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Wood County Courthouse open again after cleaning

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Courthouse and the Judge Black Annex will be open today after closing Wednesday for a thorough cleaning after a county employee tested positive for COVID-19.

In a post on Facebook Wednesday morning, Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said the courthouse and the Judge Black Annex was closed that day to both the staff and the public for high level cleaning and disinfection due to a positive COVID case of a county employee.

“We need to make sure that our facilities are safe to the public and those that work there,” Couch said. “Many thanks go to all the elected officials and department heads for making this happen on such short notice.”

Couch also thanked West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy, a former sheriff of Wood County, “who took this issue with great urgency” and requested the West Virginia National Guard to provide the services to get this effort up and running as well as Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard who was point person to coordinate the efforts.

By 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Couch said the job had been completed.

National Guardsmen were at the courthouse at around 10 a.m. and set up devices around the structure which distributed a fog throughout the building which kills the virus. They then repeated the process in the Judge Black Annex.

“Typically we would have been able to do this with one of our cleaning vendors overnight,” Couch said.

They were not immediately available Tuesday night so the decision was made to close the courthouse for Wednesday, he said. Sandy, Gov. Jim Justice and Gen. James Hoyer secured the assistance of the West Virginia National Guard.

“They have been a great asset,” Couch said.

Because of the positive case of a county employee, number of county employees will be tested and will not be reporting to work, but those numbers were not immediately available.

Contact tracers from the health department will be in touch with people.

“They will be working to make sure who this individual was in contact with,” Couch said of people who were in contact with the person for 15 minutes or more and within less than 6-feet, people who may have had close conversations or might have had a car ride with the person.

“Those are the things being identified so those people can self-quarantine and proceed to getting tested, if necessary,” Couch said. “We are going to make sure that each employee that comes (today) reports to us that they are in good health.”

The courthouse has been regularly cleaned each night. Couch said a scheduling problem prevented it Tuesday night, but crews were in there Wednesday night cleaning. The National Guard was able to come in Wednesday and run the fogging devices.

“When faced with this issue we jumped fast,” he said. “Every night we have been cleaning at a high level.

“We have to make things safe.”

The county is looking at acquiring a lot of the specialized cleaning equipment the crews were using to do sanitizing nightly. Officials are planning ahead to deal with the outbreak for however long it lasts.

Crews were working to prevent outbreaks like in other areas.

“We want to make sure we don’t have a widespread outbreak like other counties have had,” Couch said of places like the Justice Center in Kanawha County, the Logan County Courthouse and others.

“If you don’t get a handle on it quick and make sure you have a clean and safe facility, it can get out of control,” he added.

Couch said he cannot release which department the infected person worked in. People have been contacting county officials with questions and they were referred to the health department to discuss the matter in greater detail.

All of the county elected officials took the matter seriously and did what needed to be done, he said.

“It allowed us to accomplish something in a safe and standardized way to sanitize our operations so a member of the public can walk in (today) and feel comfortable,” Couch said of efforts to make sure county operations continue as people need them.

The courthouse and the Black Annex will be open at their regular time today.

The courthouse is expected to be open today for business at 8:30 a.m.

The Wood County Commission is scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. in the Boreman Meeting Room of the Judge Black Annex.

“I don’t feel awkward about going to commission (today),” Couch said. “You have got to do your part.

“You have to wear a mask, you have to practice social distancing, you have to wash your hands frequently and do everything you can to remain safe and protect those around you.”

Contact Brett Dunlap at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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