewhere around five deaths total. But we have definitely seen that increase,” Root said. “Of course a lot of that I would say half of that has been attributed to one of our nursing home outbreaks. But we have see quite a few unfortunately in our community as well. We are not used to seeing something like this and of course it is very saddening to all of us.”

At the Piney Valley Nursing home the total number of resident deaths is to 28 with 97 residents and 71 employees testing positive since the beginning of the outbreak. Fifty of the residents and 59 of the employees that have recovered so far.

Root said social gatherings also contributed to the surge in cases since October where at the beginning of the month there was only one active case and four total deaths.

“People are in doors more we have holidays whether it goes back to Halloween, There were some other parties that went on as far as different activities whether it was birthdays or homecoming type things but then we had an election with everyone around each other,” Root said. “We have also had Thanksgiving which thankfully we haven’t seen as big of a spike as I thought we would. Not that we aren’t getting cases every day believe me that has not stopped. It is not that astronomical push that I thought we would have it hasn’t quite reached that yet and hopefully we don’t.”

Root said he believes one reason for the surge is COVID fatigue.

“Whether it is everyone being COVID tired for a while. I think people are starting to get more serious about it again but I think we just went through that period where everyone is frustrated and I get it I am right there with a lot of people,” he said. “I would love to see us get back to normal but right now there is just things that we are asking everyone to do and I am not asking anyone to do anything I am not willing to do myself. And its the only way we are going to get through this as a community and being considerate.”

Root said a new company is taking over the community testing this week. He said Mineral County is one first sites in the state to begin testing with Curative Labs. The tests require participants to pre-register online for the walk up testing which is a self administered swab oral test.

Root said now the health department can begin focusing on vaccinations which begin this week.

“The switch is mainly because we are shifting focus to vaccination at this point,” Root said. “While the testing is still something that needs to be done with the size of our staff and the cases that are coming in and we are still using a lot of volunteers from the community as far as the nursing students, the school nurses to help with case investigation along with the National Guard we are getting ready to take on an endeavor that has never been done before we are looking at mass vaccination of our communities.”

Root said he is ready to move into the vaccination phase.

“Anything that can get us out of this pandemic and get us back to what many people are wanting normalcy I think it is a good thing,” he said. “It is going to be a process and it is going to take a little bit of time but if we can break that cycle and break that chain it is definitely going to help. It doesn’t change for the time being wearing masks, doing the social distancing that is going to be around for a little while.”

Root said it is important for residents to remember to continue to socially distance, wear a mask properly and pulling together as a community.

“Our thoughts and prayers definitely go out to the families that have been affected by this and that is why we are doing what we are doing we are trying to figure out how we can help people with this and save lives and stop this pandemic,” Root said.