Taylor County officials discuss current COVID pandemic issues

TAYLOR COUNTY—A rise in COVID-19 cases caused schools to close down, and students to learn remotely this past week. And while school officials are hopeful that in-person learning will resume on Monday, the decision will not be officially made until the West Virginia Department of Education releases their color metric map at 5:00 p.m., today.

“I totally expect that we will go back to school on Monday,” voice Superintendent Christy Miller. “I don’t foresee the map will indicate a color in which we would not.”

She said that the only thing that would prevent the schools from opening their doors next week would be a red color issued by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, something that would put the school system into a complete remote learning scenario.

She said that the board has continued to host their task force meetings to discuss current protocols to help ensure student and personnel safety.

Miller further reported that three of the schools’ nurses have undergone training on contact tracing and will soon begin to work in conjunction with the health department to assist in that practice.

“We have also been trying to push out messages daily to keep the public informed on what is occurring within in the county’s school system,” she added. “We are just very thankful for the support from the community and the working relationship we have had with the health department. It seems to be working out very well.”

Miller voiced that it is the goal of herself and the board of education to get the kids back in school full time, because it is the best possible way to educate the county’s students.

While she remains hopeful, health officials caution that rising cases could impact the students’ return to in-person learning.

“We have had a very busy week in Taylor County,” said Grafton-Taylor Health Department Threat Preparedness Coordinator Shawn Thorn. “We are still testing between 50-100 patients per day at our drive thru site.”

Taylor County’s case count now stands at 304 total confirmed positives, with 54 active, 52 probable cases, 241 recovered and 9 deaths, as of press time on Friday.

“We were able to remove one out of county resident from our total confirmed positive list,” explained Thorn. “The health department did receive a number of results this morning through our portal from Monday testing, but as of right now those numbers have not been totaled.”

Health officials have noted that the county is now experiencing more community spread contact, something that it had not previously seen a great deal of.

“Before, we used to see cases that came from out-of-town contact, but now we are seeing more cases occurring from the current outbreaks at Pruntytown Correctional Facility and Leer Mining Complex,” Thorn noted. “So that’s not good news. We need to get back to where we once were.”

Delegate Amy Summers, who is also an Emergency Room Nurse, revealed that they have seen an uptick in the number of residents who are coming into hospitals after a probable or positive COVID-19 test.

“We weren’t seeing it for a while, but now more people are coming into our emergency rooms, really not utilizing the system properly,” she expressed. “They are coming in after receiving a positive COVID test, because they are scared to death at this point.”

She said that it poses an increased risk for both the hospital staff, as well as other patients who may have weakened immune systems, along with tying up valuable resources.

“Of course, if someone has been diagnosed with Coronavirus, and they are experiencing breathing issues or some other health issue, then they should of course come into the emergency room,” Summers commented. “If it is not an emergent issue, we would recommend that they call beforehand.”

Thorn added that patients can always reach out to their primary care provider if they are experiencing a non-emergency issue.

“As a primary care office, one of our goals is to keep patients from visiting the emergency room when it is at all possible,” said Dr. Peter Wenzel from Preston-Taylor Community Health Center. “We really do not mind the extra calls, because we know that people often have questions and concerns.”

The Grafton-Taylor County Health Department would like to remind everyone that they are conducting free daily community testing at their mobile drive-thru site at the First Baptist Church of Grafton, on US Rt 119, Monday thru Friday from noon to 2:00 p.m.

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).