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Officials: Weekend Wood County death reports spanned six weeks

PARKERSBURG — Thirteen COVID-19-related deaths of Wood County residents announced over the weekend took place between Dec. 9 and Jan. 22.

Although the death confirmations were announced Saturday and Sunday by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources during its daily coronavirus update, the fatalities were spaced further apart than that. A spokeswoman for the department provided the range of dates Monday afternoon in response to a question about the number of deaths and when they took place.

The updates reflect when a death was confirmed as COVID-related by a local health department and submitted to the state, not when the individual died.

Dr. Charles Whitaker III, medical officer for the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, said that while the data is sent to the state level within 24 hours of a death certificate being received, it may take longer between the death and a physician signing the certificate.

“Even when we think it is (a COVID-19-related death), a physician has to make that determination,” he said.

A doctor may have to determine whether COVID actually contributed to a patient’s death and may be dealing with other patients as well, Whitaker said. Then the certificate must be processed by a funeral home.

Whitaker said timing was likely a factor in the number of deaths reported over the weekend, although he added that an increase in fatalities was “somewhat expected after the major spike we had at Christmas and New Year’s.”

There have been 100 deaths in Wood County attributed to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

In other statistical areas, COVID numbers are trending downward in the county, Whitaker said. A week ago, there were 783 active cases in Wood County, compared to 587 Monday. More than 400 people in the county have recovered from the virus since then, according to state data.

The DHHR announced four additional deaths Monday, including a 68-year-old man from Jackson County, bringing the total there to 44.

Virus statistics for Mid-Ohio Valley counties as of Monday’s update were:

* Calhoun: 30 active cases, 173 recovered, 182 total confirmed, 21 total probable, 6,191 tests, 0 deaths.

* Doddridge: 75 active, 317 recovered, 299 total confirmed, 98 total probable, 4,940 tests, 5 deaths.

* Gilmer: 25 active, 524 recovered, 463 total confirmed, 92 total probable, 7,964 tests, 6 deaths.

* Jackson: 129 active, 1,374 recovered, 1,398 total confirmed, 149 total probable, 22,849 tests, 44 deaths.

* Pleasants: 62 active, 677 recovered, 632 total confirmed, 120 total probable, 6,501 tests, 13 deaths.

* Ritchie: 70 active, 452 recovered, 438 total confirmed, 92 total probable, 7,319 tests, 8 deaths.

* Roane: 73 active, 366 recovered, 406 total confirmed, 39 total probable, 12,913 tests, 6 deaths.

* Tyler: 135 active, 408 recovered, 355 total confirmed, 191 total probable, 6,836 tests, 3 deaths.

* Wetzel: 189 active, 748 recovered, 559 total confirmed, 396 total probable, 10,548 tests, 18 deaths.

* Wirt: 33 active, 276 recovered, 243 total confirmed, 67 total probable, 3,570 tests, 1 death.

* Wood: 587 active, 5,658 recovered, 4,785 total confirmed, 1,560 probable, 74,069 tests, 100 deaths.

While there have been fewer free testing events organized by the Health Department in recent weeks as their attention has shifted to vaccinations, free testing remains available at pharmacies and some other locations, including:

* Pleasants County: noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday, St. Marys Marina, 617 Riverside Drive, St. Marys.

* Wirt County: noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Matheny Funeral Home, 448 Juliana St., Elizabeth.

Information on free COVID-19 testing opportunities can be found online at dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19/pages/testing.aspx.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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