PRINCETON — A third COVID-19 related death in Mercer County has been confirmed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
The victim was a 74-year old woman, said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary. “To lose yet another West Virginian is truly heartbreaking,” he said.
The two other COVID-19 deaths in Mercer County were confirmed by the state earlier in the week and were residents at the Princeton Health Care Center. Contact tracing has shown the source of the virus in the facility was Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Whether the third victim was also a resident at the facility has not yet been confirmed.
Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday afternoon during his pandemic briefing that a 79-year-old and an 87-year-old from Mercer County, both females, were residents of the nursing home.
Everyone at the nursing home, residents and staff, were recently tested.
“We tested everybody there,” Justice said of those recent tests. “Now we are going through retesting. Two people died that quickly.”
Justice said 23 staff and 19 residents have tested positive at the facility and “now two are dead.”
“This thing moves and can move very quickly,” he said.
The number of cases at the nursing home increased to 46 total on Thursday.
Crouch also said Wednesday afternoon that evidence from contact tracing at the facility shows the virus came from travel to Myrtle Beach.
However, a statement from Stefanie Compton, the center’s administrator, said that no one there was aware of the Myrtle Beach connection or the confirmed deaths being caused by COVID-19 until seeing it in the media.
“We understand per a media release that it has been determined that our Covid outbreak is related to travel to the Myrtle Beach area,” she said. “That information has not been given to PHCC by any health officials … Yesterday (Tuesday) we were made aware through a media release that a recent resident’s death had been determined to be COVID-related. Princeton Health Care Center has not been officially made aware of that from any health agency.”
Compton said that after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in July, the center’s team requested assistance and mass testing from local and state health officials on and before July 7.
“We were denied such testing per local and state health officials,” she said. “We were also told in writing, by a regional epidemiologist, ‘At this time our outbreak guideline does not recommend to do the repeat testing of staff and residents and the state lab would not be able to handle those specimens.’” Compton said the center’s team called other labs to try to secure mass testing as well.
“We were unable to do the testing on our own because the labs in our area/state were backlogged and they at that time did not have the supplies that were needed,” she said.
Compton also said state health officials completed an on-site “Covid-19 focused survey” on July 22 and DHHR determined the facility is “in compliance with federal guidelines related to implementing proper infection control prevention and control practices to prevent the development and transmission of Covid-19.” The survey also revealed the facility was in “substantial compliance with participation requirements and no deficiencies were cited,” she said.
Visitation was stopped at all nursing homes in the state on March 12, but was allowed again on June 17, she said, per state guidelines. But on June 30, visitation was again stopped per state guidelines.
Both Justice and Crouch said the concern is the virus is migrating from southern states that have seen major surges.
“We are trying to watch the migration of it from the South,” Justice said. “Every day we see more and more of a migration.”
Kentucky is also a problem, he said, and that state has now had to shut down bars again and cut back restaurants to 25 percent capacity.
Justice said the state saw 146 new cases Wednesday, with a daily percentage rate (percent of positive cases to total number tested) at 3.95 percent and 1,647 active cases statewide.
“It (the numbers) continues to slowly inch up,” he said. “That’s not good.”
Crouch said outbreaks are also occurring from a wide range of settings in communities, including pool parties, weddings, churches and funerals.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Mercer County stood at 128 Thursday morning with 93 active cases, 32 recoveries and three deaths.
Dr. Clay Marsh, the state COVID-19 Czar, also said Wednesday that he is concerned about the lingering side effects from the virus.
Those side effects seem to be impacting the heart and lungs, he said, showing it’s a pandemic that “impacts all of our body, all of our organs.”
Marsh also said in response to a question about the drug hydroxychloroquine being a recommended treatment or preventive measure to COVID-19 that he does not recommend it.
“Right now, the best done studies show it does not have a benefit for prevention or treatment,” he said of the drug often touted by President Donald Trump. “For me, I would not take or give hydroxychloroquine.”
On the political front, Justice responded once again to further criticism from Sen. Joe Manchin regarding the CARES Act funding for cities and counties, much of which has not yet been dispersed but is in the process of being sent as municipalities apply for the money.
Manchin said Justice is “sitting on” the money for political purposes.
“It’s a lie,” Justice said of the accusation. “What Sen. Manchin ought to do is concentrate on the job he has in D.C. and get that job done and get that job done properly.”
Justice said Manchin is “grandstanding and running Ben Salango’s campaign,” referring to his Democratic gubernatorial opponent.
Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com