CHARLESTON — A mandatory quarantine on residents who travel to Myrtle Beach or other hotspot vacation destinations is being considered for West Virginia, especially in southern counties.
Gov. Jim Justice said during his pandemic briefing Monday because of the surge of travel-related positive COVID-19 cases the mandatory testing and quarantine on return to the state is “surely on the table now.”
“My biggest concern is what is going on in our southern counties,” he said, referring to Mercer, Logan and Mingo counties in particular, all of which have seen recent outbreaks.
“This thing is migrating from the South to us,” he said. “The majority of all of this is driven by Myrtle Beach and other out-of-state travel.”
A community outbreak is like putting nightcrawlers in a can, he said, because they will quickly crawl out in different spots and spread out.
“We have got 100 cases (153 in all and 63 in the last week) in Logan County,” he said. “It is absolutely ridiculous to have 100 cases in Logan County (considering the low population of about 32,000).”
Mercer County now has had a total of 165 (as of Monday) with 76 new cases in the last week. Mingo has seen 132 cases with 32 in the last week.
As of Monday, McDowell County has had 29 positive COVID-19 cases in one week, bringing the total to 43 with 31 active.
Statewide, the number of active positive cases was up to 1,938, setting a new record, with 236 new positives over the weekend.
Justice said if the numbers don’t improve more restrictions will be considered for those who return from travel out of state.
A related concern, he said, is that more and more medical personnel and staff at nursing homes are contracting the virus.
“We are very concerned…” he said, adding when too many are out due to the virus, “we can’t cover for the others. We’ve got to keep our health care workers and staff safe … We’ve got to protect them.”
Outbreaks at Logan Regional Hospital and Princeton Health Care Center have impacted staff and are related to travel.
Bill Crouch, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources, said 22 staff at Logan Regional tested positive and 31 staff at Princeton Health Care Center.
Dr. Ayne Amjad, state Health Officer and head of the Bureau of Public Health, said anyone who returns from out of state travel should be tested.
When the testing is done after travel, people should self-quarantine until the results are received, she said.
An additional danger of the virus is that it now appears to have long-term effects on some people.
“The scary thing is longer-term complications,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, adding that testing shows the heart is impacted in some people.
“We need to underscore to our young people this is not just the flu,” he said, urging everyone to be aware of the possible lingering consequences.
Marsh also reiterated the concern about southern West Virginia counties, a region that has a population with a “higher set of risks” related to chronic health issues.
Everyone should take the virus seriously, he said, and stop gathering in crowds and wear a mask.
Justice also on Monday said he will have a “significant announcement” on Wednesday related to the start of public schools.
Justice said he is still working on the details with the state Department of Education and indicated the announcement may be related to a fourth federal stimulus package now being negotiated in the U.S. Senate that contains money for public school reopenings.
“I think they are going to pump in this … maybe $150 billion, to making our schools safer,” he said. “I am really hoping we can go back to school (on Sept. 8) but I am respectful of everyone’s feelings. No one is going to pressure me on this.”
Justice said he wants schools to start as safely as possible for everyone, but the pandemic makes it an “open-ended situation.”
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com