Act with caution, wear mask urges Mineral County health official

KEYSER, W.Va. — As Mineral County continues to add new COVID-19 cases, county health administrator A.Jay Root has urged residents to continue acting with caution, including wearing masks while indoors.

West Virginia saw its amount of new cases begin to spike in June, roughly a month and a half after Gov. Jim Justice began taking steps to reopen businesses that were made to close in the interest of stemming the spread of the pandemic that has killed more than 580,000 people globally. Justice has since reversed some of those reopenings, moving to halt outdoor fairs, concerts and festivals on Tuesday after having deemed them safe to resume July 1. 

As of Tuesday evening, Mineral County reported 69 confirmed cases, 10 of which were active.

Since the beginning of the month, Root told the Times-News by email on Wednesday, Mineral County has seen “a steady rate of positives” as test results are returned. However, they have not seen a corresponding spike in the amount of active cases, “meaning that as we have new ones coming on, we have others moving to recovered,” Root wrote.

Root noted that it did not mean, however, that they are out of the woods.

“The concern with vacation and summer travel, is families and individuals traveling to areas where there is a significant number of cases, which increases the chance of exposure,” he wrote.

Health officials are also seeing more and more cases among younger residents. The latest statewide data, Root noted, “shows that the age range from 30-39 years of age has the most positives (22.86%), however 20-29 year old (20.00%) and 50-59 year old (18.57%) ranges aren’t far behind.”

It is difficult to say whether Mineral County is at risk of a large jump in cases like the one that has been observed of late in Monongalia County, or in other states like Florida, as Justice recently referred to in a press conference, Root said. 

“The thing with this virus is that we are learning things about it every day,” he wrote. “What we thought we knew 4-5 months ago continues to evolve. To say that we will ‘end up’ like someone else is hard for me to say. West Virginia has its own unique circumstances to deal with that are different from other states. There are many factors that go into the equation. As we reopen, we continue to urge our community to follow the executive orders set forth by Governor Justice.”

Though he noted that his days of late have been chiefly divided solely between work and his family, Root said it seems like residents are beginning to take public health measures like wearing masks more seriously. Even if the governor were to add more legal weight behind the mask order, Root said, in his opinion it would be difficult to enforce, as those who’d be tasked with doing so “can not be everywhere at once.”

“I know there are many different views and opinions on the wearing of masks, but that, in addition to social distancing and washing your hands, is still the best way to not only protect yourselves, but protect others in the community,” Root wrote. “The goal of the Mineral County Health Department is to keep our loved ones safe, decrease the stress on the health care system and to keep the economy moving forward. I would hope for those reasons alone, the community would put up with a short term inconvenience for the long term gain.”

Follow staff writer Lindsay Renner-Wood on Twitter @LindsayRenWood.

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