Even as the spread of Covid-19 in the Mountain State cooled a bit on Thursday, hospitalizations and deaths from the disease continued to pile up.

And a story by Brad McElhinny of MetroNews reports that the Princeton nursing home with a coronavirus outbreak over the past several days asked for assistance in mass testing of residents and staff early this month, but was denied by state and local health officials.

“After an employee tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in July, our team requested assistance and mass testing from local and state health officials on and before July 7th,” the nursing home, Princeton Health Care Center, stated in a press release as reported by McElhinny.

“We were denied the testing and were told, ‘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.'”

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 46 confirmed cases at the nursing home – including both staff and residents.

Three COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in Mercer County as of Thursday, two of which were at the nursing home, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Contact tracing has shown that the source of the virus in the facility was Myrtle Beach, S.C., according to reporting by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Whether the third victim was a resident at the facility had not yet been confirmed.

The DHHR added three more people to the death toll in its afternoon tally on Thursday, confirming the passings of a 49-year-old woman from Ohio County, a 59-year-old man from Logan County and an 85-year-old woman from Logan County.

The latest Covid-related deaths pushed the state’s total to 115, 12 of which have come this week. The state’s fatality rate from the disease is 1.76 percent, below both the national rate of 3.25 percent and those of all six border states.

Kathleen Wides, Mercer County’s health official, told McElhinny that the Princeton nursing home had been denied mass testing because of state policy.

“The local health department, we follow what the state tells us to do. We’re a small health department,” Wides told the MetroNews reporter.

“We would not have refused to help the mass testing. We don’t have resources to do that kind of mass testing. At that point, an outbreak was defined as two people. They had one person.”

Wides told McElhinny that the standard was flawed.

“I will go out on a limb and say I disagree with that state standard,” she said.

Another four individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 at the nursing home as of Thursday afternoon, and seven more individuals who are displaying signs and symptoms of COVID-19 are being monitored, officials at the facility said.

"All current confirmed/suspected residents are being isolated to specific COVID-19 designated care areas,” a Thursday press release stated. "Confirmed resident cases are being placed in a separate area and are being cared for by designated/dedicated staff members. We are monitoring seven individuals (staff and residents) who are displaying signs/symptoms of COVID, who have recently had negative COVID test results.”

The state has 1,604 active cases of Covid-19, down from 1,625 on Wednesday. Hospitalizations, however, were up by four to 102 with 40 confirmed cases in intensive care, also up from the Wednesday, and patients on ventilators were up by nearly a third to 19.

In southern West Virginia, Beckley’s confirmed cases continued its recent climb, adding three in the Thursday report for a total of 151. That is up from 116 one week ago and from 85 two weeks ago.

The Wyoming County Health Department has confirmed 24 Covid-19 cases with one suspected case. Twelve cases are still active and two have been hospitalized. The DHHR afternoon report said the county had 19 cases, up one from Wednesday. Often the state report lags the county numbers.

The recent increase stems from large gatherings during which participants were not practicing social distancing or wearing masks, according to Wyoming County officials.

Greenbrier, Nicholas and McDowell counties each registered one more confirmed case in Thursday’s p.m. report.

The DHHR now has 277,343 total lab results for Covid-19, representing 15.48 percent of the state’s population. With 6,422 total cases – 48 more than Wednesday – the positive test rate is 2.32 percent, pulled up a bit by a daily rate of 2.60 percent.

Cases per county (cases confirmed by lab tests/probable cases): Barbour (29/0), Berkeley (615/22), Boone (71/0), Braxton (8/0), Brooke (53/1), Cabell (300/9), Calhoun (6/0), Clay (17/0), Doddridge (4/0), Fayette (124/0), Gilmer (16/0), Grant (65/1), Greenbrier (84/0), Hampshire (70/0), Hancock (89/3), Hardy (53/1), Harrison (175/1), Jackson (157/0), Jefferson (281/5), Kanawha (743/13), Lewis (25/1), Lincoln (55/1), Logan (112/0), Marion (166/4), Marshall (119/2), Mason (45/0), McDowell (20/1), Mercer (128/0), Mineral (102/2), Mingo (111/2), Monongalia (853/16), Monroe (18/1), Morgan (24/1), Nicholas (29/1), Ohio (244/0), Pendleton (36/1), Pleasants (6/1), Pocahontas (40/1), Preston (98/22), Putnam (151/1), Raleigh (151/5), Randolph (203/3), Ritchie (3/0), Roane (14/0), Summers (5/0), Taylor (45/1), Tucker (9/0), Tyler (12/0), Upshur (36/2), Wayne (176/2), Webster (3/0), Wetzel (40/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (220/11), Wyoming (19/0).

Contributing to this report were Mary Catherine Brooks of The Register-Herald, MetroNews and the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

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