COVID-19 in W.Va.

Graphic courtesy of the West Virginia Press Association

By CHARLES OWENS

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — The number of active coronavirus cases in Mercer County climbed to 20 on Saturday, continuing an upward trend in new infections.

In neighboring Virginia, health officials Saturday reported 13 new virus cases in Buchanan County and two new cases in Tazewell County.

Mercer County has now reported 20 new COVID-19 cases in the last 12 days with a cumulative total of 33 infections to date. That total includes 13 people who have already recovered from the virus. Another 20 people remain in quarantine, along with 91 other individuals identified through contract tracing, who came into contact with one of the 18 new infections. They too are required to self isolate for two weeks.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 3,392 people have been tested to date in Mercer County for COVID-19.

The majority of the new infections that have been reported to date are a result of travel, with more than half of those cases involving travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C., a virus hot spot area, according to Matthew Bragg, sanitarian for the Mercer County Health Department.

Contact tracing involves locating those individuals who had direct contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient. Due to potential exposure to the virus, those individuals also are required by health officials to quarantine for a period of time.

So far only one person has been hospitalized in Mercer County as a result of COVID-19 related complications. But that case is no longer considered active and the individual is no longer hospitalized.

A new coronavirus case also was reported Friday in Monroe County, which increased its cumulative total of virus cases to date to 10. However, only two of those 10 cases is currently considered active.

In a Facebook posting Friday, the Monroe County Health Department said it is investigating the new case and that it will notify close contacts of the individual who contracted the virus and will monitor them for signs and symptoms of the illness.

The statement added that the health department urges residents of Monroe County to practice social distancing and to wear masks when out in public.

The Virginia Department of Health also reported a huge spike in virus numbers for Tazewell and Buchanan counties Saturday.

According to a press release issued Saturday by Robert Parker with the Virginia Department of Health, some localities in Southwest Virginia are seeing significant increases, with 13 new cases in Buchanan County in the last 48 hours and two new cases each in Tazewell and Dickenson counties over the same period.

“COVID-19 has seen widespread community transmission across Virginia since March, and each of our 35 health districts has had cases and hospitalizations,” said Sue Cantrell, M.D., director of the health districts.

However, no virus-related deaths have been reported at this point in the Cumberland Plateau Health District, which includes Tazewell and Buchanan counties.

Statewide, there are now more than 61,200 cases, more than 6,100 hospitalizations and more than 1,700 deaths due to COVID-19, Cantrell said, adding that those numbers increase every day.

Health officials in Virginia are now including antibody test results with cumulative virus totals, and isn't differentiating between the two. However, the press release from Parker Saturday indicated the new numbers represented new cases, or active virus infections.

The new data on Saturday listed the cumulative total of virus cases in Tazewell County at 15, a jump from 13 on Friday. And even more troubling, Buchanan County jumped from 18 cases to 31 cases.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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