Board of Health

Members of the Mercer County Board of Health convene on Monday to discuss the county’s growing coronavirus case count.

BLUEFIELD — A total of five hospitalizations – three of them within the past two weeks – one death of a transient from out of state and a new total of 57 COVID-19 cases were confirmed Monday in Mercer County while new testing opportunities were scheduled.

Three Mercer County residents have been hospitalized for COVID-19 during the past two weeks while the county’s overall number of cases rose Monday by seven new cases to 57.

Preparations were being made Monday for free COVID-19 testing this Saturday at the Mercer County Health Department while the number of cases continued to rise. The number of Mercer County cases rose that same day from 50 to 57.

“We have had three people in the hospital in the last two weeks,” said Dr. Kathy Wides, county health officer, said. “Those three are community (transmission) related. The majority of our cases are now community spread.”

Wides said that she believed that one of the people who were hospitalized in the last two weeks had left the hospital.

One hospitalized person, a “transient” who caught the virus outside West Virginia and came to Mercer County early in the lockdown period, died, Wides said. Wides was away from her records and did not have the exact date.

The patient passed away at Princeton Community Hospital from complications from COVID-19, she said.

“She is not officially listed as a West Virginia casualty,” Wides stated.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has not listed any deaths in Mercer County in its daily updates.

Fifty percent of Mercer County’s cases are connected with community transmission. The county had 50 cases of 1 p.m. Monday. At that time, the county had seen 37 new cases in the last two weeks. An estimated 26 percent of those cases were related to travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C. and surrounding areas; and the remaining 24 percent were related to travel to other areas, according to sanitary Matthew Bragg with the county health department.

Gov. Jim Justice recently started an initiative to increase testing opportunities. In response to this initiative, the health department will be offering free COVID-19 testing Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. This testing will be available to all individuals in Mercer County, including people who are not showing any symptoms, and proof of insurance will not be required. 

Drive-through testing will be conducted in the health department’s parking lot off Blue Prince Road across from the new Mountain Valley Elementary School. Medical personnel who can collect the testing swabs are still needed, health officials said. 

Registered nurses, LPNs and EMS personnel could collect the test samples, Wides said. The actual testing will be conducted by QLabs in Charleston. People who test positive will be contacted by the health department.

Other testing opportunities are available this week in Mercer County. On Saturday, Faith Family Health at 617 Mercer Street will offer testing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. People seeking a test are asked to bring their insurance cards. If they do not have insurance or insurance does not pay the entire amount, Medicaid can help under the CARES Act.

Another opportunity for drive-through testing will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at Bluestone Primary Care on 106 Thorn Street, according to Sabrina Huffman, FNP- BC.

“It’s open to anyone, symptoms or not, and they don’t have to have a physician’s order,” Huffman stated. “It is free testing. We will bill insurance if they have insurance. If no insurance, no charge. That’s for the swab.”

People who seeking an antibody test to see if they have had the virus can get an order form to get the testing done at LabCorps or any of the Bluestone locations, she said.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com 

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