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Kanawha health officer says county is close to return to classrooms

ELKVIEW, W.Va. — The health officer and executive director of Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is confident that schools in her county will return to in-person learning in the coming weeks.

Dr. Sherri Young telling 580-WCHS, the MetroNews flagship in Charleston, that if numbers continue to trend in the same direction, the state’s largest school system could be in physical classrooms as soon as next week. Kanawha County Schools has had virtual learning since the school year began on Sept. 8.

“Our best mitigation effort right now is to stamp out the disease by trying to get more testing out there, making sure it is truly safe to return,” Young said at a COVID-19 testing event Monday in Elkview.

Dr. Sherri Young

Kanawha County is one of only two school systems in the state, along with Barbour, that remains in the orange on the DHHR county alert map. As of Monday, the incidence rate for Kanawha is 7.22.

The health department’s latest update of COVID-19 numbers on Sunday night indicates the county has 990 active cases of the virus with 36 probable cases. There have been 2,700 total cases in the county since March with 1,633 recovered.

By the end of this week, following testing events at Elkview Baptist Church Monday, South Charleston High School Thursday and Riverside High School Friday, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department (KCHD) will have conducted 60 public testing events since March.

On Monday, Gov. Jim Justice announced testing events put on by the West Virginia National Guard Monday night, Tuesday night and Wednesday night at George Washington High School. Those events go from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Another testing event at GWHS will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday.

Young said the department and state has ramped up testing and it’s producing good results for the community, as more asymptomatic citizens test.

“Without more testing events, more people are waiting to go to the hospital or they were feeling bad and going to their primary care provider because they are symptomatic,” Young said.

“Symptomatic people are more likely to have COVID. Even though 40-percent of people are asymptomatic, they are not going to seek medical care so it doesn’t give us an accurate number of the community.”

She said as long as the KCHD and other health entities continue with the mass testing, schools should be safe.

“With us increasing our capacity going out into more areas, we hope that helps to show people where the hotspots are and where it is safe, making it safer to go back to school,” Young said.

KCHD is also giving out free flu shots at the COVID-19 testing events. Young said the department has given out over 600 shots since announcing the arrival of doses on Sept 13.

“It gives us the ability to go into communities and stamp out flu while we are trying to fight COVID. We don’t want another epidemic on top of a pandemic,” Young said.

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