Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling Closes as ‘Precautionary Measure’
WHEELING — The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling announced Monday it was closed this week “as a precautionary measure” after an employee there tested positive for the COVID-19 virus over the weekend.
The closure comes just a day after Wheeling Park High School closed due to three positive COVID cases being reported there this weekend. A number of students and staff who came in contact with the infected persons — at least 50, as of Sunday — are now being quarantined.
Overall in Ohio County, there have been 462 positive cases of COVID as of Monday, according to Howard Gamble, administrator for the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department. There were 10 cases in the county reported between Friday and Sunday.
“That’s a lot, but that’s not tremendous enough for us to say things are out of control,” Gamble said. “It is just that the cases continue.
“During the summer you would have dry spells when you didn’t have any cases. That doesn’t seem to be the case now.”
Closures of schools or other buildings are necessary to keep control of the situation, he said.
At the Soup Kitchen, one worker has tested positive for COVID-19, but that worker had not been at the Soup Kitchen for more than a week, and has had no contact with any others at the Soup Kitchen during that time, according to executive director Becky Shilling-Rodocker.
“Someone came down with symptoms, and did not work last week,” she said. “That person tested for COVID, and it was positive.
“This person is an employee who was not in the Soup Kitchen last week. It is almost impossible they would have obtained the virus from the Soup Kitchen. The Soup Kitchen is not the source of the COVID. But the Soup Kitchen is responding by closing down for a week, and is hiring someone to come in and do a really good cleaning.”
There are eight workers at the Soup Kitchen, and they will test for COVID this week, according to Shilling-Rodocker. The Soup Kitchen will reopen Monday if no one there tests positive.
The infected employee isn’t expected to return for about three weeks, meaning they will be away from the kitchen for a total of about a month since having symptoms, she said.
“We are being vigilant — we are being proactive rather than reactive,” Shilling-Rodocker said. “No one who works here or anyone who is a patron was exposed to that person.”
She said there are other local agencies that can help feed the hungry this week during the Soup Kitchen’s closure, and among these places are the House of the Carpenter and Catholic Charities.
Those needing assistance may call the Soup Kitchen at 304-233-2992, and the phone there still will be answered, according to Shilling-Rodocker.
The decision to close the Soup Kitchen was solely the decision of those at the facility, according to Gamble.
The closure of Wheeling Park High School, meanwhile, was a joint decision between Gamble and the school district, Gamble said.
“In the spring, we all knew what we were working for was to have kids — both college and K-12 — back in school,” he said. “We knew throughout the summer if we didn’t practice proper social distancing, hand washing, mask-wearing and avoid large gatherings, we would have an increase by July 4. We saw that.
“But we were able to get the kids back to college and back to school to some degree. We have to keep maintaining that level of awareness as the kids are back in school.”
Historically, positive COVID cases have been tied to adults and older persons living in nursing homes, Gamble said.
“We are now seeing a growth in younger cases,” he said. “Some of that is they are picking it up in the community and spreading it in the school. There isn’t a lot of spread in school, but it does happen.
“That is the concern we have. If it begins to spread into schools, schools just can’t maintain it. They have to suspend academics until the virus is under control.”
If the virus isn’t controlled, there will be more spread within the school systems and eventually into the public, according to Gamble.