CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Moments before Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order on COVID-19 testing in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in West Virginia, Kanawha health officials reported 16 positives cases at the Riverside Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Jefferson on Friday.
Dr. Sherri Young, the chief health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department (KCHD) announced those numbers were part of the county’s largest single-day rise in cases from Thursday at 18. The total number of positives in the county as of Friday morning is 110, Young calling it “an alarming trend.”
“We hate to see this in any long term care facility because the people are so vulnerable,” she said.
“The numbers are just alarming in of themselves because we still see community spread as well. It’s still out in the community, not something limited to the long-term care facilities.”
Two of the 16 positive patients at Riverside are hospitalized following the testing of all 75 residents on Wednesday. Immediate testing was done by the KCHD, West Virginia National Guard and other health officials following one resident hospitalized on Tuesday with the virus.
Young said assisted living facilities are working closely with KCHD to institute measures to ensure the safety of residents and employees.COVID-19 cases have also hit Charleston Gardens and Eastbrook Center in the county.
Justice announced at his daily COVID-19 briefing an order to retest every resident of a West Virginia nursing home as well as staff. West Virginia has 125 nursing homes with more than 10,000 residents. Long-term care facilities in the state have 18,000 employees.
The governor said he is “sick and tired” of discrepancies across the state as cases in homes mount. He also ordered the DHHR to direct all labs to report testing results to state and local health departments electronically and in real-time.
“The entire situation with our nursing homes is not as good as it needs to be,” Justice said.
Of the 110 cases in Kanawha County as of Friday morning, more than half are closed at 58. Young wants the county to remain cautious and stay the course with CDC guidelines.
She is against the idea of reopening the economy any time soon, as national and state leaders plan a staggered return, calling it a “medically poor decision.”
Young noted she would feel more comfortable if there was improved testing.
“We are not ready for that,” Young said of reopening. “We will see an increase. We are seeing an increase without reopening. I’m afraid if we reopened and didn’t maintain these precautions we would see much more devastation.”
Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin issued a similar statement Friday about reopening the economy even though she admitted the city is “millions and millions in deficit” and speaking with City Manager Jonathan Storage that “it doesn’t look good.”
“We need to stay home, we need to continue to listen to Dr. (Sherri) Young and her wise advice,” Goodwin said. “Yes, we are being a little more strict but we need to be. That’s OK. The message is it’s alright to be more strict, we are all suffering,” she said.
Goodwin continued, “One thing that I will not do as mayor is risk your health and your life. I won’t do that.
“Yes, we will have to cut budgets, Yes, we will have to reduce our spending. Yes, I will do that along with other mayors across the state will do. I will not put your life at risk to open those doors just yet.”
To call the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department for an appointment for testing call 304-348-1088.