Rotarians educated on local COVID-19 efforts

BUCKHANNON — The Rotary Club of Buckhannon was glad to finally resume holding meetings, but they will take place virtually for now.  Although the club has not been able to meet regularly for a while, they have still been busy demonstrating their motto of “Service Above Self.” 

Aside from hosting blood drives and organizing their popular blood screening events, the Rotary Club of Buckhannon also helped pack 450 bookbags at the Parish House for their annual backpack giveaway.  They really stepped up to the plate, according to newly elected President Julie Keehner.  Individual club members donated many school supplies as well. 

Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department’s Nurse Director/Administrator Sue McKisic and Medical Director Dr. Joseph Reed educated Rotarians on the COVID-19 pandemic regarding Upshur County. 

McKisic explained when this started in March, the health department developed a task force that originally met a couple times a week – they now meet biweekly.  The task force includes the health department, city and county entities, community service members, first responders and others, who come together as a group to better field this unchartered pandemic.

Upshur County currently has 38 confirmed, 2 probable, 2 active, and 36 confirmed recovered cases, according to McKisic.  Most importantly, Upshur County has not experienced any COVID-19 related deaths and she stated, “We are very thankful for that.”

The health department is not testing for COVID-19; however, they are doing the tedious job of contact tracing.  Patients are referred to their medical provider or St. Joseph’s Hospital for testing.  When someone tests positive, the health department gets notified, and they have to call the positive case to get a number of people in the household and discuss how to separate themselves from everyone in the house, such as a designated bathroom.  From that point, they discuss the other people they have been in contact with and give the positive case an opportunity to notify all those people.  The health department requests the address of all these people to notify 911 in case they receive a call for that address; however, as people come off quarantine, they are removed from the list.  The health department also remains in contact with persons who have tested positive and their direct contacts for 14 days, in order to receive updates on symptoms.  If the symptoms last longer than 14 days, they still remain in contact until they are resolved.  Quarantine now begins the day symptoms start. 

The health department is anticipating a new system to contact trace more effectively and efficiently, according to McKisic.  This system will also be used to gather statistics.  McKisic explained they will be asking a variety of questions with this new system, such as ethnicity, homelessness, and much more to track this on the state and federal level.  Also, with the patient’s permission, they can be sent a daily text message or email from the system, and their responses would go into their open case on the computer program.  The health department is expecting this system to be available on September 11. 

When COVID-19 first started, the common symptoms included a temperature and cough, but as with many things involving the virus, that has since changed.  People are now reporting sore throats, runny noses, red and watery eyes, eye infections, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and headaches, according to McKisic.  “This is ever changing… there were times things were changing two or three times a day,” she explained.  “According to the state health department and CDC, it has been determined that a positive case is no longer infectious after 10 days of no symptoms, regardless if the person is still testing positive,” McKisic elaborated. 

Dr. Reed explained that COVID-19 is so contagious because there is lot of asymptomatic spread.  He said it is now believed that approximately 60-80 percent who get the infection, do not have symptoms.  There is also the question, “Is it spread through droplets or aerosol?”  He said droplets are the bigger issue as they are much larger particles, but they have a lot shorter life.  Masks are a significant block to stopping the spread of droplets, as well as social distancing, according to Dr. Reed.  “Another issue with the contagiousness, is our culture itself…we aren’t used to wearing masks, and we don’t like the idea of being told what to do,” he stated. 

Approximately 25 percent of Upshur County residents take the annual flu shot, based on Dr. Reed’s observations over the last six or seven years.  Therefore, he predicts that 25 percent or less will take a vaccine for COVID-19, when or if it is available.  He believes this is largely due to uncertain answers to questions like, how much will it cost?  How readily available will it be?  What are the side effects?  Dr. Reed estimates that we are going to be dealing with this virus for the next 2-3 years, and maybe longer.  Another question that remains unanswered, “Is the health industry costs worth what we are doing?” Dr.  Reed explained.  “It isn’t cheap to do what we’ve done.”  

McKisic and Dr. Reed both agreed and strongly emphasized, “Wash your hands and wear your face masks.”


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