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State officials describe virus spread at 30 nursing homes and worries about jails

State officials described 30 coronavirus outbreaks at West Virginia long-term care facilities, raising significant concerns while also acknowledging that some are just one or two cases right now.

Gov. Jim Justice today suggested that all nursing homes need another round of testing while also acknowledging discussions about shutting down visitation.

“Boy, we’ve got a long ways to go. This situation just shows us over and over and over how vulnerable, especially our nursing homes, are,” Justice said.

Those concerns are heightened while West Virginia is also experiencing outbreaks at some of its regional jail facilities.

And Justice today had to announce 14 deaths of West Virginians from covid-19 since Friday. Eight of those were from the Princeton Health Care Center in Mercer County.

“It’s just staggering to think about,” Justice said at the start of a Monday briefing about West Virginia’s coronavirus response.

Outbreaks at nursing homes were at the top of the worries.

The Princeton Health Care Center had reported 11 total deaths through the weekend. Today, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported two more on top of those.

Bill Crouch

There are troubles at other West Virginia nursing homes, too, said Bill Crouch, the secretary for Health and Human Resources.

“Governor is right on point with regard to circumstances changing hourly,” Crouch said.

Crouch described 33 residents and 13 staff testing positive at Pine Lodge in Beckley.

He said 33 residents and 9 staff tested positive at Grant County Rehabilitation and Care Center.

Without specifying numbers, he expressed worry over Trinity Healthcare Services in Logan County. “We’re seeing more cases there and working closely with them,” Crouch said.

Crouch described ongoing efforts by the National Guard to bolster personal protective equipment for staff at the facilities, as well as examinations of air ventilation systems.

“We think we’re on top of it as best we can right now,” he said.

He noted that nursing homes can be affected by broader community spread as staff go back and forth.

“Keep in mind we have staff in those facilities who are part of the community and that’s where community spread generally gets introduced into the facility,” Crouch said.

State officials also described ongoing efforts to control the spread of coronavirus at the Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County and the South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County.

South Central went on lockdown with five active cases of coronavirus among inmates and more tests underway.

The Southern Regional Jail had one active inmate and nine active employee cases. More tests are pending.

At both the Southern and South Central regional jails, nearly 58 percent of the total population – 305 and 416 inmates, respectively — are pretrial defendants.

Justice acknowledged that testing at all nursing homes, all correctional facilities — as well as college students who are returning to campus — is likely to strain West Virginia’s current capacity.

“I dont know how we’re going to do it,” Justice said, citing supplies of testing kits and lab availability.

“We need to develop plans right now to go back through and retest every single person that’s in all the nursing homes again, and we need a plan to be able to go through and re-test every person in our correctional facilities again.”

Clay Marsh

Coronavirus response coordinator Clay Marsh said the outbreaks at nursing homes and jails reflect broader spread in the surrounding community.

“We are also seeing new outbreaks in nursing homes and congregate settings,” Marsh said. “That spread is brought in from the community even though we see it in these congregate settings.”


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