Education, Latest News, Monongalia County

Discussion highlights impact of public health decisions on private lives

MORGANTOWN — The choices being made locally by public health officials in response to COVID-19 are not taken lightly and are certainly not without consequence.

That was the takeaway from an exchange between Monongalia County Health Officer Dr. Lee Smith and county resident Sam Morrone, who brought his concerns forward during Thursday’s Monongalia County Board of Health meeting.

In particular, Morrone explained, working parents who use daycare facilities are being put in an impossible situation by the 14-day quarantine recommendation from the Monongalia County Health Department regarding exposure.

Morrone said both he and his wife work full-time.  They have a 3-year-old and a baby less than a year old.

“I’m sitting in a calendar month of only working for a week because of children that have been negative the whole time, but no option of testing and getting back into school,” he said. 

“This is the fourth time this has happened now to us in under nine months. So there’s something with folks in our bracket that’s going to give. I don’t know what that breaking point is … My office right now is at less than 50% capacity because of this very thing.”

Smith said he’s aware of the position Morrone and others are facing. He also said the CDC has provided data indicating 10% of positive cases will be missed if those exposed leave quarantine before the 14-day mark.

“The tough decision that is forced upon public health is how many infected children or potentially infected children do you allow to go to daycare and potentially infect other children and other family members, and  close down the whole thing,” Smith said.

Earlier in the meeting, Smith stood beside the MCHD’s decision to continue to push 10-day isolation for those infected and 14 days of quarantine for exposures, despite the CDC putting out information suggesting shorter timelines.

That recommendation will continue, Smith said, until the county’s average rolling daily infection number gets back down around 25. It’s been well over 300 in recent days.

“I think the end point is that as numbers start to reduce, and hopefully that’s sooner rather than later, then we’ll continue to look. But we have limited tools in the toolbox and these are the mitigation strategies that we have seen work so far,” Smith said.

“I put up that graph that Mon County’s results are basically some of the best in the state and to change that at this point in time would be going in the wrong direction.”

The Dominion Post asked whether the department’s COVID-19 guidance is a recommendation or a requirement for daycare centers, as such facilities must submit to health department inspections.  That information could not be provided in time for this report.

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