Health officer says community spread main driver of COVID cases

by KATE EVANS

While the number of Morgan County’s COVID-19 cases only rose slightly this past week to 37 cumulative confirmed cases and one probable case, the number of cases has doubled since the end of June when Morgan County had 19 confirmed cases and one probable case of the virus. There have been no deaths in Morgan County attributed to the respiratory disease.

West Virginia now has 10,250 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 214 deaths as of Monday morning, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 webpage. The state had 2,552 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 with 89 deaths at the end of June.

Berkeley County now has 770 cumulative COVID-19 cases, 31 probable cases and 11 deaths. Jefferson County has 347 cumulative cases, nine probable cases and four deaths.

The United States has seen 5,999,464 COVID-19 cases with 183,039 deaths as of Monday morning. Globally there were 25,254,339 COVID-19 cases with 846,985 deaths as of then.

Reasons for state rise

Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Terrence Reidy felt that the rise in COVID-19 cases here and in the state was primarily due to community spread – through contact with someone in the community that has the virus or someone th

Dr. Terrence Reidy, chief medical officer for the Berkeley-Morgan Health Department.

at’s come back from the beach or another city that’s had a rise in infections.

Some third to a half of people that have COVID-19 never have any symptoms.

“It’s easy to have it and spread it to someone else,” he said.

Berkeley Springs is a little more isolated than other places but not by much, he noted. People from Maryland and Virginia drive through the county or visit to get away from the city.

“They don’t always bring just tourist dollars,” Reidy said.

In early July the Eastern Panhandle had around one-third of the state’s COVID-19 cases but areas like Charleston, Parkersburg and other West Virginia locations had huge increases in cases from special events, bars, gatherings or church, he said. One person spread it to ten or twenty people.

Some people are very infectious and the virus multiplies. Reidy also said that some won’t see a doctor and then they spread it to others.

“It’s good to know if you have it so others around you can protect themselves,” Dr. Reidy said.

Schools, rallies

Reidy said that some coronavirus infections will surface in schools.

Shepherd University did 2,600 tests on its students and faculty and had 10 positive COVID-19 cases.

Reidy said there have been no confirmed positive COVID-19 cases that he’d heard of linked to the Friday, August 21 Black Lives Matter Rally and counter protest at Berkeley Springs State Park. Many of the hundreds who attended were not wearing face masks.

Reidy said that in Washington, D.C. and other cities with rallies, people were wearing face coverings and were outdoors and they didn’t see COVID-19 infections occur. Reidy said health staff would be asking those that test positive for COVID-19 if they were at any rallies.

Prevention

Reidy advised wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing, washing hands frequently with soap and water, using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and avoiding touching things you don’t need to touch.

If you notice when you’re going into a store that no one has face masks on, don’t go in, he recommended. Most people are conscientious about their behavior, but a minority are not.

Reidy stressed that wearing a face mask when out in public decreases the chance of you giving COVID-19 to others. With some diseases you know that you have it, but with COVID-19 you can feel fine or feel fine for a few days but still be infectious, he said.

“COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while,” Reidy said.

Flu and COVID-19

Reidy encouraged people to get their seasonal flu shots as soon as possible, by the beginning of November at the latest.

The annual flu shots are based on the flu strains that are prevalent in the southern hemisphere in the spring in places like Australia that weren’t really affected by COVID, he said. It’s always a guess which strains are emerging.

People can be tested for both flu and COVID-19 to determine which one they have if they’re ill, Reidy said. He doesn’t expect a vaccine for COVID-19 until January or the spring of 2021. Vaccine developers don’t know yet if any vaccine is safe, if it may have unforeseen side effects or if it will provide immunity for two months or five months or longer.

“Following the facts is the best route. If you don’t have them, you need to wait on them,” Dr. Reidy said.

Reidy stressed that preventative actions like wearing face masks, frequent hand-washing, social distancing, using hand sanitizer and more will help protect the public from both the flu and COVID-19.

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