MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County has seen a large increase in COVID cases since 2022 began, and the health department is continuing to advocate for vaccines and mitigation strategies to get those numbers down.
According to the Monongalia County Health Department cases went from 282 on Dec. 23 to 1,139 on Jan. 5. That’s four times the cases in just two weeks. That put Mon County with the highest seven-day average per 100,000 population since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
With class is back in session after winter break, there are concerns of spread with students and the risks that follow.
“We know now that children who contract COVID are at risk for juvenile diabetes,” said Dr. Lee Smith of the Monongalia County Health Department. “We know that there are people that get heart disease and pericarditis and myocarditis 30 times greater than if you get the vaccine. We know that there are people who have contracted COVID and have yet to regain their taste or their smell.”
But the concern isn’t just with students in elementary, middle and high schools. West Virginia University students make up a large portion of Monongalia County. Even though WVU has extended its indoor mask mandate to Feb. 1, the virus may still spread.
“To lump people together in sort of the 18 to 24-year-old group, they have a certain amount of trying to be carefree at that time in their life, and they may not do all the things they can do to protect themselves, particularly when out with friends, and it’s easy to contract and it’s easy to spread,” Dr. Smith said.
Smith agrees with protecting oneself with vaccination and said he thinks it’s one of the best strategies we have even though one shot doesn’t mean lifelong immunity.
“We know that antibodies wear off with time, whether you survived COVID and had no vaccine or whether you’ve been vaccinated several times, there’s a limit to how long the antibody last in this virus,” Dr. Smith said. He continued, “People complain that they don’t get lifelong immunity. That was never the design of the vaccine to, one shot and you never have to worry about it again. This virus changes vary rapidly, and it doesn’t surprise me that the next variation, we have limited protection.”
The health department offers testing all of January at the West Virginia University Rec Center 7 a.m. to noon Mondays, 8 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 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 to 11 a.m. for Pfizer (12 and up) and 1 to 3 p.m. for Moderna (18 and up).
“We’re as anxious as anyone to see this come to an end, and I think it’s important for us to hold the line and try and do everything we can to try and slow down and stop the progression of this virus,” Dr. Smith said.
They are also asking those who test positive for COVID-19 with an at-home test to report it to them at 304-598-5100 and then to follow up with a PCR test.