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Brooke County reports 4th virus-related death

Public health officials continue to urge residents to take precautions as more COVID-19 cases, including a fourth death in Brooke County, have been reported.

Mike Bolen, administrator of the Brooke County Health Department, confirmed the death stemmed from an outbreak reported last week at an assisted care facility.

He has declined to name the facility, citing department policy, but said families of residents there have been notified and his staff and members of the West Virginia National Guard have been working with the facility to address the situation.

Bolen noted National Guard personnel have been deployed to the site and are involved in investigating the cases and disinfecting the facility.

Officials at Stonerise Healthcare, owner of the Valley Haven skilled nursing center in Beech Bottom, last week confirmed 43 of 47 residents and 10 employees there had tested positive for the coronavirus.

When approached for comment regarding the deaths, Stonerise Health Care Chief Executive Officer Larry Pack said, “Any time we lose a Stonerise patient, we mourn. We mourn for that person’s loved ones, for our team members who have been caring for that person with love, and we mourn for the local community’s collective loss.”

Pack said, “Community spread throughout Brooke County has brought a wave of positive COVID-19 cases into our Valley Haven care center, and tragically, six patients have passed since the outbreak began. Not all six deaths were related to COVID alone.”

He continued, “The entire Stonerise family is keeping our Valley Haven patients, patient families and team members in our prayers. Valley Haven has taken aggressive steps to stop the spread of the virus, and we haven’t seen any further progression of symptoms. We are following current regulatory guidance and the recommendations of our clinical leadership.

“As always, we continue to regularly communicate with local and state officials, with our patients’ families, our team members and other care partners. We remain focused on protecting and supporting our patients and team members, and we know all West Virginians will continue embracing the safe behaviors we need to help stop the spread of this virus.”

The news comes as the Brooke County Department prepares for another round of free COVID-19 testing to be held in the student parking lot at Brooke High School from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, when no students will be reporting to the school.

The drive-up testing is open to anyone, regardless of residency. Participants are asked to wear masks and bring photo identification.

Bolen said personnel will be using the Polymerase Chain Reaction test found to be more reliable in confirming those with the virus.

It will be the third round of testing conducted by the health department in the last two weeks.

Of 127 people tested on Oct. 19, two were found to be positive, and of 57 people tested on Wednesday, just one was found to be positive.

But the health departments also receive data from tests of local residents performed at medical facilities within and outside their counties.

But he and other local public health officials continue to follow an increase over the last week in cases they blame on contact between local residents and others in the community.

On Monday the Brooke County department reported six new cases there on Monday, bringing the total of current active cases to 26, including one person who has been hospitalized.

The cases involve 14 women in their 20s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and 12 males in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and two children 9 or under and not currently in Brooke County schools.

The department also has reported three probable cases, which Bolen said were identified through the comparatively less reliable rapid test and other factors; and six who recovered recently.

The Hancock County Health Department on Monday reported 10 new cases there since Thursday, bringing the total of active cases to 35, including three who have been hospitalized.

The cases include two men in their 60s and 70s and eight women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

On Monday, the Jefferson County Health Department reported 84 active cases, both confirmed and probable, with three who were hospitalized.

To deter spread of the virus, public health officials are encouraging everyone to always act as though they have the virus by wearing a mask when in public, which reduces spread of the airborne virus from the wearer’s mouth; stay at least 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with them; avoid large gatherings and stay home from work or school if they feel sick at all.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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