BLUEFIELD – Residents of Mercer County were left with many questions after the second case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state of W.Va. was detected in Mercer County Wednesday evening.
"We do have a positive in the county,” Susan Kadar, administrator of the Mercer County Health Department, said. "You know, this is our job to track communicable diseases. We interview, we track where they have been, who they have had contact with and if they have had contact with people, we start tracking them and we follow it just as far as we can go down the chain.”
The person who tested positive for COVID-19 in Mercer County had a couple of “contacts” and all of them are in isolation, according to Kadar.
Rumors swirled on social media after the news broke of a positive case of coronavirus in Mercer County. Some believed that the person with the virus was possibly a surgeon and further rumors spread that they had passed away.
"No, that is total rumor. I can say they are not a surgeon. They are not in the medical field to my knowledge,” Kadar said. "No, the person who has tested positive is alive. They are okay, they are in isolation, anybody that they may have come in contact with is in isolation, we are stemming the spread from the source.”
The DHHR stated that both the Mercer County case and the W.Va. case in the Eastern Panhandle contracted the virus in travel-related instances. Kadar declined to comment on where the Mercer County case had travelled and when.
"We have to respect HIPPA and their privacy,” Kadar said. "There are things we just can't divulge in the investigation. We are doing everything we can to keep the public safe. We do communicable disease investigations on a daily basis so we have this down. We locate contacts, we talk about their travel, we know how to do this and we are doing it.”
The Mercer County Health Department is not testing for COVID-19 at their location, due to lack of testing supplies availability.
"We do not have the supplies we need to pull tests here at the health department,” Kadar said. "It is extremely hard to get the media and the kits to send it back in. We are hoping to get some more but Bluestone Health Centers and Med Express have stepped up to the bar and they are getting their supplies in and they are helping tremendously. We have no idea when we will get kits because there is a shortage all over the place. We have tried from private labs to get some, I do not know if they are going to the bigger testing facilities or areas where they are having major outbreaks. We are hoping these things come our way eventually."
Kadar said that the health department is getting a lot of calls, but they are not tracking how many they are referring to Bluestone Health Centers and Med Express.
"We are not tracking that. We are getting calls all the time and we are advising people to contact their primary care provider and they have to have a test for the flu and a respiratory panel. If those come back negative and they meet the other criteria for travel and whether they have been around any positive cases of COVID-19, they have to meet all of the CDC criteria before they can be tested for the COVID-19,” Kadar said. "If they call in and they have a temperature and their chest is congested, we tell them to call their primary physician and always call before you go so they can be aware you are coming and be ready for you. They have to have the pre-testing for other viruses before the coronavirus test.”
Kadar encouraged the public to follow CDC guidelines and to not panic.
"The big thing is that people have got to have good hygienic practices, washing hands, covering their cough, all of the non-pharmacutical intervention,” Kadar said. "Social distancing, that is what people need to be doing. If you protect yourself and stay away and follow these guidelines, you do not have to be afraid.”
As of March 18 at 7:30 p.m., the DHHR said that W.Va. public health lab has performed 148 COVID-19 tests. Of these test performed, 143 have come back negative, while 3 tests are still pending.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, as of 1:30 p.m. on March 19, Va. has tested 1,923 people, has 94 cases, 19 hospitalizations and two deaths.