COVID-19 at nursing home shows community spread

PARKERSBURG — Residents testing positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus at a Monongalia County nursing home was a significant development, health officials said.

Based on current knowledge, it was the first case of community transmission in the state of West Virginia, said Dr. Jeff Coben, dean of the School of Public Health at West Virginia University.

While the investigation is still ongoing, no connection has been determined about how the resident came in contact with the carrier or whether the carrier had traveled to or from an area where the virus is widespread, which leads to the possibility of contact with an asymptomatic carrier, according to Coben. The carrier who doesn’t show symptoms has the potential of spreading the virus to other people, too, he said.

“This shows that the virus is going into the community not just from people who have traveled,” said Carrie Brainard, public information officer for the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.

Such community transmission could spread the virus faster, which is the main reason for following social distancing guidelines, Brainard said.

“That helps us break that cycle,” she said.

Social distancing, frequent hand washing and other precautions help prevent the spread of the virus, Coben and Brainard said.

“All the more reason we have to practice social distancing,” Coben said.

It’s unlikely infected people without symptoms outnumber those who are infected and have symptoms, Coben said.

“Most people have some symptoms,” he said.

Symptoms include a cough, fever, fatigue and, in severe cases, difficulty breathing.

Media outlets have reported the patient, a resident at the Sundale Nursing Home in Morgantown, was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital early Sunday morning. The resident was placed in an isolation area at Ruby and others who came in contact with the resident were isolated until the results of tests were returned.

Gov. Jim Justice mobilized the National Guard to test other residents in the nursing home.

“This is the first case we’ve had of community transmission and so this is really significant,” Justice, citing the resident, said on Monday.

The governor issued a stay-at-home order which went into effect Tuesday evening.

As of Tuesday, 20 positive cases of the coronavirus have been found in West Virginia in Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marshall, Mercer, Monongalia, Putnam and Tucker counties, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources website.


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