Mineral, surrounding counties seeing COVID uptick

Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
The new digital sign at the Mineral County Health Department advertises COVID testing available every Monday and Tuesday.

KEYSER - With 64 current active COVID-19 cases reported by the Mineral County Health Department Wednesday, the county is experiencing yet another uptick in virus cases.

Health department administrator A.Jay Root confirmed Thursday that Mineral County is seeing an increase in cases “across the board,” and the hike cannot necessarily be pinpointed to any one age group, event, or place.

Mostly, he feels, it’s because the county’s numbers had decreased for some time, moving Mineral County to the green level on the West Virginia DHHR COVID color-coded map.

Thursday, however, Mineral County had been moved up to gold and had been hovering between gold and orange all week. The surrounding counties - Hampshire, Hardy and Grant - are all also either gold or orange.

The next level after orange is red.

According to the health department statistics, Mineral County has had a total 2,558 confirmed COVID cases since the pandemic started in March 2020. A total of 75 residents died as a result of COVID-related illness.

Wednesday’s 64 positive cases showed an increase of 36 in a little over a week’s time.

Also on Wednesday, the health department announced an outbreak at Elk Garden Primary School, where two students in one classroom had tested positive for the virus.

According to the weekly quarantine report released by superintendent of schools Troy Ravenscroft Wednesday, a total of 69 students and two employees are currently quarantining due to exposure.

Root says since Mineral County stayed in the green for quite some time earlier in the year, he feels people let their guard down, feeding the current spike.

But now is not the time to get lax in precautions, he says.

“We’re not out of the woods with this yet,” he says. “It’s still going to be around for awhile.

“As a community, we need to learn to coincide with this (virus) because it’s going to be a part of our daily lives for awhile.”

The health department staff and countless volunteers from throughout the county have been working since the vaccine became available to vaccinate as many county residents as possible, and Root estimates 11,000 have received the shot.

That number is probably low, he adds, because any residents who might have gotten vaccinated in Allegany County or through a separate entity like the Veterans Administration would not have been reported to the county.

“They’re showing us at 40% vaccination rate; I would say it’s probably closer to 45%,” he said.

Even with those numbers, though, Root cautions that everyone still needs to take precautions - continuing to wear their masks, practicing social distancing, and being careful about social gatherings.

If people are careful, he says, the numbers should start going back down again. But it’s going to take everybody working together.

“It takes a community to do what we’re doing … we just need to keep doing it,” he said.

He also realizes there will be other upticks and downturns in our future.

“We are going to continue to see these waves for awhile; we need to ride them out,” he said.

Root urges anyone who has not yet been vaccinated but wishes to do so to call the health department to make an appointment.