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Health department changes focus to vaccine

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
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By Liz Beavers

Tribune Managing Editor

KEYSER - As they begin to prepare for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine in Mineral County, the health department is now offering a different type of community testing for the virus.

For several weeks since the virus began to hit Mineral County especially hard, health department staff, along with Mineral County Schools, the Mineral County Technical Center Nursing Program, the National Guard and other volunteers worked together to offer free community drive-through testing weekly at the Tech Center and Mineral County Fairgrounds.

The task was a gargantuan one, and as the focus of the health department now needs to turn toward the upcoming distribution of the vaccine, administrator A.Jay Root said an alternate plan went into place this week.

In an interview with Allegany Radio, Root said the health department tested “probably between 6,000-7,000 in a month/month and a half,” but they need to shift their focus right now to the vaccine.

A private company, Curative Labs, is therefore now offering testing as part of a pilot program from the State of West Virginia. They are set up at Keyser High School and Frankfort Middle School, and will be testing now through Friday.

“It’s a not a drive-through; it’s a walk-up test,” he said, urging Mineral Countians to sign up at in order to set up an appointments, although walk-ins are also accepted.

“The test is very simple,” he said, explaining that it is an oral swab as opposed to a nasal swab.

Results are available within 24-72 hours.

As for the distribution of the vaccine, Root said the health department is “getting ready to take on an endeavor that’s not been done before. We’re looking at the mass vaccination of our communities,” he said.

Root said the vaccine, per orders from Gov. Jim Justice, will go first to frontline health care workers and hospital personnel, long-term care facilities, and EMS workers.

He also cautions the public that the arrival of the vaccine in the county “doesn’t change anything for the time being,” and everyone should continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, and wash their hands frequently.

“It’s gonna take a little time” for the vaccine to begin to make a difference, he said.

“Even if you get the shot today, it doesn’t mean you’re immune right off the bat.”