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PRINCETON — After a student athlete at Princeton Senior High School tested positive for COVID-19 last week, several other students and staff members at the school were tested for the virus and ordered to quarantine, health officials said Tuesday.

Those students were part of a larger group of 145 people who were tested for COVID-19 during a mass testing event held last week by the Mercer County Health Department. Officials are hoping to have the results of that mass testing event back soon, possibly as early as today.

Brenda Donithan, interim administrator of the Mercer County Health Department, said after the volleyball player at the high school tested positive for the virus, health officials made contact with other student athletes on the team, who also were tested for the virus and ordered to quarantine until their test results come back.

“They were asked to quarantine until they got tested, and to stay there (in quarantine) until the tests results come back,” Donithan said. 

Donithan said normal contact tracing procedures are still followed even when juveniles are involved.

“You can spread it to anybody you come into contact with,” Donithan said of an individual who has the virus, which is highly contagious. “You just have to keep emphasizing that.”

Earlier in the day Tuesday, it had appeared that another COVID-19 related death had occurred in Mercer County.

During his daily pandemic briefing, Governor Jim Justice said a 66-year-old woman from Mercer County had died as a result of COVID-19. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Bill J. Crouch also identified a 66-year-old woman from Mercer County as one of five new virus deaths in the state Tuesday.

But the woman was actually from Raleigh County, local and state officials confirmed later in the day.

Allison C. Adler, director of communications for the DHHR, later confirmed the error.

“The death should be attributed to Raleigh County instead of Mercer,” Adler said.

Donithan said the woman was initially reported as being from Mercer County, but was in fact from Raleigh County. She said a computer glitch, or an incorrect patient registration, may have led to the initial error.

“It turned out to be Raleigh County,” Donithan said of the death.

Mercer County’s cumulative total of virus cases to date stood at 384 Tuesday. It could surpass 400 if 16 or more of the 145 people who were tested for the virus last week come back as positive. So far, 15,952 people in Mercer County have been tested for coronavirus. There have been 24 deaths to date, all from the Princeton Health Care Center.

Stefanie Compton, administrator of the Princeton Health Care Center, said Tuesday that the nursing home – the site of a major COVID-19 outbreak that led to 24 virus-related deaths in Mercer County – was currently virus free.

“There have not been any new COVID cases related to Princeton Health Care Center since 8-24-20,” Compton said in a statement. “There are currently no active COVID cases within the facility.”

Compton said all of the residents at the nursing home have been and continue to be monitored frequently for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. She said any resident that displays potential signs or symptoms of COVID-19 are immediately placed on isolation precautions pending the results of COVID-19 testing.

In neighboring Virginia, a second COVID-19 related death was reported in rural Bland County by the Virginia Department of Health.

While the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to date in Bland County didn’t change Tuesday – the cumulative total stands at 64 cases with two hospitalizations – the number of virus-related deaths did increase from one to two.

The Virginia Department of Health doesn’t release the age or gender of COVID-19 related deaths. The state of Virginia also doesn’t provide a tally of active virus cases, or the number of recoveries.

A message left Tuesday by the Daily Telegraph with Robert Parker, a media spokesman for the Virginia Department of Health, wasn’t immediately returned.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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