As of March 20, 2020, over 240 West Virginians have been tested for COVID-19. Of these, 219 were negative, 13 are pending, and 8 were positive. Two of the positive cases were in Jefferson County residents who have been under voluntary home quarantine since first showing symptoms.
We have three public health nurses at Jefferson County Health Department, and all are trained in epidemiology and disease investigations. They work closely with our regional epidemiologist to coordinate investigations across county and state lines when necessary. They are screening possible COVID-19 patients, which is exactly what their training and experience has prepared them for. Investigating these cases involves interviewing the patients to get a detailed list of where they have been and who they have interacted with. Anyone with a reasonable possibility of exposure is contacted, interviewed about their symptoms, travel, and given counseling and instructions as necessary. Contacts may be asked to simply monitor their symptoms and report them to us, to self-quarantine at home, or to be tested at a local hospital.
We ask everyone to remember that we are right at the border where Cold & Flu Season meets Allergy Season, so not everyone with a slight cough has COVID-19. And even if they do, most people who get COVID-19 will be able to recover with no medical intervention. That’s why West Virginia is using our limited testing materials conservatively and prioritizing people with a high risk of complications, like people over 65 or who have chronic health conditions. Any otherwise healthy person who becomes sick with a fever and cough should stay home, monitor their symptoms, and contact their doctor if they need medical attention (call 911 in an emergency).
Everyone in Jefferson County should keep up with good hand-hygiene habits, practice social distancing, use good respiratory etiquette, and follow any recommendations from the CDC and the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health. Slowing the spread of the virus this way will save lives by preventing our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.