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County COVID cases ‘through the roof,’ outbreaks in nursing, daycare facilities

MORGANTOWN — When it comes to discussion of COVID-19 infection rates, the phrase “through the roof” doesn’t exactly paint an encouraging picture.

Unfortunately, County Health Officer Dr. Lee Smith explained to the Monongalia County Commission on Wednesday, it’s an accurate description of where the country, state and county are right now.

“I will say this, right now every nursing home in Monongalia County has an outbreak — every single nursing home, and the majority of daycare centers,” Smith said. “I can’t hit that point hard enough. The numbers are going through the roof.”

A chart provided by Smith shows the current spike dwarfs anything seen in the last two years.

A county goes into the red with a rolling average of 25 daily positives per 100,000 people. Monongalia County has been over that mark for 140 days and currently sits with an average north of 110.

Nationwide, a million new cases were reported on Tuesday.

And the numbers aren’t likely to get better.

Smith explained that the testing needed to parse one variant from another takes a week. As of Wednesday morning, there were 35 confirmed Omicron cases in the county.

“So if the majority of cases are still Delta and we only have 35 Omicron, then there’s still a bad moon rising. We’ve got bigger things that are going to come,” he said, adding “It would be my advice to any entity that has employees to try to figure out who can work from home, cause this is going to continue to come.”

He went on to say that projections indicate employers should prepare to see absenteeism as high as 30% in the coming days.

According to Smith, getting people back to work was a major factor in the CDC’s decision to change its recommendations regarding isolation and quarantine.

Unfortunately, he said, the recommendations are thoroughly confusing and contribute to the constantly changing narrative that has caused many to tune out COVID-related news and updates.

Smith walked the commission through the various nuances, circumstances and scenarios considered in the latest CDC guidance.

“I’m really disappointed that the government put out such a confusing document in the middle of a tsunami,” Smith said, pointing to Monongalia County’s relative success in combating the virus when compared to the rest of the state.

Smith said the recommendation of the Monongalia County Health Department is, if possible, individuals should continue to isolate for 10 days following a positive test and 14 days if exposed to the virus. This along with a continued emphasis on vaccination, masking, social distancing and testing.

“I just think that now is the time not to short-change the process. We’ve got good results with the things we’ve done,” he said. “I would not be a big advocate to change.”

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