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Officials investigate 3 pending COVID-19 cases

Three people in West Virginia are being tested for the novel coronavirus — COVID-19 — according to a Department of Health and Human Resources spokeswoman.

The spokesperson told The Dominion Post Wednesday evening, she could not release information on the three, including their whereabouts because of privacy laws.

Earlier Wednesday, the Monongalia County Health Department said the six people who did a precautionary, 14-day self-quarantine last month showed no signs of the virus.

Gov. Jim Justice gathered key members of his administration and medical experts from across the state on Wednesday to coordinate precautionary measures and continue preparations and planning for COVID-19.

The governor and DHHR said there are no confirmed cases in the state. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported  COVID-19 —  which originated in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China — in these states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Wisconsin and now North Carolina, Georgia and New Hampshire.

The immediate health risk to West Virginians is low, state health officials have said.

West Virginia University is on spring break March 14-22. Classes resume March 23. The university reminded students, faculty and staff preparing to head out on break to take precautions such as washing hands, coughing into your sleeve, avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth and throwing used tissues into the nearest trash can.

WVU’s Office of Global Affairs canceled all university-sponsored trips abroad, impacting 217 students.

“The decision was made out of an abundance of caution and emphasis on the health and safety of the university’s students and campus community,” said Amber Brugnoli, WVU’s assistant vice president of global strategy and international affairs, in a statement from the university.

Previously, the College of Creative Arts postponed a trip by the Wind Symphony to China. The university is developing a website with additional information. It should be launched this week.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms usually surface two to 14 days after exposure. 

To ease fears and be prepared in case the virus spreads, J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital started a task force made up of physicians and staff to stay up-to-date, said Kathryn Moffett, a pediatric infectious disease doctor.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said it can now test for COVID-19 at its lab.

Allison Adler, director of communications for the West Virginia DHHR, said the state still uses the CDC for testing of suspected COVID-19.

“Currently testing for COVID-19 is centralized through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and must be approved by DHHR’s Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology,” Adler said in an email.  “West Virginia’s public health lab has received a testing kit, which can run 700-800 patient specimens.

The state public health lab is in the verification process and is expected to be able to run tests in the next few weeks.”