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Upshur officials urging residents ‘stay the course’

BUCKHANNON — Although Upshur County had only one confirmed case of COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning, the Buckhannon-Upshur COVID-19 Community Task Force is urging residents to continue social distancing measures.

Brian Shreves, director of the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said in a press release Tuesday, “I believe our residents need to know that the things we’ve been doing have affected the data in a positive way, but letting up could just as easily affect the data in a more negative way. Our community task force strongly recommends that Upshur County residents continue to stay the course and stay informed.”

During its teleconference Tuesday morning, the task force discussed modeling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington which show a slightly earlier peak for West Virginia of April 16. This is earlier than originally forecasted, according to the press release.

The task force advises residents should continue to abide by Governor Jim Justice’s stay-at-home order and follow the recommended social distancing practices by only going out when necessary, planning weekly supply trips and keeping six feet of space between people, checking with neighbors to see if one person can make a single trip for several households and sending one person into the store.

Residents should also follow CDC recommendations for wearing cloth masks while in public, continue hand washing for 20 seconds and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol.

“Importantly, task force members recognized that the primary purpose of the masks is to limit symptom transmission by those not currently showing symptoms,” the release stated.

The CDC is now recommending wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain such as grocery stores and pharmacies. By using cloth masks, it will help to preserve surgical masks and other PPE for the medical providers and first responders that need them.

Medical providers and first responder agencies feel that personal protective equipment supplies are currently adequate but the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department and Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management continue to request PPE from state authorities so that local agencies are ready in the event of a prolonged or escalated local response, according to the release.

“Residents should understand that PPE for medical providers and responders is not the same as the cloth masks recommended by the CDC,” the release states. “Partner agencies, local businesses and other organizations may have needs for the cloth versions.”

St. Joseph’s Hospital announced Monday it would begin accepting homemade masks for use by staff with limited contact with general patient population such as security officers, cafeteria workers and cashiers. It will also make masks available to long-term care residents following new guidelines released by CMS on April 2. Masks can be dropped off in bins in the triage tent outside the Emergency Department.

The release from the county states that if any local organizations or residents would like to donate personal protective equipment, including gloves, gowns, homemade masks, etc., they should contact the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management at 304-472-4983.

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