Mercer Co. Health Department

BLUEFIELD — Another Mercer County resident has died as a result of COVID-19 as the county is also seeing the number of positive cases rise quickly.

Brenda Donithan, administrator of the Mercer County Health Department, said during a Board of Health meeting Wednesday a woman who died Tuesday in a Roanoke, Va. hospital is Mercer County’s 31st COVID-19 related death.

This is the second death of a Mercer County resident reported this week.

Donithan also said the county has seen the number of positive cases rise sharply.

“We had 37 new cases over the weekend,” she said, with 15 new cases reported Wednesday.

The cumulative total is now 561 cases with 234 cases still active.

Because of an increase in cases, Mercer County is now back in the yellow on the state County Alert System, using the positivity rate, which is now 3.16.

However, the county is in the gold category using the infection rate, which has an 11.67 rating.

The positivity rate is the percent of the total number of people tested who are positive. An infection rate is based on a seven- day rolling average of positive cases, adjusted to reflect a per-100,000 population model.

West Virginia initially used the infection rate only, but added the positivity rate to help boost testing. School systems can opt to use either of the two for a color designation.

Several schools in the county have seen positive cases with the subsequent quarantining of anyone who may have been exposed.

PikeView Middle School has seen the most cases, four, which has put it on the West Virginia Department of Education’s school outbreak lists. An outbreak is two more linked cases in one school.

Bluefield High School, Princeton high and middle schools, Athens Elementary, the Adult Learning Center and the Wade Center, as well as several sports teams, all have seen cases and/or exposures.

Dr. Steven Stefancic, Health Officer for the health department, said these cases don’t necessarily impact the entire school and may be confined to a class or grade or sports team.

“It’s not an entire school that is shut down or will be shut down necessarily,” he said.

Mercer County Schools announced Wednesday an additional positive COVID-19 case was confirmed for a student at Bluefield High School.

“Students and staff known to be exposed have been quarantined,” the announcement said. “The Mercer County Health Department will conduct further contact tracing. Deep cleaning and disinfecting of all affected areas will be completed.”

Donithan said 28 cases at local colleges have been found, including 12 at Concord University,11 at Bluefield State, six at Bluefield College, and one county resident attending Emory & Henry.

Contact tracing is ongoing as soon as a case is discovered, she said, and the health department is still trying to find people to help with that.

“A National Guard person is here with us now,” she said. “He is doing data entry.”

Donithan also said the department has administered 567 flu shots so far this year.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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