UPDATE (8/11/21 5:25 p.m.)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Monongalia County Health Department (MCHD), along with West Virginia University, announced that the amount of COVID testing conducted has more than doubled within the last week.
On Tuesday, WVU and MCHD said the number of COVID tests they have conducted went from 105 on July 30 to 286 on Aug. 6. Additionally, MCHD Clinical Services reported that individuals seeking the vaccine have been rising to about 10 per day. During the last week of July, those numbers reported were only about four to 10 vaccines per day.
As the more contagious Delta variant, which accounts for 90 percent of new COVID cases, continues to rise, Dr. Lee B. Smith, MCHD executive director and county health officer, noted that individuals need to be doing more now to turn the situation around.
“People have let their guard down,” Dr. Smith said. “They go on vacation and as soon as they get off the plane, they put their mask away. The vast majority of cases of the Delta variant. We know it’s more infectious and can cause more serious illness, particularly in those that are not vaccinated.”
It was also noted by MCHD that breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals are also emerging. However, the vaccine generally does provide protection against severe symptoms and hospitalizations in those cases.
“It is my hope that more of those people who have said they want to wait and see about the vaccine have reached that point because now it’s clear that those who are unvaccinated are at the highest risk of infection,” said Dr. Smith. “I understand that people are fatigued by COVID and they want to blame someone, but it continues to be spread by people who are not vaccinated and not acting in good conscience.”
The county, Smith said, is seeing the hospitalization rate increase, the ICU rate increase and that the number of people on ventilators is increasing.
“I’m not trying to scare people, this is just the reality of what we’re seeing,” he said. “And so, we’re trying to base our actions on the science.”
The MCHD stated that the fact that COVID testing numbers have risen so dramatically, the vaccine numbers also need to increase. West Virginia’s rate of fully vaccinated individuals was 49.5% out of the entire population of nearly 1.8 million, as of Monday. This is slightly lower than the percentage of fully vaccinated Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was 49.9% as of Thursday, Aug. 5.
Some states have higher vaccination rates than others, which has prompted an uptick in COVID cases in some areas. This initially has caused hospital crowding that is similar to the beginning of the pandemic.
“Most U.S. states and jurisdictions are experiencing substantial or high levels of community transmission fueled by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant,” according to the CDC’s online COVID Date Tracker. “COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase, especially in communities with lower vaccination coverage.”
The MCHD has set up vaccine clinics in community settings in addition to the given by appointment at MCHD Clinical Services. MCHD employees will be at La Tapatia Food Market and Tacos on Green Bag Road from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14. These clinics will provide vaccines to employees and members of the public who are 12 or older.
PCR testing conducted by MCHD and WVU is held from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Fridays at the WVU Rec Center. Starting Aug. 11, Wednesday from noon to 3 p.m. will be added to the schedule. Results are back within 24 hours on Monday and Friday, and by Thursday evening for Wednesday testing.
We work very closely with West Virginia University and we follow all the positive cases. And WVU staff, faculty, students are all being asked to get vaccinated. And if not, then they need to go through routine testing, so we saw this increase before the students started to return. And the numbers of WVU students surprisingly are very high in their vaccine rate because they’ve been home and, you know, in many other states and many of them have received adequate vaccination. What we’re seeing is that people who went on vacation, people who were travelers, people who’ve been to, you know, Florida, California, where have you, then they return and bring the Delta variant back with them. And, you know, that has been the reason that we’re starting to see these increase. I shouldn’t say starting to see. We’re in the midst of it.Dr. Lee Smith – Executive Director, MCHD
To make an appointment for a COVID vaccine or to set up a vaccine event at a business or organization, call MCHD Clinical Services at (304) 598-5119. For up-to-date information on health and wellness in Monongalia County, visit monchd.org. You can also follow the health department on Facebook and Twitter.
“We continue to focus on those people who haven’t yet been vaccinated,” Smith said. “We, still, are doing vaccines. We’re happy to do vaccinations in companies and factories. And if you can get five or more people together, we’ll come to you.”