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Brooke County Commission updated on virus

VIRUS DISCUSSED — At their regular meeting Tuesday, the Brooke County Commission was updated on local response to the COVID-19 coronavirus. Among the small number of county officials attending were, from left: County Clerk Kim Barbetta, Commissioners Tim Ennis and A.J. Thomas and, with her back to the camera, Commissioner Stacey Wise. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — A Brooke County health official said while the county recently received its first confirmed case of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it appears steps taken to curtail the virus’ spread have been effective.

“I think the things we’re doing are working,” Mike Bolen, administrator of the county’s health department, said following Tuesday’s Brooke County Commission meeting.

Bolen noted the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine has indicated cases of the coronavirus in West Virginia may peak in mid-April.

But he said any decline in such cases is due in large part to people following recommendations to stay home, avoid close contact with others and practice good hygiene.

Bolen said this is not a time to become complacent about such measures.

On Monday, the Brooke County Health Department announced a local woman in her 40s had tested positive for the virus and isolated herself.

Bolen told the commissioners he and others contacted those with whom she had the most contact to determine if they also carried it.

He and other public officials haven’t disclosed many details about such patients, citing respect for their privacy and federal laws protecting it.

But Bolen said there are plans to disclose to the public the sex and age group for any future patients through the department’s Facebook page.

He said about a dozen people are slated for drive-up virus testing today in cooperation with the Hancock County Health Department, C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. and other county entities.

Bolen said not many more had called the department for a screening interview aimed at determining those who were most likely to have the virus.

The Brooke health department had aided the Hancock department in testing 75 people a few weeks ago.

He said such drive-up tests are aimed at alleviating the load of area hospitals, which have tested many Ohio Valley residents since the virus surfaced locally.

Public health officials advise early symptoms of the virus include a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Some have reported younger patients often experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and chest or abdominal pain from coughing or vomitting.

Those experiencing such symptoms are encouraged to call their healthcare providers in advance so they may take steps to protect other patients from being exposed.

Bolen said all confirmed cases of the virus for a Brooke County resident are reported to his department.

Christina White, director of the county’s emergency 911 center, said her staff has been advised by state officials of questions they should ask to determine if a caller may have the virus so first responders can be made aware.

Bolen said a supply of protective personal equipment, such as face masks, was available to first responders prior to the pandemic and is being replenished by the state Department of Health and state Emergency Management Agency.

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

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