WILLIAMSON — The Mingo County Health Department announced the county’s second COVID-19 related death in a news release on Friday.
The deceased is a retired 73-year-old male who died while hospitalized at the University of Kentucky Hospital, according to the release.
The individual was first reported positive by the Mingo County Health Department on May 27 and was the fifth positive COVID-19 case for Mingo County.
The MCHD also confirmed the ninth COVID-19 patient within the county, in a second press release issued Friday by MCHD Administrator Anthony Keith Blankenship.
The person confirmed positive for the coronavirus is a 44-year-old male with mild symptoms and is isolating at home with his family. The Mingo County Health Department is notifying all those who were in close contact with him.
State health officials are keeping a watchful eye on vulnerable parts of the state as other states begin to see an increase of novel coronavirus cases.
State coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh said Friday he fears a second wave of the virus if West Virginians let their guards down.
State health officials are working with local health officials in the southern counties to assess the pandemic situation as reproduction values increase. Marsh said Friday those counties include Logan, Boone, Mingo and McDowell.
Marsh said a group at West Virginia University led by Dr. Sally Hodder, an infectious disease expert, is monitoring virus reproduction at the local level. He said they have grouped regions of the state together because some counties, like those in the southern part of the state, don’t have high case counts.
The reproductive value shows how quickly a virus could spread. If the value is at one, it means one person with COVID-19 will likely spread the virus to one other person. The lower the number, the less the virus is spreading.
Marsh said southern West Virginia has always been a part of the state they have worried about. It’s more insular, but has popular tourist attractions like the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. It is also home to a high percentage of vulnerable West Virginians — those more likely to develop serious complications if contracting COVID-19.
The state Bureau for Public Health is working with the counties to do contact tracing and more testing to get a better idea of the situation, Marsh said, adding that more free testing sites in southern counties will be announced soon.
During Gov. Jim Justice’s daily press briefing Friday, Marsh said the state is working with the larger hospital systems in the state, including Mountain Health Network in Huntington, to assist and support smaller hospitals in the state. Those systems are ready to step up and provide additional support should an outbreak occur in a more rural area of the state with less health care access.
“We anticipate seeing issues as we move forward, and we feel we are in good shape to handle it,” Marsh said.
Justice also acknowledged future outbreaks are likely, but both he and Marsh said if West Virginians keep doing what they’ve been doing — wearing masks, socially distancing, washing their hands frequently and avoiding large crowds — the state will be OK.
But Marsh said he does worry some areas of the state, especially those that never saw many cases of the virus in the first place, may let their guards down.
“I don’t want to come across as trying to scare people or that I’m trying to tell people what to do,” Marsh said. “We are just giving the best advice we can to keep communities as safe as possible. I recognize and respect each one of us can make the decision we think is right for us. But as you look around the world, we have a vulnerable population. We’ve made such good progress, and I continue to pray we stay together and don’t split down the middle.”
Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said the state’s reopening has been done slowly to prevent a second wave, which he says they all worry about. He said following the governor’s advice, which comes straight from the health experts, will prevent West Virginia from becoming like the 19 states seeing increases in cases or the nine with increased hospitalizations.
Currently, Mingo County has tested 1,100 people with 12 total coronavirus cases, of which nine are positive cases and three probable case. There are 1,088 negative results, six people have recovered, and we have experienced two COVID-19 related deaths. That leaves four current active cases in Mingo County.
All confirmed active cases will be isolated. Close contacts of active cases will be asked to self-quarantine and will continue to be monitored for signs and symptoms by the local health department.
The Health Department is asking the community to continue to practice social distancing, wear face coverings, if possible, and obey all Governor’s Executive Orders.
Those who feel they need to be tested can contact a primary care provider, a local hospital or a local healthcare clinic.
The total fatalities related to COVID-19 in West Virginia is now 88.
There were 32 new positive cases reported, for a total of 2,249, and 3,082 new test results received by the state.
As of 10 a.m. Monday, cases per county (case confirmed by lab test/probable case) are: Lincoln (5/0), Logan (21/0), McDowell (6/0), Mingo (9/3), Wayne (104/1), Wyoming (5/0).
In Pike County, Kentucky, there have been 47 confirmed cases and two deaths.
Across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a total of 2,063,812 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. There have been 115,271 deaths related to the virus.