Health experts say Covid-19 duration could be long

Andrea Treadway, a phlebotomist from Charleston Area Medical Center, holds a COVID-19 test she just gave at Primary Care & Prevention Clinic on Eisenhower Drive in Beckley Tuesday afternoon. (Rick Barbero/The Register-Herald)

A rise in reported Covid-19 cases in Raleigh County this month has been traced to travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and to other vacation spots, Raleigh County Health Department Administrator Candy Hurd told the Raleigh Health Department board on Monday.

As of Monday morning, there were 51 confirmed cases in the county, according to a report by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).

On June 1, the county had 15 cases.

Hurd said the June spike has been linked to vacation travel.

“We’ve seen that where, maybe, somebody went on vacation somewhere and came back home, and several family members (test positive),” she said. “We have several cases that have visited Myrtle Beach and other vacation areas.”

Hurd said residents should not panic but should continue practicing social distancing measures. 

Raleigh County Health Department Director Dr. Brian MacAulay said that the unknown duration of Covid-19 means that required contact tracing will likely be long-term.

“One of the biggest challenges we’re facing with Covid is the sheer duration of this thing,” said MacAulay, who attended via conference call. “We’re a few months in and no change in regard to how much work it is.”

County health officials are using a new app for contract tracing which identifies those who may have come into contact with an infected person, MacAulay said. 

“Contact tracing is very much a long-term (effort),” he said. “It’s definitely lasted months, and will probably be years, before we get to the point that it’s not a constant challenge every day.”

Businesses may soon be required to use a contact tracing app, according to statements made during the meeting.

As of Monday morning, 9 percent of West Virginians had been tested for the virus, with 168,082 total confirmed lab results received for Covid-19. Of those, 2,849 came back positive. As of MOnday afternoon, 93 West Virginians have died from Covid-19 related causes.

During a press briefing Monday, Gov. Jim Justice piqued interest in whether face masks in public will become mandatory in the state in the future. Federal health officials report that if 80 percent of people wear masks around others, the measure is as effective as a vaccine to prevent the sometimes fatal virus.

“States like Florida, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia are seeing all-time record number of cases,” Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia Covid-19 czar, said on Monday. 

Arizona’s governor announced a 30-day closure of gyms, bars, waterparks and theaters on Monday and said school would not start before Aug. 17. 

Because West Virginians travel frequently to those states, West Virginia health officials are still discussing whether or not face masks will become mandatory.

With the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, Justice said he is concerned that the state could see more transmission of the virus.

“I am worried about the Fourth of July, just as I was worried about Memorial Day,” Justice said.

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