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Preston checking daily on 150 people who may have been exposed to COVID-19

KINGWOOD — The five employees of the Preston County Health Department are checking 150 people daily in regards to possible COVID-19 exposure.

Commission President Samantha Stone said Tuesday she’d like to see testing expanded, something Preston Health Department Director V.J. Davis said would be difficult without help.

Stone also mentioned a post on the Grafton Taylor County Health Department’s Facebook page, which urges people to avoid Preston County during the current virus outbreak.

“Many of us in Grafton have family and friends in Preston County,” the department posted. “Right now it is the ‘hottest spot’ in West Virginia. If you can, try to avoid travel in Preston County right now.”

Davis noted as of Tuesday the Preston Health Department has 51 confirmed cases, 13 probable cases, 24 recovered and 38 active cases.

People who have been in contact with those who have tested positive are asked to self quarantine for 14 days. They aren’t tested immediately, he said, because testing too early can result in a false negative.

“It gives a false sense of security. So people go and do anything they want, thinking they’re negative,” Davis said.

But it can take up to 14 days to show symptoms.

“That is the only way we’re going to stop this community spread is for people to listen when they’re told to quarantine,” he said.

If you return from vacation at a crowded location, if you can’t quarantine, please observe precautions for 14 days, Davis said.

“Right now we’ve got over 150 people that we’re checking on every single day that are part of this outbreak. It’s impossible for us to police this,” Davis said. “We are completely jam packed with just trying to check on this every day.”

Commissioner Dave Price asked if someone can refuse to quarantine. It can be a misdemeanor to do so, Davis said, but Preston hasn’t gone that route.

he department can provide a letter to employers if an employee is ordered to quarantine.

Stone said she thinks the Preston Health Department needs to consider more “avenues of getting some additional free public testing done.” July 10-11 is set for public testing now, but Stone said that’s not enough.

Davis said Mon Health Preston Memorial does testing, as well as some private clinics in the county. Mon County is close and offers testing. Anyone who wants to be tested can find somewhere, he said.

Some counties have federally funded clinics or large health departments and can do more testing, he said.

“Our health department here is five full-time people, and right now we are all busy on contact tracing. We don’t really have the ability at our health department to do testing,” Davis said.

The department is open to doing more if more resources were available, he noted.

The commission cut all funding to the health department — $23,057 — in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Commissioners said they eliminated that and funding for volunteer fire departments from the $8,429,531 budget because of declining tax revenues.

Stone pointed out the county still provides free space for the department and pays its utilities. It will also provide canopies and other help for the free COVID-19 testing in July, using some of the $100,000 state “hero fund.”

“The budget this year was extremely difficult … any of the things that we cut by code we are not required to fund those. We have to fund our elected officials and offices,” Stone noted. Some money was placed in reserve, she said, but they hope to restore some of the funding.