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W.Va. must redouble containment efforts

We in West Virginia have been very lucky — fingers crossed — in the COVID-19 outbreak. But if we are to avoid a tragedy such as that in Washington state, we must redouble vigilance regarding the most vulnerable among us.

At last count, 20 people at the Sundale Nursing Home in Morgantown had tested positive for the coronavirus. Sixteen residents and four staff members at the nursing home were affected, though some COVID-19 tests results had not yet been received.

In addition, a coronavirus case was reported Wednesday at an assisted living home in Charleston.

COVID-19 cases are multiplying rapidly in West Virginia. But the virus’ invasion of facilities for older people is even more troubling.

People who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities almost by definition are most at risk, by far, from the virus. Once it has gained a foothold, the results can be devastating.

COVID-19 began affecting large numbers of people in Washington state, earlier this year. It got into a nursing home where, to date, 35 residents and staff have succumbed to the disease.

Perhaps because nursing home officials were unfamiliar with COVID-19, mistakes were made in Washington. It was 17 days after the first case was identified before restrictions were placed on visitors to the facility.

Now we know, however. Initial reports indicate the situation in Morgantown is being handled effectively. Still, at least six people at the nursing home have contracted the virus.

West Virginia has at least 130 nursing homes and a number of assisted living facilities. COVID-19 simply must not be permitted to get into them, if it has not already. Whatever it takes — even if it means virtually shutting the facilities off from the outside world — needs to be done.

Fortunately, severe restrictions on visitation were implemented on March 10. There should be no doubt whatsoever that the action saved lives. Such good, lifesaving work needs to be kept up, even stepped up, to safeguard the most vulnerable West Virginians.

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