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COVID causes annex restrictions again

Long-term care facility, hospital deal with outbreaks

KINGWOOD — As COVID-19 continues to roll over Preston County, new restrictions on government offices and the end of sign-ups for vaccines were announced.

And on the front lines, the long-term care industry is dealing with the pandemic, not just on a professional but a personal level.

As of Monday, Preston County had 1,712  confirmed cases of the virus, 125 probable cases and 29 deaths from it. Another 980 Prestonians have recovered, and 828 cases are active.

Courthouse annex

The Preston County Commission announced Monday afternoon a reduction in available staff has forced an end  to walk-in traffic in the courthouse annex, effective today. This is the third time since March the annex has had similar restrictions.

The annex, across W.Va. 7 from the courthouse,  houses the county commission, county clerk, assessor, prosecuting attorney, health department and tax office. 

 No one will be admitted without an appointment. Employees will be in the office to answer phones, and internet services are available through

Long-term care

 According to the Department of Health and Human Resources  website, both  Stonerise Kingwood and Hopemont State Hospital have active outbreaks.

The DHHR updates the numbers each Friday.

The most recent figures show Stonerise Kingwood with 31 active positive cases among residents,  25 active positive cases among staff, 55 residents recovered,  33 staff recovered and 11 COVID-19-associated deaths.

“It’s been a trying time. Not just for us, but for the residents and their family members,” said Kelly Manko, director of nursing at Stonerise Kingwood,

“We spend a lot more time with the residents here than we do our own families,”  Manko said. “Our residents do become like our family.”

Which is why with the deaths, “Emotionally and physically it has been hard. There’s been lots of tears,” she said.

The facility was separated into units for residents who tested positive for the virus and those who did not. The units were set up according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines. Once  residents who tested negative for the virus were able to leave their rooms sometimes, they asked for friends. 

“We had residents coming out to the hall, looking for other residents in another hall that they had been friends with, and we had to tell them they had passed. That’s very, very sad, because they become like family to each other also,” Manko said.

Stonerise is sending counselors for residents and staff.

 “We never, never contemplated this on this scale, trying to fight a virus without a vaccine, particularly a virus that can be contagious whether or not you have symptoms,” said Larry Pack, CEO of Stonerise Healthcare.

 “And I think just the length of time, the pressure that our front-line workers have been under since March of last year, and so there are times when we just get tired,” Pack said.

Stonerise has given hero bonuses, COVID pay, and  paid workers who are asked to stay home if they showed symptoms, he said. Workers are screened weekly.

At first the outbreaks were limited to some areas of the state, where Stonerise has 17 facilities, he said. This surge is statewide and hitting communities hard.

“When somebody does not recover from COVID, it hurts. It hurts bad because it’s somebody’s mom, it’s somebody’s grandmother, it’s people we know,” he said. “The grief is real.”

 With so many staff catching the virus, Kingwood was short-staffed in December. But the parent company  paired with an agency to fill the needs.

“So there was a time when we didn’t have many of our regular workers here,” Manko said. That too was hard on residents and their families, who were accustomed to dealing with the regular staff.

  Support from families and the community has been “heartwarming,” Manko said. From gifts to food, a family parade through the parking lot, donations of art supplies, prayers and a pen pal program that reaches as far as Alabama, people are helping, she said. 

Residents can have iPad visits, telephone calls and visits through the window.

“It’s not the same as a hug, but at least it’s keeping connected,” Manko said.

A recent addition is compassionate visits available when the clinical team sees that a resident is passing. 

 Employees were also heartened by a state infection control inspection that found zero deficiencies during COVID. The inspectors even discussed using Stonerise’s program as a model, Manko said.

“To get a zero deficiency, that was huge for us,” she said.

They’ve had no PPE shortages at Stonerise.

“With the vaccine here, I just hope that there is one day soon when you can reach out and hug your mom, or your dad, whomever,” Manko said.

The vaccine is “the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been praying for, so we hope we can start climbing out of this,” Pack said.

 For Hopemont, the DHHR shows 13 active positive cases among  residents, 10 active positive cases among staff, 15 residents recovered, 23 staff members recovered and no COVID-associated deaths.

Vaccines for seniors

While vaccines have been reserved for long-term care home residents and workers, all the available COVID-19 vaccinations for those over 80 years old in the county’s general population have been reserved, the Preston County Health Department said Monday.

Last week, the department received “a very limited supply” of vaccines for seniors 80 and older, the department said.

“Our supply of vaccine is determined by the state, we do not have any control over how much we get or when we get it. So please be patient,” the department said.

Applications for the vaccine were taken by phone. 

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