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Rising COVID-19 Numbers in Northern Panhandle Due to Socializing, Not Testing

MOUNDSVILLE — Marshall County has seen more than 20 positive cases of COVID-19 cases in the last week, and officials are saying the rise in cases isn’t due to more frequent testing — people are getting sick faster.

Threat Preparedness Director Mark Ackermann has been sending out notices tracking the near-daily climb in numbers of COVID-19 patients, some days seeing half a dozen new cases being followed by the county.

Ackermann said that the spike in cases was due to people going out either to travel or to party, and bringing the coronavirus home with them.

“That was not mass testing at all,” Ackermann said of the uptick. “Most of those (cases) were from some travel, parties. … We’ve had some Myrtle Beach. Wetzel County has been working on some cases too, … and we’ve had some associated with that.”

Between July 10 and today, Marshall County has seen COVID-19 cases go from 63 in the county to 84, with an additional unconfirmed, but probable, case. Of those, 30 of which are in isolation at home, along with 2 hospitalized and 53 who have been released from isolation. One of the hospitalized patients, a four-year-old girl, is reportedly doing well since her initial diagnosis Monday, according to Health Administrator Tom Cook.

Ackermann said that on the plus side, the Marshall County Health Department has been answering numerous questions from people at risk of spreading the virus.

“The best thing is, honestly, I get a ton of questions on Facebook, ‘Hey, I’m going here and there, do we need to get testing?’ People are actually being proactive. ‘I’ve got two people who are at-risk in my family. I’m traveling here, here and here. What should we do?’

“It’s very smart. They’re actually trying to plan ahead. We try to give them the best advice we can, and a lot of it is due to social media. They’re messaging us in the evening asking what to do. If you’re coming back from Arkansas and Georgia, probably want to stay away from those high-risk people for five to seven days until they get tested. They really are trying.”

Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble said they have similarly seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases, especially following the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“The cases we’re seeing are due to more exposures to individuals who are sick, who had mild symptoms,” Gamble said Thursday. “… Right after the July holiday, most of our cases are tethered to travel outside of the state, or tethered to an exposure at a health facility, or, third, tethered to family.”

Gamble added that, locally, many people showing no symptoms are being tested, either on their own initiative or required by their work, and testing positive.

“A lot of times, their employer says that our policy — not the county health department — is that you need to get tested if you’ve been out and doing something (like traveling). Lo and behold, they’re positive,” he said. “Sometimes it’s because the employer said they need to get tested, sometimes … it’s because they want to know, so they go to the free testing sites, and it came back positive. … It’s not always headache, fever, or loss of senses.

There has been a surge of new COVID-19 cases in Ohio County recently, with 78 new cases over the past three weeks, which account for nearly half of the 158 total cases in the county since the pandemic began.

Gamble added that while many people remember where they traveled to, fewer people remember places visited on a normal day around town, which poses some problems for contact tracing.

“It’s easier for us to say you went to an area that has a known abundance of cases,” he said. “…. (Contact tracing) stops pretty quickly. If someone went to Oglebay for the July 4 fireworks, we’re going to stop there, because you can’t have a list of everyone who was there. We’re going to go back to the bigger list of family contacts, household contacts.”

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