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Justice, DHHR address questions of COVID test results delays, need to self-quarantine while waiting

MORGANTOWN — Monongalia County’s active COVID-19 caseload continues to trend downward, with 177 cases Monday morning, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday. Kanawha County remains the state’s highest, with 266.

Kanawha medical officials told him it’s community spread, he said, and not connected to the bars there. “They assure me that they’ve got this under control.” So it appears a bar closure order like Mon’s isn’t on the horizon.

Statewide, though, he said, active cases have hit a record high of 1,703 as of Monday morning. So people need to keep wearing masks. He quoted someone who told him, “For those of you that don’t like wearing a mask, just think how uncomfortable it would be to be wearing a ventilator.

The Dominion Post posed a couple questions offered by some Mon County residents who underwent free testing but had to wait 10-11 days for results.

They weren’t told to self-quarantine, and wondered why; and with the long wait and without a quarantine, they wondered what good the test was, since they couldhave contracted the virus while they were waiting.

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said, “we very concerned about the delay in getting results from our testing labs.” National labs can take seven to 14 days and local labs can take up to seven. “Sometimes a delay of seven days, 10 days really makes it almost useless to do the test. We have to get quick results to be able to do contact tracing.”

He and Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad both said that people who have symptoms when they get tested should self-quarantine in order to protect others.

Amjad added that some employer have issues with their employees quarantining for seven to 10 days while they wait.

Some who are asymptomatic may object to self-quarantining, she said. But all who are tested are asked to self-quarantine while they wait. In this case, it may have been a communication problem. The bureau has produced a letter urging those who get tested to self-quarantine as a safety measure.

Crouch said DHHR and WVU are working to develop more state-level testing capacity. “We really would like to be self-sufficient as much as possible so that we don’t rely on national labs who are backed up from testing for other states.”

Justice agreed that a 10-11 day wait is problematic, with people often waiting in their cars 10 ours to get the test. “Why do the report?.”

But he cautioned that the results lag is a national problem with the surge in cases. “You’ve got a lot of people that are pouring a lot of juice into this to try to solve that riddle too.”

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said West Virginia’s current Rt value is 1.05, meaning the virus is still spreading within the state. He cited the website, which tracks national number. Currently, 20 states and D.C. have higher values.

Marsh cited a study of people who went to an outpatient clinic for COVID-19; two to three week after their infection passed they still had lingering symptom; about 20% of those in the 18-34 age range still weren’t able to work after two weeks.

This and other research suggests, “If it doesn’t cause you to go into a hospital and doesn’t cause you to go onto a ventilator doesn’t mean it’s not a substantial issue.”

And while children are generally less able to get COVID, he said, we still need to protect them. In Florida, from July 16-24, the number of cases among those 17 and under rose 34%, from 23,170 to 31,150; the number in that age group hospitalized rose 23%, from 246 to 303.

Justice fielded a question about what’s the acceptable risk for resuming school and college-level sports this fall.

“If the risks are anywhere close to significant,” he said, “we just can’t go there.” In the meantime, they’re watching and buying time, and trying to manage the disease until there’s a vaccine. “I will not pressured,I will not be pushed in any way.. … But we know we can’t just huddle up in a house and wither away.”

Randall Reid-Smith, curator of the Department of Arts, Culture and History, made a brief appearance at Monday’s briefing to give a quick shout-out to Justice for his support of fairs and festivals.

Justice then talked about the on-again, off-again trial the state’s 392 fairs and festivals have had to suffer this summer during the pandemic. About half of them won’t survive, he said.

So Justice pledged $1,346,000 from the Governor’s Contingency Fund – to match the Legislature’s appropriation – to send out to all of them to help them try to survive. Whether they have to return their legislative allotment is between them and the Legislature, he said.

“Maybe this won’t save them all, but I hope to goodness it will save a bunch and I hope, really, it will save them all.”

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