GREEN VALLEY — A surge of coronavirus cases in Mercer County coupled with an apparent lack of adherence to safety practices has health officials concerned about a continued spread of the illness locally.
As of Tuesday morning, the number of active infections in Mercer County had climbed to 25, and the cumulative total of virus cases to date has increased to 38. Thus far, 13 people have recovered from the virus, including one individual who was hospitalized for a period of time in Mercer County.
Public Health Officer Dr. Kathy Wides said the first Mercer County case was reported on March 15. From that date to June 19, Mercer only reported 13 cases of coronavirus.
However, from June 20 to Monday, the county has reported 24 new cases, Wides said. “That’s 24 new cases in one and one-half weeks.”
And a new case confirmed by health officials Tuesday morning brings the number of active cases to date to 25.
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Of the individuals who tested positive, Wides said four were related to travel to North Carolina — Lake Norman and Wilmington — 10 were related to travel to Myrtle Beach, and one was related to travel to Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
“The thing that scares me, is we have two people (who tested positive) with no contact with any person of interest,” Wides said. “There is a high likelihood they got this just by going about their business in the county.”
This business could include standing in line while shopping for essentials and going to church, Mercer County Health Department Director Susan Kadar said.
Wides and Kadar emphasized that wearing masks, hand washing, social distancing and avoiding crowds can stem the spread of the disease.
When individuals test positive, they must provide a list of people they have come in contact with to the health department’s Covid nurse.
“She (the Covid nurse) is calling like a hundred people a day, and she has to ask them to isolate and ask them about symptoms,” Wides said. “She’s getting an uncomfortable response from some people, regarding quarantining, but a lot are gracious.”
Kadar said other health department employees are making contact list calls as well. “We still have some people who are not happy to be quarantined.”
“I think the people of Mercer County have been blessed until now,” Wides said. “This could become real for us.”
Wides also cited concerns about the county being “down one hospital” with the sale of Bluefield Regional Medical Center to Princeton Community Hospital. “Princeton is limited as to how many patients they can take care of,” she said.
“If we’re at capacity then other hospitals we would send patients to are likely at capacity,” Wides said.
Wides and Kadar also discussed how the coronavirus can be spread by travel.
“Please don’t go to Myrtle Beach,” Wides said.
“Or Dollywood, or anyplace where there is a lot of people,” Kadar said. “You are putting yourself at risk and your community at risk. You may be positive and not know it.”
The importance of wearing masks in public was also emphasized by the public health officials.
“It’s not that anyone is trying to take away your civil liberties,” Wides said.
“It (mask wearing) could save your life,” Kadar said.
“It could save Grandma’s life,” Wides added.
Kadar said not wearing a mask puts an individual at “the luck of the draw” for contracting the virus.
“Why put yourself in front of the bullet?” Wides asked. “Mercer County is surging.”
“It doesn’t sound like a lot of cases, but it’s 24 people that may have infected a hundred and some,” Kadar said.
“It’s here,” Wides said. “Covid has arrived in our county.”
— Contact Samantha Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org.