By CHARLES OWENS

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Active virus cases in Mercer County jumped again Tuesday, climbing to 1,128 new infections. That's up from 1,090 active cases a day earlier on Monday.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Tuesday also reported a new nursing home death in Mercer County and confirmed a third breakthrough death in Mercer County involving a vaccinated individual.

The city of Princeton also announced Tuesday that it was encouraging its citizens to mask up and take the vaccine, passing a resolution that urged but didn't mandate masking and vaccines.

The latest nursing home death in Mercer County was at the Princeton Health Care Center, according to DHHR statistics released later in the day Tuesday. The health care center was the site of 24 deaths last year during the earlier months of the pandemic. The DHHR is now reporting a cumulative total of 25 deaths at the Princeton Health Care Center, which is still considered an active outbreak site with four staff members currently listed as positive for the virus, the DHHR said.

The DHHR also reported active outbreaks at the Stonerise Princeton Center with four virus cases involving staff members and an active outbreak at the Mercer Nursing and Rehabilitation Center involving one resident and two staff members. No deaths in the current outbreaks have been reported at those two facilities.

In neighboring McDowell County, an outbreak is underway at the McDowell County Continuous Care Center in Gary involving 19 residents and four staff members.

The DHHR also reported the third breakthrough death Tuesday for Mercer County involving a vaccinated individual. So far three breakthrough deaths have been reported in Mercer County with a cumulative total of 262 breakthrough cases involving vaccinated individuals to date, a number that is still incredibly low when compared to the 4,981 virus cases that have been reported to date in Mercer County.

The DHHR also reported a new virus death Tuesday in Mercer County, a 55-year-old female. That brings the cumulative total of virus-related deaths to date in Mercer County to 138.

In one positive sign, vaccination rates are still climbing in Mercer County. As of Tuesday evening, 27,619 people in Mercer County had received at least one dose of the vaccine, which equals out to 47 percent of the county's eligible population. That's up from 27,545 people on Monday.

A local governing body also encouraged masks and vaccines Tuesday.

During a Princeton City Council meeting, the board voted unanimously to pass a resolution encouraging masks indoors and at larger gatherings, as well as hand washing and sanitizing. The resolution also specifically urges city residents, "whose health and conscience permits," to take the "scientifically proven and effective COVID-19 vaccine."

City Clerk Kenneth Clay said council drafted the resolution after health officials in Mercer County held a press conference to address the ongoing surge in new virus cases in Mercer County, which has led to a shortage of available beds at Princeton Community Hospital and is straining the local health care system.

According to the resolution, "the latest surge of the Delta variant has strained local emergency resources to the extreme, including the Princeton Rescue Squad, the 911 center and Princeton Community Hospital."

The resolution further states that the highly-contagious Delta variant "prays upon those in younger age groups more so than senior adults, especially those who have remained unvaccinated."

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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