Hampshire County’s biggest 1-week increase in COVID-19 cases includes 2 at Hampshire Memorial Hospital’s long-term care unit.
Two employees there tested positive late last week, sparking tests for all 30 employees and 28 residents.
As of noon Tuesday, not all the results were back, but those that were all showed negative, Hampshire County Health Director Stephanie Shoemaker said.
But HMH wasn’t her only concern as the county recorded 14 new cases between last Tuesday and this. That’s as many cases as the county had between March 13, when Gov. Jim Justice abruptly closed schools, and May 21 — more than 2 months.
“It’s becoming a mess,” Shoemaker said.
Four recent cases stemmed from a gathering of up to 25 people.
On the positive side, a high school athlete who tested positive 2 weeks ago has recovered and none of his contacts — fellow athletes, coaches and family — have contracted the virus.
But, Shoemaker said, “We’re just waiting.” She said some cases are pending that she knows will come back positive.
The uptick is all across the county.
“It’s very difficult,” she said, particularly with the public’s ambivalence toward wearing face coverings.
Justice signed an executive order last month requiring face coverings, but it has loopholes — anyone with breathing difficulty, anyone 9 or younger. And in buildings, it’s not required if people can socially distance.
“We’re getting blasted on social media for not enforcing the mask,” Shoemaker said, “but there is no enforcement of it.”
Testing coupled with rapid results is key to getting a handle on the virus, Shoemaker said. Last Tuesday, the health department tested 31 people who had symptoms or contact with patients at a drive-through clinic.
Next Wednesday, free drive-through testing will be available to any Hampshire County resident (bring ID) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hampshire High School parking lot.
The tests are being sponsored by the Health Department, schools, Office of Emergency Management and Hampshire Memorial Hospital.
Last week’s positive tests at the HMH long-term care unit “prompted a cascade of precautionary steps to identify, notify, isolate and test those who may be at risk for virus exposure,” the hospital said in a press release.
West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources defines one or more positive test results in a congregate living facility as an “outbreak.”
The hospital is working closely with the local health department and Valley Health Employee Health and other resources to complete contact tracing and mitigate any possible exposures.
All residents of the unit are being asked to stay in their rooms and wear a mask.
“The safety and wellbeing of our residents and staff is our top priority,” said HMH President Tom Kluge. “We continue to monitor our staff and residents closely and adhere meticulously to daily employee screening requirements, universal masking and frequent hand washing, and visitation restrictions to safeguard residents and staff from exposure.”