Covid-19 Update

BLUEFIELD — Mercer County has had 12 confirmed cases of the coronavirus COVID but only three remain in isolation.

Susan Kadar, director of the Mercer County Health Department, told the department’s board members Wednesday a total of 178 people who had contact with the positive cases were also isolated and only six now remain in quarantine.

The county has 11 pending test results.

“Some people have also called about antibody testing,” she said of the test that can detect a previous infection with the virus. “Those are being referred to WVU,” which is conducting a study.

Kadar also said clinical services will again be offered at the health department, starting Monday, May 18, and they include priority services for those who have chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes and need to be monitored by in-person visits.

“We want to get them back in to assess their conditions,” she said, adding they are monitored to a degree at home with prescription updates. “This is evolving, but we may have a crunch with the clinic patients who we have not seen (since the pandemic closures began).”

Everything the department does must follow guidelines and even with these initial chronic patients they must make an appointment and wait in their vehicles to be called in, then have their temperature taken before entering.

“We are ready,” she said, but also cautioned the department will still not be open for the general public. “Everything will be strictly monitored and we are waiting for the Governor’s (Jim Justice) plan to fully reopen.”

Kadar also said the department is preparing for May 21 when more businesses will reopen under Gov. Jim Justice’s Week 4 plan, including indoor dining in restaurants (at 50 percent capacity).

“We are in close contact with the state office of Environmental Health Services,” she said. “They work up new guidance for … new openings, what to do, what to look for..”

The department is required to conduct inspections and make sure the businesses know the proper protocol, especially restaurants, as they reopen. All ATV rental cabins and lodging facilities (the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail System is reopening on May 21) must be inspected as well.

“It’s a lot of work,” Kadar said of the inspections.

She also said bars and bar areas at restaurants cannot reopen for customers to gather, but those dining at tables can order alcoholic beverages. No one will be allowed to sit in the bar area.

Kadar also told the board the needle exchange program is going well and that service is still offered because it falls under an emergency category.

“We talk to them and take their used needles and give them new ones,” she said, adding they can come to the door and get a 30-day supply.

“They have been extremely grateful,” she said, adding more than 90 participate in the program. “Several have offered to clean for us or do yard work.”

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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