MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – As COVID cases once again rise in West Virginia, recommendations have changed from official sources and has caused some confusion.
Rochelle Walensky the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said only five days of isolation is required if a person is asymptomatic after testing positive for COVID-19.
“If your symptoms are gone then you’re okay to come out of that isolation but you really do need to wear a mask all of the time,” Walensky said.
But Monongalia County Health Department officials disagree. Dr. Lee Smith executive director and health officer at the department said they are continuing to advocate that, whenever possible, people continue to observe a ten-day isolation.
“The mitigation strategies we’ve been using since the start of the COVID pandemic in March 2020 have served us well,” said Dr. Smith said.
Those isolation recommendations both start on day zero which is the day a person tests positive.
For those who only come into close contact with a covid positive person, MCHD recommends a quarantine for 14 days.
All recommendations come at a time when the county has reached a spike in case numbers.
“Were more than triple the cases that we have ever experienced here in Monongalia County,” Dr. Smith said.
The county’s number of active cases spiked from 282 on Dec. 23 to 1,139 on Jan. 5, but deaths due to COVID weren’t going up quickly with them. According to Dr. Smith on Jan. 5, Monongalia County reported 159 deaths altogether due to COVID, Kanawha County had 577 and other larger West Virginia counties have more than 200: Wood, 277; Raleigh, 227; Berkeley, 215 and Harrison, 202.
According to Luke Moore, MCHD’s regional epidemiologist, the seven-day average of new daily cases in Monongalia County increased 167% when compared to the seven-day average of the previous week in January.
“As of Jan. 4, the seven-day average per 100,000 population is 139.9, which is the highest it has ever been since this pandemic began,” Moore said
MCHD isn’t the only ones disagreeing with the CDC. The American Medical Association said in part in a statement “the American people should be able to count on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) … Instead, the new recommendations on quarantine and isolation are not only confusing, but are risking further spread of the virus.”
“Nearly two years into this pandemic, with Omicron cases surging across the country, the American people should be able to count on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for timely, accurate, clear guidance to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. Instead, the new recommendations on quarantine and isolation are not only confusing, but are risking further spread of the virus. Living during a pandemic is challenging, and what we learn along the way—and data we collect—will necessarily change our course of action at times. According to the CDC’s own rationale for shortened isolation periods for the general public, an estimated 31 percent of people remain infectious 5 days after a positive COVID-19 test. With hundreds of thousands of new cases daily and more than a million positive reported cases on January 3, tens of thousands—potentially hundreds of thousands of people—could return to work and school infectious if they follow the CDC’s new guidance on ending isolation after five days without a negative test. Physicians are concerned that these recommendations put our patients at risk and could further overwhelm our health care system. A negative test should be required for ending isolation after one tests positive for COVID-19. Reemerging without knowing one’s status unnecessarily risks further transmission of the virus. Test availability remains a challenge in many parts of the country, including in hospitals, and we urge the administration to pull all available levers to ramp up production and distribution of tests. But a dearth of tests at the moment does not justify omitting a testing requirement to exit a now shortened isolation.”– American Medical Association about the CDC downgrade to five days of isolation from 10.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said some experts feel the recommendation is safe.
“If you look at the chance of getting a transmission in that second half of that ten-day period, it’s considerably less than in those first few days when we know the level of virus is high in the nasal faring’s and there’s a possibility of transmitting git to someone else,” Fauci said. “So, on balance if you look at the safety of the public and the need to have society not disrupted, this was a good choice.”
The Monongalia County Health Department considers all recommendations and makes the best choice for its county.
“Public health official takes an oath, your health officers take an oath that they will protect the public, prevent disease, prompt the local health,” Dr. Smith said. “So, if I advise people to do something that I know will cause the spread of the disease, that’s irresponsible.”
Even if people do take the proper precautions to stay safe like wearing a mask – symptoms should still be monitored.
“There’s still a chance even though your vaccinated, even though you have survived COVID you could catch it again,” Dr. Smith said. “…We’re asking the community to keep their guard up do the things that we know work and help us keep this infection as low as possible”
The Monongalia Health Department will reevaluate their current guidelines as soon as the number of cases starts to come down.
Dr. Smith also asks that anyone who takes an at home test and has a positive result to report this to the health department by calling 304-598- 5100, and to consider verifying the positive result with a PCR test.
MCHD will offer testing all of January at the West Virginia University Rec Center 7 a.m.-noon Mondays, 8 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursdays and 8 a.m. to noon Fridays. COVID vaccinations and boosters are given at the Rec Center on Wednesdays, from 9-11 a.m. for Pfizer (12 and up) and 1-3 p.m. for Moderna (18 and up).