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COVID-19: Nursing facility barriers must be restored

For several weeks, it appeared West Virginians were doing a good job protecting residents of long-term care facilities — those most vulnerable to COVID-19 — from the disease. But as the coronavirus sets new infection records in many counties, it may be time to worry that we have let our guard down.

If something is not done about that immediately, more people will die. COVID-19 has made a comeback throughout the Mountain State.

It seemed for a time that effective barriers against the disease had been erected around nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, but only after 14 residents of them died. So effective were the countermeasures that visitation bans were lifted at many nursing homes.

Now we may be paying a price for overconfidence. As of Friday, state numbers showed staff members at 12 West Virginia nursing homes had contracted the virus.

More worrisome was the state chart showing 13 residents of nursing homes in six counties had active COVID-19 infections on Friday. They were in Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Ohio, Pendleton and Wood counties.

It appears, to judge by success at nursing homes earlier this year, that we know how to keep residents safe from the coronavirus. But failure to heed warnings about easing up too soon may be coming back to bite us.

West Virginians need to re-erect those barriers around our nursing homes — and administrators need to make clear to staff that the strictest safety protocol must be followed when they are OFF duty, too. If we do not, we might be paying for that overconfidence in lives lost.

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