Mandatory mask wearing put in place as COVID numbers rise

TAYLOR COUNTY—Monday afternoon, Governor Jim Justice signed an executive order mandating the wearing of masks for the state’s residents.

The order came after the state’s numbers of COVID-19 cases continued to rise. The document notes that all West Virginians and those visiting the state are required to wear a face mask in all confined indoor spaces.

“I am signing an Executive Order that mandates that West Virginians, age 9 or above, wear a face covering at all confined indoor places, provided social distancing cannot be maintained,” voiced Justice. “If you go to work in a building, I expect you to wear a mask as you enter work, and if you’re working in an area that is completely socially distanced, take your mask off. If you go to a drinking fountain put your mask on. If you go into a retail business, then I expect you to wear a mask.”

The news was not a shock to health officials in Taylor County, as they addressed the topic of a mask-wearing mandate earlier in the morning.

“We will hear from the governor today, and we will see what will happen. I expect that we are going to have mandatory mask-wearing here in the state,” said Dr. David Bender, County Health Officer.

The enforcement of mask-wearing was also a topic of discussion during the Monday Morning COVID Update meeting. It was revealed that the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department would be working alongside local law enforcement to ensure the Executive Order was being adhered to.

“Here in West Virginia, the way it works is that local health departments would receive a complaint, but any actual ticketing and fining would have to come from law enforcement,” he said. “However, the health department would have to request for that to be done.”

With the current mask debate continuing to be an issue, officials are expecting numerous grievances to be made.

“We know there will be a lot of stubborn people who refuse to comply, but we are asking that the public not call in complaints to the health department when they see someone not complying with the mandate, when at all possible,” said Grafton-Taylor County Health Department Threat Preparedness Coordinator Shawn. “We are asking that you just remind individuals that there is a mandate in place and that it is common courtesy to follow it.”

Bender reported that the health department has been working to complete testing at their mobile site, and it was disclosed on Monday alone, they conducted over 40 tests.

“In the beginning the highest number we had recorded daily was 17, so we are breaking new strides every day,” said Thorn.

As of Monday morning, Thorn reported that 1,348 tests had been completed, with 1,329 coming back negative.

“We have had 16 positives and got our sixteenth positive last Thursday afternoon. It was believed to be from out-of-state travel, which is good news, because the ones before that were community spread,” he revealed. “We have a total of 12 recovered, which includes a probable case that we had.”

He went on to explain that the probable case was determined through antibody testing that was performed nearly a month ago. As of Monday morning, there were only five active cases of COVID-19 in Taylor County, something that the community could be proud of.

However, that number jumped to 18 cases by Tuesday morning. It was reported that the patients, in their 40s and 50s, were in isolation at their homes, and epidemiological investigation to include contact tracing was being conducted.

“All around us, cases are exploding,” commented Thorn. “Mon County reported over 100 new cases since July 1, and that is overwhelming their epidemiological and contact tracing efforts. Harrison and Preston County have also seen some upticks, as well.”

Bender wanted to disclose that there had been a positive test result for one of the first responders in the county.

“We have had an officer within the county, who resides outside of the county, test positive for the virus. I think we have gotten the folks tested who needed to be tested, as well as those that needed to be self-quarantined,” he informed.

He said that they have been working to ensure the safety of not only the other officers within the department, but the community, as well. He said that they were still attempting to decide on a plan of action for the officer’s return to work.

“There are different ways to determine when someone can come back to work,” Bender said. “Probably the best way is how we do it here in health care. Two negative COVID tests, at least 24 hours apart, following a period of symptom-free time, would need to be recorded before they would be permitted to return to work.”

Thorn asked that residents continue to be diligent in their efforts to help curb the spread of the Coronavirus.

“Again, please use common sense and provide common courtesy to others,” he imparted. “Wear the mask, social distance and wash your hands.”


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