By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON — New COVID-19 cases continue to be reported at area schools and colleges, leading to additional disruptions and quarantines involving students and staff members.
In Mercer County, school officials Monday confirmed a positive coronavirus case involving a bus operator.
According to a statement released by the school system, students and staff known to be exposed as a result of the COVID-19 case involving the bus operator have been notified by health officials to quarantine.
The statement said the Mercer County Health Department will conduct further contact tracing and that deep cleaning and disinfecting of all affected areas will be completed.
In neighboring Tazewell County, school officials announced Monday that they have decided to move Dudley Primary School to remote only learning for the next two weeks. Dudley Primary joins Graham Intermediate School, Graham Middle School and Graham High School in offering virtual only classes for the next two weeks.
Tazewell County School Superintendent Dr. Chris Stacy said remote learning for the four Bluefield areas schools is currently planned through Oct. 9. The school system also confirmed two additional COVID-19 cases, one involving a student in the Bluefield area and another involving an employee in the Tazewell area, Stacy said in a statement released online.
Stacy said the school system has been advised that several students and staff members will need to be quarantined due to exposure with individuals outside of the school system.
At Bluefield College, officials confirmed over the weekend that 100 students are now in quarantine with testing revealing 34 new COVID- 19 cases on campus. The college also has opted to continue with remote, or virtual only, learning for the next two weeks.
“Please allow me to share information that led to this decision,” Bluefield College President Dr. David Olive said in a prepared statement. “First, we continue to have positive cases, and a number of those new cases — too many — are outside the ‘bubble’ of students who are already in quarantine and isolation. After additional testing today (Sunday, Sept. 27), we have had 34 students test positive since September 14. At present, 100 students are either in quarantine or isolation. We also now have four employees and two graduate assistants who have tested positive, along with a handful more who are in isolation and being observed.
“Secondly, it is our hope this two-week period will slow the daily number of students who are testing positive, as well as provide a safe environment that lessens the risk of exposure for our employees, especially our faculty,” Olive added. “Tazewell County Schools also recently suspended in-class instruction at all of the Bluefield, Va. schools with plans to return on October 12; so our time frame aligns with that of the local public school system.”
Olive said students with potential exposure to the virus are placed in quarantine as a precaution.
“While it is easy to be shocked at the number in quarantine or isolation, it is important to remember this is a safety precaution," Olive said in a news release. "It is our hope this two-week period will slow the number of students who are testing positive, as well as provide a safe environment that lessens the risk of exposure for our employees. Our protocols allow for these temporary pauses in seated instruction. It is our hope to resume in person instruction by October 12.”
Olive said students who test positive for COVID-19 are immediately placed in quarantine while those who may have been exposed are placed in isolation until they test negative for the virus. Affected students are in the care of the college’s student development team, he said.
At Concord University, the number of active virus cases on campus currently stands at 10 with a total of 22 virus cases reported to date, according to the university.
Nine new virus cases were reported Monday in Mercer County, according to Brenda Donithan, interim administrator of the Mercer County Health Department. That brings the county’s cumulative total of virus cases to date to 452. Of that number, 188 of the cases are considered active and involve individuals who are in quarantine. Another 267 individuals in Mercer County have recovered from the virus.
Donithan said the total number of virus deaths in Mercer County stands at 29. Of the 29 deaths, 24 are associated with the Princeton Health Care Center, a former and current outbreak site.
In Monroe County, health officials Monday confirmed the county's 8th COVID-19 related death.
“It is with great regret that we have to announce Monroe County’s eighth death related to COVID-19, a 73 year old male,” the Monroe County Health Department said in a prepared statement. “Our sincerest condolences to his family.”
Seven earlier deaths in Monroe County occurred at the Springfield Center in Lindside. However, the nursing home is no longer considered an outbreak site by state health officials. As of Monday afternoon, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources was reporting no new virus cases involving residents or staff of the nursing home.
The health department didn’t say if the eighth death was associated with the nursing home.
In McDowell County, health officials confirmed six new COVID-19 cases Monday, and all were attributed to community spread of the virus.
A statement released by the McDowell County Health Department said the six new cases were located across the county. It said contact tracing was underway in all six cases.
— Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org