By CHARLES OWENS

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Seventeen individuals at a Mercer County nursing home are being closely monitored after experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms, health officials said Wednesday.

Two residents of the Princeton Health Care Center have already tested positive for COVID-19. Four staff members also have tested positive for the virus. Two have fully recovered, and another two continue to recover at home. A re-testing of all residents and staff members got underway Wednesday, and is expected to continue through Friday.

A statement released by the health care center Wednesday afternoon said there are 17 other individuals that are being closely monitored due to COVID-19-like like symptoms. However, some of those 17 individuals who are currently experiencing virus-like symptoms had recently tested negative for COVID-19, the statement said.

"All current residents who are symptomatic or confirmed cases are being isolated to a specific COVID-19 designated care area," the statement said. "Those individuals are being cared for by designated/dedicated staff members."

The statement indicated that the health center should have the results of the retesting of residents and staff members in three to five days.

"Individual residents and/or their responsible parties will be notified as results are received," the statement added. "Any identified positive staff member will be required to quarantine to home as well as other interventions as outlined by the local and state health officials.

The visitation of residents at the health center remains suspended until further notice.

"We continue to encourage window visits, the use of Skype video conferencing, phone calls and written communication to stay in touch with loved ones," the statement said.

The health center is increasing infection control practices, which include employee screenings, the use of personal protective equipment while in the facility and increased cleaning procedures.

The Princeton Health Care Center is a 120-bed facility.

The COVID-19 virus has been surging in Mercer County over the past four weeks. The increase in local cases has been attributed to travel by area residents to Myrtle Beach, S.C., which is a COVID-19 virus hot spot.

Two new coronavirus cases in Mercer County were confirmed Wednesday evening by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. That brings the county's cumulative total of virus cases to date to 76. That number includes 47 people who have recovered from the virus and 29 cases that remain active and involve individuals who are in quarantine, according to the Mercer County Health Department.

Matthew Bragg, sanitarian for the health department, said Wednesday that 18 percent of the current 76 virus cases in Mercer County are attributed to travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C. Bragg said another 24 percent is due to travel by area residents to other locations.

However, he said 58 percent of the current cases are the result of community spread of 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.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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