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Commission discusses COVID-19 spike

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission is continuing to deal with the increase in local COVID-19 cases and when the county might expect its share of federal money the state has received to deal with the pandemic.

During the commission’s regular Monday meeting, officials discussed the recent increases in cases and how that might impact local government functions.

Also on Monday, Gov. Jim Justice issued a mandatory order requiring people, ages 9 and up to wear face masks inside all indoor spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained.

County Administrator Marty Seufer doubted there would be another massive closure statewide anytime soon.

”It doesn’t sound like there is any intention this time to shut things down,” he said.

Commission President Blair Couch said he believes state officials will urge people to adapt.

”It will be ‘learn to live with it’ and ‘wear a mask,”’ he said.

Wood County had 120 confirmed cases. Of those 68 have recovered and there are still 58 active cases.

”The hospitalization rate has increased,” Couch said. ”People are letting their guard down.

”They are traveling to Myrtle Beach and other destinations. They are being in crowds. They are coming back and the fear is they will be infecting the older people here who would have a harder recovery.”

County Clerk Mark Rhodes said they still don’t have any indication from the state of when the federal money the state has received for COVID-19 will be distributed to counties to make up for lost revenue due to the pandemic.

”What we are hearing is they haven’t made any criteria yet,” he said.

Couch said the county is losing out on the regular Hotel/Motel Tax income, Day Report Center client fees, picnic shelter rentals and more. Rhodes added they have lost out on property transfer tax as sales have been down.

”We have taken a hit,” Seufer said.

Local cities have taken a hit in the one percent sales tax they collect, he added.

Couch said the Wood County Sheriff’s Department is putting together numbers and costs to submit for reimbursement after local law-enforcement agencies had received money from the state to make up some of their expenses during the initial COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year.

Officials discussed what might happen if state officials put out a mandatory mask order. At the time of the commission’s meeting, Justice had not yet issued his order.

Officials wondered if they would have to move the commission meetings somewhere that allows for social distancing. Since the courts may be using the large meeting room in the Judge Black Annex, officials discussed other options for both the commission and the courts if spots had to be moved around.

”Right now, we have more requests for picnic shelters than meeting rooms,” Seufer said. ”I think everyone is still hesitant to have a big meeting.”

Couch believes the county could be reimbursed any rent money if they have to rent out another location.

The courts already have trials and other hearings scheduled into 2021, officials said.

Rhodes said he was going to need the meeting room this fall to conduct poll worker training and to hold early voting. He said he has contacted Prosecutor Pat Lefebure about those dates.

Officials again discussed the possibility of using meeting rooms at the Blennerhassett Hotel, the Smoot Theatre and other local venues if the need arises.

Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard said 911 is still doing temperature checks of their employees and regular cleanings of their facilities. That has not stopped or decreased even as restrictions elsewhere were being lifted, he said.

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