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WV county health director: No magic wand to make COVID-19 vanish

West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, WV (WDVM) — No sooner had Governor Jim Justice ordered all West Virginians over age nine to wear a mask when visiting an indoor establishment, more than one and a half dozen positive COVID-19 tests were recorded in the Mountain State.

The game plan for fighting the coronavirus in West Virginia is to stick to some pretty fundamental rules. The state hit an all-time, one-day peak of 130 new cases over the weekend. West Virginia now has more than 3,500 positive cases of the virus, prompting Governor Jim Justice to start the week with a “voluntary-mandatory” indoor mask rule.

It’s a basic in the toolbox, says the director of the Berkeley County Health Department, where positive tests are higher than any other of West Virginia’s 55 counties.

“Face masks, social distancing. using good common sense is what it will take,” said Bill Kearns, , Director of the Berkeley-Morgan County Board of Health. “And also continue, if you have the availability to work from home, still continue to do that as much as possible. Also limit your exposure to people that are not within your household.”

Of course, Berkeley County — the state’s fastest-growing county — is not as insulated, hemmed in by populous suburban Maryland and Virginia counties. Washington, D.C. is close by, and Interstate-81 cuts right through the county with motorists from practically anywhere.

But the rising positive rate is still disheartening. Pat Sensel has lost two people close to her since the pandemic hit. As health director Kerans says, beating the coronavirus is a matter of personal responsibility.

“It’s because people aren’t listening,” said Sensel, a resident of Falling Waters. “Everybody is on top of each other. They’re going to beaches. They’re not just listening to anybody. They’re just doing what they want to do.”

Which might explain why West Virginia is now in contention with Montana and Tennessee for the fastest rise in positive tests, according to the latest data.

A vaccine would be a most effective remedy, but the earliest that’s expected, according to Kearns, is the end of the calendar year.

Meanwhile, the governor’s COVID-19 adviser, Dr. Clay Marsh, says that in states with the mandatory mask rule, positive tests have dropped twelve percent.

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