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Several area counties face potential school shutdowns after dozens of new COVID-19 cases were reported Friday in North-Central West Virginia

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resource reported six new cases of COVID-19 in Upshur County on Friday, and more are likely coming in future days as the outbreak continues to spread.

Separate from the DHHR announcement, the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department reported 105 total cases on Friday morning. That’s eight more than the 97 included in the DHHR data, which often lags local reporting.

The new cases moved Upshur County further into the orange category on the DHHR’s daily alert map on Friday. Harrison and Taylor counties are also orange, and Barbour should be red except for what appears to be an error calculating their positivity rate. Randolph County is gold on the map.

That means sports and school could cease across a large part of north-central West Virginia next week.

Parents, students and educators must now await the release of the official school map from the West Virginia Department of Education. That map, which uses the same metrics but is separate from the DHHR map, is released weekly at 5 p.m. Saturday.

According to the Department of Education, counties that are orange must “suspend in-person instruction and activate remote learning following the release of the Saturday metric map.”

All the available health data indicates Upshur County will indeed be orange when the map is finalized Saturday. Upshur County has reported 33 cases in the last seven days, well above the 26 cases necessary for orange and approaching the 43 cases that would move the county to red, especially considering the eight additional cases already identified by the health department.

With a 12.2% positivity rate, Upshur County should actually already be red according to that metric, which dictates that anything above 10% qualifies for the highest color designation. However, the state has opted to use whichever calculation results in a better color – incidence or positivity rate — a decision that has been questioned by health professionals and is the subject of a potential upcoming lawsuit by teacher groups.

According to state officials, the cutoff for data to be included in the school map is Thursday at midnight, meaning the free testing being held today at Buckhannon-Upshur High School should not influence this week’s decision. Congregate spread should not be a factor, either. Upshur County has no long-term care outbreaks (according to the DHHR dashboard), West Virginia Wesleyan College is closed for the semester and no prisons are located in the county.

Ultimately, however, the committee that ‘scrubs’ the map can make an independent decision and change a county’s color regardless of the metrics, so Upshur County’s final designation won’t be known until 5 p.m. Saturday. In recent weeks, several counties have ended up a different color than what the data would suggest.

Due to the outbreak, free testing is being held at the following locations:

  • Upshur County, October 2, 10 AM – 4 PM, Buckhannon Upshur High School, 270 B-U Drive, Buckhannon, WV
  • Barbour County, October 2, 10 AM – 2 PM, Barbour County Fair Grounds, 113 Fairgrounds Way, Belington, WV
  • Harrison County, October 2, 10 AM – 3 PM, Robert C. Byrd High School, 1 Eagle Way, Clarksburg, WV
  • Taylor County, October 2, Noon – 2 PM, First Baptist Church of Grafton, 2034 Webster Pike (US Rt. 119 South), Grafton, WV

Statewide, the DHHR announced Friday that 283 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the Mountain State.

One additional death has been attributed to the disease, according to the DHHR – an 89-year old male from Marion County.

“The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reports as of 10 a.m., October 2, 2020, there have been 576,026 total confirmatory laboratory results received for COVID-19, with 16,307 total cases and 355 deaths,” according to a press release.

New cases were reported Friday in Barbour, Berkeley Boone, Brooke, Cabell, Calhoun, Doddridge, Fayette, Grant, Greenbrier, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mineral, Mingo, Monongalia, Morgan, Nicholas, Ohio, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Randolph, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur, Wayne, Webster, Wetzel, Wood and Wyoming counties.

About 4,153 West Virginia cases remain active, according DHHR data. Of the cases that are no longer active, 11,799 people have recovered and 355 have died. The daily percent positive was 2.8%.

CASES PER COUNTY: Barbour (91), Berkeley (1064), Boone (246), Braxton (13), Brooke (117), Cabell (876), Calhoun (27), Clay (37), Doddridge (32), Fayette (651), Gilmer (48), Grant (163), Greenbrier (130), Hampshire (109), Hancock (151), Hardy (92), Harrison (423), Jackson (284), Jefferson (444), Kanawha (2813), Lewis (40), Lincoln (182), Logan (632), Marion (297), Marshall (183), Mason (146), McDowell (91), Mercer (432), Mineral (175), Mingo (395), Monongalia (2072), Monroe (151), Morgan (60), Nicholas (115), Ohio (378), Pendleton (53), Pleasants (18), Pocahontas (60), Preston (161), Putnam (612), Raleigh (546), Randolph (265), Ritchie (13), Roane (55), Summers (59), Taylor (150), Tucker (39), Tyler (16), Upshur (97), Wayne (414), Webster (8), Wetzel (62), Wirt (12), Wood (380), Wyoming (127).

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