Board of Health

GREEN VALLEY — The last Mercer County Board of Health meeting of 2020 at the Mercer County Health Center saw board members get apprised of the county’s latest coronavirus status and a reversal of the board’s stance on medical cannabis.

As for the former, Mercer County Health Department Administrator Brenda Donithan, RN, said there were 2,041 COVID-19 cases in the county. Of those, 143 were new and 868 were active. There had been 46 deaths.

As of Thursday, total deaths were 50 with total cases at 2,248 and active cases 773.

Testing for the virus will be done three times a week except for the Christmas and New Year’s weeks when it will be done once, she said.

“We have decided we would like the testing to continue as long as we can because nobody else is catching what we catch throughout the county,” she commented.

County Health Officer Dr. Steven Stefanic announced that the COVID-19 vaccine would first arrive at Princeton Community Hospital with the first doses expected to have been given as early as Tuesday. The MCHD will get their first doses next week.

Donithan said, “We are ready for the vaccine when it does come. We have refrigerators and we will have a freezer designed specifically for the required sub-zero temperatures by the end of December.”

Measures to ensure the security and safety of the vaccine includes a tracker in each box and a temperature regulator.

As for the medical cannabis issue, the board, after a phone consultation with West Virginia medical cannabis program director Jason Frame, voted to reverse a previous vote disallowing permission for two businesses related to the industry to apply for permits. The motion was made by Robb Williams and seconded by Daniel Wells (via phone) and passed on a 2-1 vote (Roger Topping dissented, Dr. Randy Maxwell did not vote and Stacey Hicks was absent).

Frame said 24 counties to date had either approved requests (22), not acted (one) or denied it (Mercer until Monday).

He added that regulations included more than 30 tests for safety and content and tracking from source to dispensary.

Medical insurance currently does not pay for medical cannabis, but specially licensed physicians can prescribe it for certain conditions including cancer, glaucoma and PTSD.

State residents can only use the dispensaries but residents can cross county lines to fill prescriptions.

The County Commission can only cancel the decision by passing an ordinance calling for a voter referendum prohibiting the operation of a medical cannabis facility.

Jeff Harvey is a freelance reporter and columnist for the Princeton Times. Contact him at delimartman@yahoo.com.

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