TAYLOR COUNTY—During the Friday morning Coronavirus update call, county health officials shared their concerns of gatherings of families during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, as positive COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise in the area.
“We have had a very eventful week in Taylor County as far as the Coronavirus is concerned,” voiced Grafton-Taylor County Health Department Threat Preparedness Coordinator Shawn Thorn. “As many already saw, we added nine new cases yesterday bringing us up to 220 cases, and we have already added a few more cases this morning.”
He noted that the county continues to see positive cases come in associated with the current outbreak at Arch Coal’s Leer Mining Complex.
“We are also seeing more families as a whole test positive for the virus now,” Thorn disclosed. “Currently, we are fluctuating between the yellow and gold categories for our percent positivity, and we are red in our infection rate, which is not good at all.”
He said that the health department continues to increase the number of tests they are administering through their drive thru site, located at the First Baptist Church on U.S. Route 119 South, just outside of Grafton.
“Since we have started our free daily testing, we have doubled, if not tripled, the number of tests we are giving weekly,” Thorn reported. “I would like to note that next week, because of the Thanksgiving holiday, we will not be administering testing on Thursday.”
Another factor that will now impact the timely return of test results is the lack of supply of quick tests.
“What is occurring is that Abbot Labs has been supplying the state with the molecular PCR tests, and suddenly, yesterday not only did we find out that our shipment been delayed, but it was in fact not coming,” revealed Dr. David Bender, County Health Officer.
“We are understanding that there is a shortage of reagents, so they will not be able to have any rapid PCR tests until probably the first of the year. So, now the tests will be send-aways like we do at our drive thru site,” he explained. “Through the state lab, right now it takes two-to-three days, but other agencies are utilizing LabCorp and their results take anywhere from three-to-five days to return results. With the holidays coming up, this is not a good sign.”
Bender expressed that he believes what will occur is that individuals who undergo testing will have to undergo a longer quarantine period as they await their results, much like the time frames residents saw in the beginning of the pandemic.
“This is a big problem, because if someone comes to the doors of a hospital and is sick, we have been able to swab them with a rapid test. We are not going to have that opportunity now,” he said. “The hospital is going to be able to secure some of the antigen tests, but they are not always reliable.”
Because of those two factors, Bender believes that hospitals and their staffs will be at an increased risk.
“However, there is some hope on the horizons from top health officials that either the Pfizer or Modera COVID-19 vaccinations would pass the FDA’s regulations within the next seven days,” he noted. “Should that occur, they would have the vaccines in hand by the first of the year and distributed as per the state protocols for that.”
He said that as long as all goes to plan, by the end of January, health professionals would have the option to undergo vaccinations for the virus but noted that it was unclear when the drug would become available to the general public.
Bender urged all residents to continue to work hard to help curb the spread of the virus.
“We remind everyone that we are conducting free daily community testing at our mobile drive thru site, Monday through Friday from noon until 2:00 p.m.,” Thorn said. “Again, during Thanksgiving week we will only be testing on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.”
He further noted that the free flu vaccinations would not be administered at the drive thru site next week, but those wishing to receive a flu vaccine could still call the health department at 304-265-1288 to make an appointment.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, everyone is urged to follow best health practices as issued by the Governor’s Executive Orders and outlined by the WV Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).