Test 1

Catie Sanford, RN with the Fayette County Health Department, left, receives a swab from Ihael Palermo, Mount Hope Fire Department, after she performed a Covid-19 test at the J.W. and Hazel Ruby West Virginia Welcome Center in Mount Hope on Tuesday.

FAYETTEVILLE — An emergency meeting Friday of the Fayette County Covid-19 Task Force led to numerous recommendations to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in the county.

As of Saturday morning, Fayette County Health Officer Dr. Anita Stewart reported the county had 557 positive Covid-19 cases (182 which were still active), five probable cases and 10 deaths, with medical examiner reports pending on other deaths. Recovered cases stood at 356.

Stewart, who is also the Covid-19 Task Force incident command, said Fayette had 15 confirmed Covid-19 cases on Friday.

The following action items were among those developed by the task force to help mitigate spread of the disease in the county:

Fayette County Courthouse

• Recommend closure of the Fayette County Courthouse complex, allowing only essential employees and services only for the next two weeks

• No in-person meetings for county purposes

• Decontamination of court chambers and holding areas

• Recommend courts follow State Supreme Court guidance, with recommendations to limit in-person trials

According to Fayette County Commission President Denise Scalph, county officials have asked that meetings go back to Zoom or conference call.

“We continue to screen and take temperatures when entering county buildings, and monitor access,” Scalph said Sunday. “Recommendations are subject to change according to direction from the local health department and governor.

“We continue to provide services and thank the employees and the public for using safe practices to minimize exposure.”

Scalph also reminds that “just because a temperature comes up normal, doesn’t necessarily indicate things are safe. The screening questions are very important.”

Visitors to the courthouse must practice social distancing and wear a mask at all times. And, once they’ve completed their business, they must leave the building and grounds and not loiter.

Fayette County businesses

• Work with the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce to encourage businesses to reduce in-person services where possible over the next two weeks. Examples include: Banks closing lobbies (drive-through only); take out/take away for restaurants; closing or limiting in-person hair/nail salons and barbershops; increased delivery services; increase adherence to guidance for store occupancy, masking, sanitization, etc.; encourage virtual work where possible; send testing opportunities to businesses; outdoor industry meeting regarding tourism (guidance discussed with industry leaders); plan sanitarian visits to each venue to ensure adherence to guidance; plan to reconvene after the weekend with industry regarding guidance; and encourage sharing of community spread guidance with tourists.

According to Becky Sullivan, executive director of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, recommendations to the business community will look similar to those in place in the early stages of the pandemic. Examples she gave included closing lobbies to the public, halting indoor dining, and no staging of mass gatherings or events.

“This isn’t an order but strong recommendations being made by the health officials and experts in the field,” she said.

The chamber canceled its Oct. 3 golf tournament “in an attempt to lead by example and slow the spread for Fayette County,” Sullivan said.

Health care

• Work with local organizations to protect the health care work force

• Encourage telehealth where possible

• N95s for direct patient care with eye protection

• Explore execution and potential launch surge capacity strategies

• Enhance screening of staff with questions of community exposures

• Explore alternative supplies for PPE. Work with health command and “green” counties for PPE exchange

• Send letter to first responders regarding avoiding in-person meetings and recommendations for full respiratory PPE during patient care

“We will continue to work on this document to enhance community mitigation strategies as they arise and will apply them accordingly according to community spread following the county alert map,” Stewart said.

• • •

Stewart reported that a testing event in Fayette County on Tuesday is expected to show about a 7.5 percent positivity rate for Covid and urged residents to wash their hands, to wear masks and to follow all social distancing guidelines.

She also encouraged businesses to limit in-person services as often as possible and for churches to consider virtual services — a move that many churches have already made, in order to protect congregants from the novel coronavirus, which can be fatal in some cases.

“Businesses need to consider voluntarily reducing in-person services, where applicable,” said Stewart. “Churches need to consider going back to virtual services.

“Hospitals have things in place,” she added. “Every sector is going to have to participate in some way to help decrease viral spread in this community.

“We have a lot of virus here,” Stewart said of Fayette County. “It’s only going to get better and reduce if we work together, from each individual person to businesses in the community.”

Fayette Health Department partnered with other local organizations to host two testing events on Tuesday.

At the first one, held at JW and Hazel Ruby Welcome Center in Mount Hope from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 96 people came to receive a Covid test.

“We saw the majority of patients with symptoms and contacts,” Stewart described those who showed up for the tests. “There were a few that were there for personal awareness.”

The testing is free.

At a testing event last week, Stewart reported, test results showed a positivity rate of 7.5 percent.

“I expect to see the same this go-around,” said Stewart, after the first event on Tuesday.

The first event was sponsored by the Fayette Covid Task Force. The health department partnered with the Fayette Department of Emergency Management, Mount Hope Fire Department, Mount Hope EMS, Lab Corps and other agencies.

The second event at Midland Trail High School was set for 4 to 7 p.m. and was sponsored by Rainelle Medical Center, Fayette EOC, Mount Hope Fire Department and EMS, Fayette County Board of Education and the Fayette County Health Department.

Stewart reported that a number of those requesting tests had encountered exposure risks at various places.

“They were exposed at work or in the community or in their house,” she said.

One mother reported that she had sought testing on Tuesday morning for her daughter, who attends dance class with a student from Victory Baptist Academy. The private Raleigh County school is currently closed for two weeks, following a positive Covid test of an adult at the school, Victory Principal Sam Childers reported.

Raleigh Health Department Administrator Dr. Brian MacAulay said Tuesday that the Victory Baptist Academy case has been investigated.

“Case investigations are completed, and all named close contacts are notified and followed for the 14-day quarantine,” said MacAulay, adding that close contact is defined as contact within six feet for 15 minutes or longer. “The Beckley-Raleigh County Health Department is currently following several potential exposures within the county.

“Facilities involved in potential COVID-19 exposures are contacted immediately, guidance provided on disinfection and notification of close contacts,” he added in a press release.

Calls regarding the Victory Baptist Case may be made to 304-252-8531 ext. 0.

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe; jfarrish@register-herald.com

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