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KEYSER, W.Va. — Mineral County crossed the 500-case threshold Friday as the area’s COVID-19 situation continued to worsen, county health Administrator A. Jay Root said.

In an email to the Times-News Friday afternoon, Root wrote that health officials are “seeing record numbers at this point.”

“As of this morning, we had an additional 30-plus cases waiting for us. Unless all of our community starts to wear masks properly, social distance and avoid large gatherings, this is going to continue,” Root said.

The county had at least 224 active cases Friday, and those people are in isolation, Root said, but he did not offer an estimate for how many close contacts those 224 people may have had that are also now in quarantine.

While Root reported toward the beginning of November that many of the cases were concentrated on the northern end of the county, on Friday he said, “at this point, it is community spread throughout the county.”

Mineral County remained in orange on the daily Department of Health and Human Resources informational map on Friday morning, despite having an infection rate of nearly 100 per 100,000 and a 6.60% positivity rate.

“Looking at the map today, we have an infection rate of 99.43 (which was at 46.26 7 days ago),” Root wrote. “This is the highest in West Virginia and yet we are still in “orange.” The next highest is Wood County at 79.91. In comparison, Allegany County is at 71.01. I think the map gives a false sense of what is going on in the county when looking at the color alone.”

Health officials have received some aid of late, Root said, which is helping things progress more smoothly for the overworked department.

“We have requested and are receiving some support from DHHR contact tracing,” Root said. “We are fortunate that the person we are utilizing is from our community, which makes a big difference. We have also started onboarding the school nurses and nurses from the (Mineral County Technical Center Practical Nursing Program) to help with this. Having individuals that are local makes the case investigation and contact tracing more effective.”

‘More vigilant’

Should Mineral County’s situation continue to worsen, WVU Potomac State College officials said in a news release Thursday that the college could potentially move to strictly virtual instruction sooner than expected.

The school’s last day of face-to-face instruction is scheduled Nov. 24 and, after fall recess, students will complete the rest of the semester online.

“In order to meet our goal of in-person learning, we must be more vigilant than ever limiting indoor gatherings with others, movement on campus and trips into the community,” school officials said. “The Recreation Center will remain closed and athletic activities suspended throughout the end of the semester.”

“Currently, there are three students isolating on campus,” per the release. “Students who were quarantining due to close contact have been released; therefore, there are no students in quarantine on-campus. We are aware of 31 students and three faculty/staff quarantining or isolating at home.”

Lindsay Renner-Wood is a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News, covering West Virginia and more. Follow her on Twitter @LindsayRenWood, email lrenner-wood@times-news.com or call 304-639-4403.

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