140 new cases of COVID recorded here in August; Public health officials call trends “alarming”

by Kate Evans

Morgan County COVID-19 cases have jumped dramatically in the last several weeks and have health officials concerned about the increasing spread of the virus which is mainly due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Morgan-Berkeley County Health Department officials mandated face masks again in school facilities for the third week due to the high level of new cases of COVID-19 last week. There were 55 new cases as of Friday, August 27 and 64 new cases as of Monday morning. One new death from COVID-19 was reported last week.

As of Monday morning, August 30, Morgan County had 93 active cases of COVID-19 and a total of 1,444 cumulative probable and confirmed cases of the virus.  Some 1,325 people in the county have recovered from the virus.  There have been a total of 26 county deaths attributed to COVID-19.

West Virginia has 16,372 active cases of COVID-19, 1,141 new cases and a total of 3,074 deaths from the virus as of Monday morning.

Alarming surge

Morgan-Berkeley County Health Department Director Bill Kearns said on Monday morning that the surge in COVID-19 cases in the Eastern Panhandle and West Virginia is alarming.

The rates of COVID-19 transmission are skyrocketing across the state.

Berkeley County had a total of 151 COVID-19 cases last August and has had over 2,000 cases this August so far.

Ten times the cases

Morgan County has recorded 140 COVID cases through August 26 of this year through testing.  Last August, health officials recorded just 11 cases, Kearns said.  That number is likely lower than the actual number of cases out in the community.

Many cases involve the more virulent, highly transmissible Delta variant.

Kearns noted that 95-97% of people that are hospitalized or who are in intensive care with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccinations

The best way to protect oneself and others from getting hospitalized with COVID-19 is to get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus with two shots of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines or one shot of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The Health Department is encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Kearns said.  The vaccines are safe and effective, he stressed.

People can call the Morgan County Health Department at 304-258-1513 to get vaccinated or get them at local pharmacies or physician’s offices.

An additional dose of vaccine is available for those that qualify if they are undergoing active cancer treatment, are on high dose or a long-term course of steroids or who have an auto-immune disorder or whose immune system is compromised, Kearns said. People who qualify for this additional shot would be identified by their physician.

An additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine that will be classified as a booster shot will be released in the near future, Kearns said.  The Health Department isn’t putting individuals on a waiting list for it at this time since it hasn’t been authorized yet and it’s not clear who will be eligible to get the booster shot.   It all depends on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC)  It could be available starting in mid-September.

West Virginia has 50.8% of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 dashboard.  Morgan County has 28.3% of its people fully vaccinated.

Face masks

The Health Department is also recommending that people wear face masks indoors since so many people locally are unvaccinated.

In Morgan County, 5,063 are fully vaccinated against COVID, according to the West Virginia DHHR. That represents 28.3% of the county population. More than 51% of local residents aged 65 and older have been vaccinated fully.

“Our goal is to keep COVID-19 transmission rates as low as possible and keep our children in school,” said Kearns.

Kearns said public health officials don’t enjoy wearing face coverings all day long but they know it’s effective.

Other recommendations include social distancing, frequent hand-washing, use of hand sanitizer, cleaning and disinfecting and staying home when sick.

Kearns believed that “we’ll get through this,” but worried about having a whole wintertime ahead of us. During cold weather, people are confined indoors and he wonders what that will bring on top of the surge in COVID-19 that our area and state is already experiencing.