By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
James Snyder, Sanitarian for the Tucker County Health Department, along with OEM Director Kevin White offered some valuable information regarding the Coronavirus in the state of West Virginia. Portions of that information has changed with updates being provided to make the published information current through Sunday, however for the most up to date information, interested parties should visit www.CDC.gov
Coronavirus is described by the WV DHHR website as “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus designated SARS-CoV-2.The outbreak of COVID-19 originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. Since then, tens of thousands of confirmed cases have been reported, predominantly in China but in a rapidly growing number of countries worldwide.” Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Commissioner Fred Davis invited Snyder to attend to help clarify any misconceptions and guide those interested to nonbiased and factual information. “There are currently no confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in West Virginia. However, this is a rapidly evolving national situation,” stated Snyder in an updated after the meeting. “The Tucker County Local Health Department is actively working with the Tucker County Office of Emergency Management, West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), and all of Tucker County’s public service agencies, health providers and first responders for a coordinated response to this situation.” As of time of print, there have been 38 individuals who have been tested for the virus, all of which were negative, and one pending results. “Will it come to West Virginia, there’s a good chance we will have cases in West Virginia, but there are none at this time,” Snyder stated.
Since the beginning of this virus, Snyder has been working closely with several entities and personnel such as White as they provide updated information daily to health care providers, schools, and emergency services to ensure preparedness for if it makes its way to this area. Davis asked Snyder if a plan was in place, to which Snyder confirmed there has been a plan in place for situations such as this since 2005, which is also a part of the County Emergency Plan listed under annex G. “We’ve seen things like this in the past, we’ve seen Swine, we’ve seen SARS, Monkey Pox, and different things. We hope this follows the course, it comes and it goes away, but we do not know it’s too early to say.”
As of Sunday, total cases in the United States were 1,649 throughout 47 jurisdictions. Of those infected, there have been 41 deaths. Snyder stated a lot of people are comparing COVID-19 to the flu, to which he provided some statistics for. “Since October 1 of 2019, there have been 34 to 49 million cases of flu in the United States of America,” he said. “We ended up with about 350 to 600 thousand people hospitalized from flu. This year since October 1 to February 22 between 20 thousand and 52 thousand people have died from seasonal flu in the United States of America,” Snyder said.
He confirmed that there are test kits in place at health provider locations which will be free of charge to patients meeting CDC criteria. If an individual insists on being tested but do not meet those standards, they can still request to be tested but will be responsible for the charges incurred.
White also told the commissioners in his report that, “I just want to make the community aware that we are prepared.” The Office of Emergency Management has been working diligently to share pertinent and educational information with the public and stressed there is no need to panic, but rather be well informed and prepared. A meeting has been set up for March 23 as an opportunity for involved groups, entities, and individuals to share information and continue to be prepared. “The information shared that day will not only be used for this event, but future events as well,” White added. “I will reassure you, we are in constant communications daily with this event whether it is at the state level, and/or local level or national level.”
On Thursday, March 12, family members of residents in Cortland Acres received information that, unless extenuating or emergency situations arise, visitors are prohibited from entering the facility. Outpatient physical therapy is still taking place, however patrons must succumb to testing upon arrival before being permitted to partake in therapy.
On Friday, March 13, W.Va. Governor Jim Justice announced that all schools will be closed indefinitely. Tucker County Schools Superintendent Alicia Lambert provided the following statement regarding the school closure. “Per a directive from Governor Justice, Tucker County Schools will be closed beginning on Monday, March 16 and will be closed until further notice due to COVID-19. All extracurricular activities are cancelled, this includes practices. Students should have brought home additional instructional packets on Friday as well as online learning platforms where they can continue to work. We have also posted a variety of educational resources on our county Facebook page. No work is assigned for Monday and Tuesday, but students should complete snow packets four and five on Thursday and Friday. Food will be provided for students if needed and can be picked up at the front door of each building from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Please watch our Facebook page for updates and announcements. I will be issuing the same announcements via school messenger as to make sure we inform as many families as possible. Schools will be closed until March 27 at a minimum. The situation will be reassessed at that time. There has not been an official ending date to shut down announced at this time. The health and safety of our students and staff is of the utmost importance. Please take the CDC recommendations seriously at this time and practice social distancing. These are unchartered waters and we are doing the best we can to keep everyone safe at this time. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your school or our central office. Stay safe everyone.”
The Bureau of Public Health has made the following recommendations to help keep the infection from entering our state or spreading. Individuals over the age of 60 or with compromised immune systems should avoid non-essential public places and reconsider non-essential travel. It is suggested to cancel all mass gatherings or events, including but not limited to sporting events, festivals, or concerts. Assisting those at greater risk or in need with services such as meals while limiting social interactions is encouraged. If feasible, workplaces are encouraged to permit staff to telework, especially those at severe risk. Reducing or eliminating large gatherings for meetings or conferences are discouraged as well as out of state travel.
According to the CDC, the most effective means to diminish the risk of transferring disease or illness are: washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap at water or using an alcohol based sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with an elbow, sleeve, or tissue (not your hands), avoiding exposure to others who are sick, and staying home when ill.
Snyder told the commissioners, “If it does come, we will try to find it, isolate it, and do what we can to move forward.” You can visit www.TuckerHealthWV.com for two information links, one that is updated hourly and the other daily, and he provided the state information hotline that is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-877-4304. Snyder welcomes visitors and calls to the health department as well, but for the most accurate statistics and nonbiased information, please refer to www.CDC.gov