MORGANTOWN — From red to orange to yellow.
Based on Harvard’s COVID-19 metrics for measuring rate of infection, new cases of COVID-19 have slowed dramatically in Monongalia County over the last two weeks.
The county is now considered yellow, signifying a seven-day average between one and 10 new cases daily per 100,000 population.
The number on Wednesday was 8.6 according to information shared by Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom.
Prior to last Wednesday, Monongalia County spent two weeks in the red, meaning more than 25 new cases daily. At one point, the county led the country in rate of infection with a daily high of 42.
The spike in numbers, particularly among the 18-29 age demographic, prompted Gov. Jim Justice to issue an executive order on July 13 closing the county’s bars. He has since extended that order through 12:01 a.m. Aug. 3.
The city of Morgantown also instituted a city-wide mask order making it a misdemeanor punishable by fine to not wear a mask indoors in public.
Also on Wednesday, the commission approved an additional $50,000 for the Monongalia County Health Department for the hiring of an additional sanitarian.
“Obviously they are in dire need of help. It’s all hands on deck,” Commissioner Sean Sikora said.
The funds are coming from $121,467 in additional carryover from the county’s 2020 fiscal year. In addition, $51,467 will be moved to the County Commission line item and $20,000 will go to the prosecuting attorney’s office.
The county ends up carrying $9,121,467 into fiscal year 2021. Just under $3.7 million of that is made up of the county’s fully funded contingencies account. The majority of the rest are funds budgeted but not spent on personal services ($1.3 million), contracted services ($1.5 million) and capital outlay ($1.1 million).
Sikora said the commission will decide on raises for county employees in the coming months.
“It’s not a dead issue. We certainly already took the step to cover $441,000 worth of insurance increases,” Sikora said. “We will be looking at raises as we get a month or two into the year, so we have a better snapshot of where we’re going.”
The commission also heard from Visit Mountaineer Country Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Susan Riddle, who explained a new push to enlist individuals in the effort to fight COVID-19 in the community known as Mountaineer County Pledge to Protect.
The effort is an extension of the Mountaineer Country Commitment to Safety, which focused on bringing businesses on to help fight the spread. Participating businesses are provided a window cling to display.
“We had a lot of people who said, ‘I’d love to do this, but I’m not a business,’ ” Riddle said, adding “So this is for individuals to say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing for my Pledge to Protect.’ ”
You can get signed up at visitmountaineercountry.com by locating the “Make Mountaineer County Safe” link at the top of the page.
Lastly, in following the county’s COVID-19 protocol, Commission President Ed Hawkins did not attend the meeting after realizing he was potentially a secondary contact. Hawkins will self-monitor for symptoms for the next five days.
Sikora participated in two previous meetings online after self isolating due to travel.