BUCKHANNON – At the Upshur County Health Board’s meeting Thursday evening, the nurse director of Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department predicted the number of active COVID-19 cases in the county would soon exceed 300.
By the end of the day Friday, Sept. 3, Sue McKisic was proven correct: In a social media post, the health department reported that there were currently 308 active cases – the highest number the county has seen since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
During Thursday’s health board meeting, McKisic reported that there had been 50 new cases Monday, Aug. 30, and by the next day, Aug. 31, there were 263 active cases in the county, a number inching ever-closer to the county’s previous all-time high in January of 2021 – 298 active cases.
“I’m sure some of them have [recovered] … but I’m saying our highest number was Jan. 22, 2021, when we had 298 active cases,” McKisic told the board. “Our lowest number this year of 2021 was June 25 and we had two active cases, and now we’re right up around the 300 mark, so I’m sure we’re going to surpass that point.”
In a second post Friday, the health department released numbers illustrating how rapidly the COVID-19 delta variant virus has spread since late July – and cautioned residents to take preventative action.
“[308 is our] largest number of active cases to date,” the post read. “In the beginning, the increase was gradual. We have noticed a rapid increase in cases for approximately 1 1/2 months. Our numbers have skyrocketed since July 28, 2021. This is a good reference to show how quickly this Delta variant has spread … and will continue to spread. As it has been reported in early August, the Delta variant is here. Please be proactive, not reactive.”
Currently, only about 37 percent of Upshur County has been vaccinated, health officials said at the Sept. 2 meeting.
“We are seeing an increase in cases – we have plenty of vaccine on hand – and Wesleyan College had a student vaccine clinic for new incoming students during student orientation,” McKisic said. “I think they thought they were going to get 53 of them because 53 people committed but then [college officials] found out a bunch of them got a shot at home, so they will be getting boosts here, and I think we did probably 20 of that, so that’s 20 more on campus, and they’re right at 90 percent vaccinated with school staff and students.”
McKisic said the health department has also been offering vaccines from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays, and appointments can be made by calling 304-472-2810. The agency also offers COVID-19 testing on Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. on a trial-run basis. Updates on reoccurring testing and vaccine clinics at the health department can be found on their Facebook page.
“You can go to St. Joe’s and ask for the state test or you can come here on Tuesday where we make the alley here one-way, coming out on 20 and then the lab picks it up at 2 p.m. that afternoon,” McKisic said. “He [Mike Walton, lab technician at St. Joseph’s Hospital] said that they’re averaging 100 tests a day, and their return is 25 percent positive, so that sounds like about 1 in 4. I don’t believe we’ve hit our peak yet; the state says we haven’t hit our peak and supposedly, when we hit our peak, we’re going to have a lot more coming out, than are going in, but I don’t know when that peak will be, and no one can project it.”
McKisic referenced the Mayo Clinic when she said the numbers in Upshur County could potentially triple.
“Mayo Clinic has been spot-on for July and August,” she said. “If you look to September and October, our numbers are supposed to triple what they are now. The Mayo Clinic has done each state and I’m thinking, ‘well, we might as well close the doors, pull the blinds down, send letters out, get an automatic stamping machine and a shoot them down to the post office because that’s what it’s going to be.’”
Visit the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ COVID-19 site to see the latest data, find out where you can obtain a vaccination or test and more.