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Spike in COVID-19 Cases Marks Marshall County Orange

Photo by Alan Olson – Health officials at the Marshall County Health Department administer a COVID-19 test to a drive-up patient.

MOUNDSVILLE — Marshall County health officials scrambled to prepare for the day Wednesday morning when they discovered that a recent rash of positive cases of COVID-19 had upgraded the county’s color on the state’s chart.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources color-coded map had listed Marshall County as green for some time, until an increase in cases over the weekend pushed the color to yellow and gold in different categories Monday, and finally to orange Tuesday and Wednesday.

In response, the health department set up a free test clinic in front of its office from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday.

It will be offered again from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

Threat Preparedness Director Mark Ackermann described a whirlwind hour Wednesday morning as he found out about the change, first by glancing at the chart, then by being notified what the rapid change meant.

“I actually had just looked at the map. I went, ‘Oh no,’ and the next thing, the phone goes off. I got a call 10 minutes after the hour (10 a.m.), and in an hour, it’s set up,” he said of the testing site, which was ready around 11:20 a.m.

“… Marshall County was orange on the color coding map. Within five minutes, I got a notification from the state that we needed to step up and stand up testing immediately, either the health department or they would have sent the National Guard to help run it. Administrator (Tom Cook) said, ‘No, we’re going to do it, this is our county.’ So for the last hour we’ve been here setting up for testing.”

Ackermann said the testing would continue daily at the health department until the situation improves.

He added that the color chart is based on the lower value between either the infected population per 100,000 people, or the average percent positivity rate. While the DHHR website indicates Marshall County has around 30,500 people and 33 positive cases, the percent positivity rate is 5.37 percent; the average rate must reach 8 percent for the county to become red.

The color change does not have many other county-wide effects, such as effects on schooling, unless it were to shift further to red. Protocol regarding school response to COVID-19 is dictated by a different map.

“There’s not going to be a whole lot of a change at this point,” he said. “The only time there would be a change with orange status is if it occurred on a Saturday on the schools map. The only time schools would shut down during the middle of the week would be if the county went to red, then they’d close the next day.”

Ackermann encouraged all people to come and get tested, regardless of their current health, as many people found to be positive have been asymptomatic.

“It’s absolutely important. We need to find out where the people who have it are out here,” he said. “We have a lot of people who are asymptomatic, and we want to get this out here to anyone who can possibly take advantage of it.”

Also, one student was reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 at John Marshall High School. The student apparently did not pick up the disease from transmission at school, and Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration was working through the evening to do a comprehensive deep cleaning of the building. Classes will resume as normal today.

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