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School and health officials here keeping an eye on COVID, monkeypox

For Donna Talerico and Dr. Lee B. Smith, the summer of late has been an avalanche of good news — and relatively good news.

Talerico serves as Monongalia County’s deputy superintendent of schools. Smith is the county’s health officer.

Both are referring to COVID and monkeypox in the interpretation of response.

COVID has been part of the contagion landscape here since 2020. Monkeypox is an old clinical nemesis making a resurgence.

First, COVID, and the good news.

The coronavirus continues to be a presence in the county, Talerico said — though not to the point to affect proceedings of the Summer Avalanche learning enrichment sessions, which run in the district through July 28.

“We’ve got 1,800 kids enrolled in the Avalanche and we haven’t had one reported case of COVID,” she said. “None that we’re aware of. We are most definitely happy with that.”

The county isn’t in the green, though, using the color language of the Alert Map maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

A total of 42 counties — including Monongalia, Preston Marion and Harrison in north-central West Virginia — were showing yellow on the Tuesday edition of the map.

McDowell County was sitting in gold.

Just 12 of the Mountain State’s 55 counties were presenting with green, the best hue for low infection rates.

The DHHR reported 135 active COVID cases in Monongalia County on Tuesday. Preston had 39 cases.

Down Interstate 79, Mon’s neighbors of Marion and Harrison counties were reporting 118 and 128 cases, respectively.

Talerico said the district continues to scan the coronavirus landscape here, including the fortunes of the highly infectious BA. 5 variant, which, health-watchers say, will be inevitable in West Virginia.

As of now, though, she’s defining COVID as an endemic — think flu season — opposed to a pandemic.

“We’re still encouraging people to get their vaccines and boosters,” she said.

“We’re anticipating a full and normal return to school in the fall.”

Make that, “new normal,” she said. The definition was altered in March 2020 when COVID cases began appearing across the Mountain State.

For Smith, meanwhile, “new normal,” also means the daily numbers of calls he and his colleagues in the health department have been fielding of late about monkeypox.

There are some 10,000 cases worldwide in the resurgence of the virus similar to smallpox – only with milder symptoms.

Most sufferers experience only experience fever, body aches chills and fatigue.

Most recover in two to four weeks without a hospital stay — though a rash which turns into lesions can experienced by those who are particularly sickened by smallpox.

“It depends upon how healthy you were starting out,” said Smith, who was an emergency room physician for years.

The relatively good news, he said, is that there is still just one case reported in West Virginia, in Berkeley County, in the state’s Eastern Panhandle.

“And children are at a relatively low risk,” the health officer said.

That doesn’t mean, though, he said, that parents should disregard monkeypox altogether.

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