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Local health officials urge Chamber, community members to take highly contagious delta variant seriously

BUCKHANNON – Representatives of Community Care of West Virginia and St. Joseph’s Hospital encouraged everyone to take the COVID-19 delta variant seriously during this week’s Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce meeting.

During the Monday, Aug. 16 Chamber meeting, St. Joseph’s vice president for marketing, public relations and Foundation, emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated.

“I’ve seen a lot of patients come in – people who have COVID that had the vaccine – and they are sometimes getting COVID again, but they’re not really having any symptoms. They’re not getting sick; sometimes, they feel like they have a cold, but the people who are getting the new delta variant that are coming in here are really sick,” Wharton said. “People that have not received the vaccine are very ill, so it’s something to really take seriously.”

Ronna Dittman, director of marketing for Community Care, said they have experienced staff shortages due to COVID.

“I’m sure Lisa’s experiencing the same thing with staff who are either exposed and in quarantine or who have contracted COVID despite vaccination,” Dittman said. “Of course, the concern is, you can still pass it to others, even if you’re vaccinated and the only thing that I would just like to say is everyone should take it seriously. Wear your mask, social distance, don’t go places you don’t have to, wash your hands, use your hand sanitizer and just be vigilant.”

Dittman said if West Virginia follows mitigation models from Europe, this strain might run its course in about a month.

“I have heard some talk about the variant, and if we follow the model of Europe, hopefully we’ll see this variant kind of run its course through our area in the next month, but that’s a big if,” Dittman said. “We’re not Europe and we don’t know what’s going on. We have a lot of people who are unvaccinated in West Virginia with health issues and the elderly population, so I would just ask everyone to do their part to stop the spread and make wise decisions.”

Wharton said the hospital is planning a Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinic at the Upshur Parish House Aug. 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Johnson & Johnson vaccines are administered in one dose.

“It’s free and open to whoever wants to come,” Wharton said. “We’re hoping we can get some of the people that normally wouldn’t make a doctor’s appointment to come in and get the J&J. It is open to anyone over the age of 18 and they only have to have one vaccine.”

The hospital has also an organized a blood drive Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Brushy Fork Event Center.

“You do need to register for that you can either go on Vitalant’s website or you can call 473-2164 to get registered,” Wharton said. “There’s a dire need for blood; there’s a huge critical shortage of blood. We are going to do that drive socially distanced and the Event Center is the perfect place for it.”

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