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BLUEFIELD — Another five coronavirus cases were confirmed by health officials Wednesday in Mercer County, pushing the county’s cumulative total of COVID-19 cases to date to 44 with 30 active infections having been reported over the last two weeks.

The troubling surge in new virus cases comes as the long Fourth of July weekend is approaching, a time when many will once again be traveling.

Although the coronavirus pandemic began in mid-March, the majority of the virus cases confirmed to date in Mercer County have occurred within the last two weeks. Health officials say travel by area residents to Myrtle Beach, S.C., a virus hot spot, led to the alarming increase in local cases.

However, community spread of the virus is now becoming more prevalent in Mercer County.

Matthew Bragg, sanitarian with the Mercer County Health Department, said four of the five new cases Wednesday involve community transmission of the virus. He said one case involved travel.

Bragg said all five people have been ordered to quarantine, and contact tracing has been completed.

The 40th virus case was reported Wednesday morning, and four additional cases were then confirmed Wednesday evening by the Mercer County Health Department and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

That brings the cumulative total of coronavirus cases in Mercer County to date to 44 with 30 active, or new cases, having been reported in the last two weeks. Of the 44 cases to date, only 14 involve people who have already recovered from the virus and are now out of quarantine. Another 30 people who have contracted the virus remain in isolation, along with more than 90 other people identified through contact tracing who had direct contact with one of the 30 new cases.

Contact tracing involves locating those individuals who had direct contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient. Due to potential exposure to the virus, those individuals also are required by health officials to quarantine for a period of two weeks.

So far the Daily Telegraph is only aware of one hospitalization in Mercer County, and that individual has since recovered from the virus.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, according to the Associated Press. However, for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

So far 3,738 people in Mercer County have been tested for COVID-19, including 501 test results that have been completed within the last six days.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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