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One year ago, Upshur County was celebrating. Now, COVID-19 cases are soaring

One year ago, on Aug. 12, 2020, the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department announced there were no active COVID-19 cases in Upshur County. At the time, just 38 total cases had been diagnosed locally, and everyone had recovered.

“We would like to thank the residents of Upshur County for the wonderful job that is being done to follow the guidelines and help keep our families and friends safe,” the health department wrote in a press release. “We are at zero again!”

One year later, the situation is far different. Today alone, Upshur County reported 39 new cases, more than the entire first five months of the pandemic. More than 150 cases are active, approaching the highs reached last winter. Hospitals are full. Nursing homes are closed. Children and infants are infected. And the health department issued an urgent plea to work together once again to reduce the spread of the virus.

“Please consider your loved ones and your neighbors,” nurse director/administrator Sue McKisic wrote on social media Wednesday evening. “Together, doing what is necessary, we can slow this down. We have had a taste of freedom from this for a short time, and we went crazy, so I guess we are reaping what we have sown.”

Statewide, more than 100 people are in intensive care battling a virus that has already claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 West Virginians. That’s the highest level of ICU admissions since early February, state health officials said in a press conference Wednesday.

Although free vaccines have been widely available for months, West Virginia has one of the lowest rates of vaccination in the nation. In Upshur County, just 37% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the DHHR.

Active cases statewide have more than quadrupled over the past month, and no county has been hit harder than Upshur, which currently has the highest rate of infection in West Virginia. The number of active cases continues to grow, according to the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department.

“We received 39 new active cases today, bringing our number of active cases to 151,” McKisic wrote. “We have asked the National Guard for additional support. We have not yet received an answer, as other counties have an increase in their cases also.”

One notable change with the more contagious Delta variant is the number of children and young adults being infected. Nearly a third of the new cases reported in West Virginia over the past seven days have been under the age of 25.

“We have another infant infected with COVID-19 [in Upshur County],” McKisic wrote Wednesday, “so we know this is infecting all age groups.”

McKisic also noted the strain being placed on local hospitals.

“Several are hospitalized,” she wrote. “I did inquire about bed availability, and there are no beds available, locally or regionally. Hospitals have reviewed their visitation guidelines and made changes with the increase in cases. Nursing homes have closed to visitation to protect our elderly.”

The health department is working to stem the tide, but McKisic noted they cannot do it alone.

“Myself and other staff at the health department cannot stop this without your help,” she wrote. “We are strongly encouraging everyone to do your part — masks, hand washing, cough etiquette, hand sanitizer, physical distancing, whatever you can do.”

The health department also issued guidelines for those who test positive or who may have been exposed to an infected individual:

  • If you are swabbed for COVID-19, quarantine until you get your results.
  • COVID positive patients: Quarantine 10 days from the start of your symptoms. If you do not have symptoms, quarantine 10 days from your test date.
  • COVID contacts: Quarantine 14 days from the last direct exposure to a positive case. We utilize a universal 14 day quarantine for all residents. If you are fully vaccinated, you are not required to quarantine if you are in direct contact with a positive case. However, you should wear a mask, social distance and get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • Every case is different. Please call our office at 304-472-2810 with questions, and we will get you the right information. Thank you.

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