Active COVID cases drop to single digits in Morgan County

Lowest virus count in more than a year

by Kate Evans

The number of COVID-19 cases in Morgan County has decreased dramatically since the beginning of February.

As of Monday, just four county residents had reported active COVID cases. The county had been at the high COVID transmission level for many months.

As of Monday, March 7, there have been 3,628 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 580 probable COVID-19 cases since the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources started counting cases in 2020.  Some 4,137 individuals have recovered from COVID-19.

As of this week, 67 Morgan County residents have died from the highly contagious respiratory virus.

The percentage of county residents that are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 was 32.6%. Some 14.31% of residents ages 5-11 have been fully vaccinated. The percentage of people that have received booster shots stands at 12.2%.

Local case trends

A year ago, Morgan County active case numbers were 10 times today’s count, with 42 people actively fighting the virus. That number dropped between June and early August, then shot into the triple digits on September 8, with 121 residents ill with the virus. Case numbers dropped again into the 40s between late October and early November. The expected holiday surge was seen in Morgan County, with 175 active cases reported in the week before Christmas 2021. The single-day case count peaked during the second week of January 2022, with more than 250 local residents sick with the virus – most of those cases tied to the surge in the Omicron variant nationwide.

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Morgan County on March 29, 2020. The first death from the virus was confirmed in October of that year.

Schools, long-term care

The Morgan County School Board voted at their February 15 meeting to make face masks optional in school buildings and on school buses as of February 16.

School COVID-19 cases have remained low for the last several weeks with six students and two staff with COVID-19 reported during the week of February 17-24 and  seven students with COVID-19 and no staff with COVID cases reported during the week of February 24-March 3.

Morgan County Schools COVID-19 cases are shown for the week of February 24 to March 3.

Stonerise Berkeley Springs Center and    War Memorial Hospital’s Extended Care Facility had COVID-19 outbreaks earlier in January. Each facility now only has one staff member with the virus.

Health Officer notes drop

Morgan County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Kevin McLaughlin said the Health Department has always gone by the transmission rates based on new COVID-19 cases within a seven-day period.

McLaughlin said there had been a dramatic decrease in COVID-19 cases in Morgan County over the last several weeks. COVID has changed from a pandemic to an endemic problem.

They have some treatments for COVID and a vaccine for it.

“Each avenue allows us to make progress against COVID-19,” he noted.

“People have been vaccinated or have some form of natural immunity and are going to roll with it.  We see the best rates of protection from vaccination,” McLaughlin said.

Everyone will make their own decision about returning to pre-pandemic levels of normalcy, Dr. McLaughlin said.  The pandemic will be part of our health history.

“Some will get quite ill. Others may not even know they’re sick,” he emphasized.

McLaughlin said people should stay safe, work at keeping transmission levels low and follow original COVID recommendations whenever possible.

New CDC guidance

As COVID-19 cases continue to drop locally, statewide and across the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines on February 25 that say most people in the United States are safe to go without masks indoors.

CDC officials are using new metrics that include COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations from COVID-19, current beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and hospital capacity.  These new metrics placed around half of all counties in the United States-where more than 70% of Americans live—in areas of low or medium risk as of February 25.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a February 25 press conference that the country had more tools now to protect communities from COVID-19 that included vaccination, boosters, increased access to testing, availability of high quality masks and accessibility to new treatments.

New COVID-19 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone to know the COVID-19 community level for where they live.

Morgan County is currently considered green for low transmission on the CDC map and on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID dashboard.

Places with high transmission

Wear a well-fitted face mask indoors in public places to protect yourself and others when county COVID-19 transmission rates are at high or substantial levels.

COVID-19 at-home tests, vaccination, face masks and physical distancing can reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Free home tests are available through the governmental website  Tests can also be purchased at retail pharmacies.  Private health insurance may reimburse the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests.

Vaccinations are encouraged for everyone age 5 years old and up and boosters for everyone age 16 and older.  They are “the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.”

Kate Shunney contributed to this reporting.