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Wood County certifies election results

PARKERSBURG – The Wood County Commission has done the final certification of the election results and discussed the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the area.

The commission signed the papers on Monday officially certifying the results of the 2020 General Election.

Last week, the election canvassing board was held with Commission President Blair Couch and two “Caretaker Commissioners” who filled in for Wood County Commissioners Bob Tebay and Jimmy Colombo, who were both absent due to illness. Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes was also out.

Tebay and Rhodes were both back on Monday while Colombo was still out. Both Tebay and Rhodes, who had previously tested positive for COVID and have isolated for awhile, said they are doing better now.

Once those results were declared following the canvass, any candidate had 48 hours to request a recount, Rhodes said. He said no one requested a recount and submitted the final paperwork for the commission to certify the election which Tebay and Couch did.

“We calculated the ballots and we have no discrepancies,” Couch said before signing off.

The commission also approved signing to apply for a grant for $40,000 to help pay the expenses of having all the satellite sites open for early voting the full 10 days before the election as well as additional costs for the mail-in ballots.

The grant is being offered through the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office through the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Rhodes said he has not heard anything about poll workers getting sick since the election.

“I haven’t heard of any, other than me,” he said.

The area’s COVID numbers continue to climb.

“We are really concerned,” Couch said.

The number of cases for the state in November equaled all of the numbers in the months (since March) leading up to November.

“We have doubled our rate,” Couch said. “It is spreading.”

He pointed to a number of charts provided by the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department which showed the growing number of cases locally.

“It is really amazing that in the month of November, we had 2,199 positive cases,” Couch said. “That is a significant number and the trends show that December will not be any better.

“It is real. It is here. We are praying for the vaccine to get distributed as quickly as possible.”

Couch feels that it needs to be distributed in a timely manner to protect all the frontline healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses and emergency medical responders as well as people in nursing homes, firefighters, law-enforcement, emergency dispatchers and others and then move on to wide-scale distribution for the public at large.

“The quicker we can do that, the better off we will be,” Couch said.

The health department is looking into plans to distribute a vaccine as well as the ability to store it. The West Virginia National Guard will also be assisting in measures for the areas and nursing homes in the rural counties, he said.

Initially, Couch believes the most vulnerable will be getting it first with a note from a doctor saying they will need it because of their health or job.

The county’s 911 center is on three shifts with extensive cleaning done between each shift.

Couch said many county employees who can work from home are doing so while they are trying to keep the number of people down in the offices where they can’t work from home in order to keep county operations going.

Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure said the courts are still open and operating.

Rhodes said they are seeing the usual number of probate issues in his offices.

“Marriage licenses should pick up again next week for the holiday season as people will want to get married,” he said. “We have had less marriage and birth requests because people can’t get into the (Department of Motor Vehicles) and don’t need to prove their name changes.

“We have had less of those, but that is about it.”

Right now, there are no plans to implement a county shutdown plan, officials said.

Couch said the infection numbers are higher now than when the statewide shutdown was implemented back in April. They are continuing to look to Gov. Jim Justice for guidance.

“We shut down with around 48 cases here and our surrounding counties,” Couch said of the shutdown in April.

Free COVID testing will be occurring today outside of South Parkersburg Baptist Church, Couch said.

Couch said he is seeing more people wearing masks and face coverings out in public.

“I think it has struck close enough to so many that they understand it has to happen,” he said.

An order is being drawn up that the commission is expected to approve that will require all workers in county facilities to wear face coverings 100 percent of the time, whether it be a face mask or a face shield, County Administrator Marty Seufer said.

An exception would be for people who are in an office by themselves, he said.

Officials said they have had instances where someone had gone without a mask and ended up testing positive.

Couch said those with issues concerning a facemask and breathing issues should be able to better utilize a face shield.

The county has also implemented a number of measures for people to be able to online pay so they won’t have to come in person.

“People are trying to be proactive,” Seufer said.

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