By CHARLES OWENS

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — A COVID-19 outbreak at a Princeton nursing home has pushed Mercer County’s cumulative total of virus cases to date to 108, an increase of 17 cases over the last 24 hours.

Thirty five individuals at the Princeton Health Care Center, including residents and staff members, have tested positive for COVID-19 since March with the majority of those infections occurring over the last two weeks.

Gov. Jim Justice ordered the West Virginia National Guard to respond to the health care center Monday to assist with the virus response, including testing of residents and employees.

“We are trying in every way we can to suppress this,” Justice said of the Mercer County outbreak.

Bill Crouch, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources (DDHR), said the outbreak at Princeton Health Center long-term care facility has resulted in 35 positive cases so far involving both patients and staff members.

More testing is being done now and the National Guard started last week in testing all 102 patients and 188 staff, with 54 test results still pending that could come in this afternoon.

The total number of active virus cases in Mercer County now stands at 75. These are 75 individuals who are supposed to be isolating for a two-week period. The number of people who have recovered from the virus to date in Mercer County stands at 31, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

So far only one virus-related death has been reported in Mercer County, and that occurred earlier during the pandemic and involved a transient who wasn’t a resident of Mercer County, but died at Princeton Community Hospital as a result of virus-related complications.

McDowell County also reported an increase of five virus-related cases in the last 24 hours, according to the McDowell County Health Department. That brings the county’s cumulative total of virus cases to date to 21.

The health department said all five new cases are the result of community spread of the COVID-19 virus.

 In neighboring Virginia, Tazewell County continues to outpace parts of Southwest Virginia in terms of new COVID-19 cases.

Nine new virus cases were reported in Tazewell County over the last 24 hours, increasing its cumulative total of infections to date from 68 to 77, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Two recent virus-related hospitalizations also have been reported in Tazewell County.

Despite the surge in new cases, there have been no coronavirus-related deaths in Tazewell County. However, virus-related deaths have been reported in counties neighboring Tazewell.

The number of virus cases in neighboring Russell County is lower with a cumulative total of 52 infections. However, eight people have been hospitalized in Russell County as a result of COVID-19 with one virus-related death.

Neighboring Smyth County has a higher cumulative total virus count of 93 cases with six virus-related hospitalizations and two virus-related deaths.

Tazewell County also has surpassed neighboring Buchanan County in terms of its cumulative total of virus cases. Buchanan County currently stands at 64 cases with two virus-related hospitalizations.

Giles County is still holding at 20 cases with one virus-related hospitalization and Bland County is still reporting only seven cases with no hospitalizations.

Wythe County is now up to three virus-related deaths with a cumulative total of 94 cases and 10 virus-related hospitalizations.

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.

Virginia does not currently release data regarding recoveries and active cases. Although some have called upon the administration of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, to release this data, it is still not currently available.

Without official confirmation, it can only be assumed that the majority of the older virus cases in the Southwest Virginia counties involve people who have already recovered from the virus and are no longer in quarantine.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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