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COVID claims 3 locally

Public health officials have reported the first death linked to COVID-19 in Hancock County and two additional deaths related to it in Brooke County, while the Jefferson County Health Department has reported a rise in cases.

The Hancock County Health Department has reported a 73-year-old woman’s death has been linked to the coronavirus.

And the Brooke County Health Department has reported two deaths related to the coronavirus, the first since July.

Mike Bolen, administrator of the Brooke County department, said the two recent deaths were related to the outbreak at a local assisted care facility that he didn’t identify.

Bolen said he doesn’t know the pair’s ages and whether there were other health conditions that may have contributed to their deaths.

He said the determination of whether a death was COVID-19-related falls to the physician who signs the patient’s death certificate, not to the local health departments.

Bolen confirmed several Brooke County residents testing positive for the virus also have been hospitalized, some in connection to the outbreak and others not.

Stonerise Healthcare, owners of Valley Haven skilled nursing center in Beech Bottom, confirmed an outbreak occurred there but declined to comment on whether any residents had been hospitalized.

Officials with Stonerise reported 43 of 47 residents and 10 staff members tested positive for the virus during the past week, adding families of the residents were notified.

Officials with Stonerise said measures were taken to prevent spread of the virus, including closing it to visitors as required under state guidelines.

Kristen Stotler, administrator and chief executive officer of Valley Haven, said she and her staff worked with state and local health officials to establish separate units at Valley Haven to prevent contact between patients who tested positive and those who hadn’t or were awaiting test results.

She said staff who tested positive were advised to self-isolate at home.

They said since the pandemic began, staff have been using personal protective equipment and following infection control policies, restricting visitor access, limiting new admissions and screening patients and staff regularly for potential symptoms.

The news comes as local health departments are receiving more reports of local COVID-19 cases.

The Brooke County Health Department on Thursday reported two new confirmed cases among 21 active cases involving 13 females in their 20s, 40s,50s, 60s and 70s and eight males in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 70s, with two under age 9.

Bolen said the children weren’t in local schools.

The Brooke County department also has reported two women in their 30s and 50s have been declared probable for the virus.

Bolen said cases at nursing homes are counted as one because under present conditions, their residents don’t have the opportunity to spread the virus to those outside.

On Monday the Brooke County department offered free testing outside Wellsburg Middle School and reported that of 127 people tested, two were found to be positive.

Fifty-seven people turned out for another round of free testing outside the school on Thursday, and results are expected in a few days, said Bolen.

On Thursday, the Hancock County department reported five new cases involving two females, ages 16 and 60; and three males, ages 16, 30 and 67.

They are among 32 active cases recorded for the county, including three who were hospitalized.

Kelly Wilson, public information officer for the Jefferson County Health Department, said, “Jefferson County is definitely seeing an increase in cases. The majority of the cases are coming from community spread.”

Wilson referred to a term used to refer to people contracting the virus from others in their area rather than through traveling.

The Jefferson County department has reported 68 active cases, including four hospitalizations. The county’s present conditions put it at the state health department’s orange level, two levels below purple, when residents will be asked to limit their activity outside home.

She said as the flu season and cold weather nears and with that an increase in indoor gathering, the health board is stressing the need for residents to take special precautions.

Wilson said in addition to recommending flu shots, “Community members are reminded to practice good hygiene and social distancing, wear their masks, and to please stay home if you’re sick. Remember, no precautionary measure is foolproof; however, they have been proven to work.”

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

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