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Containment

Officials must stop COVID-19’s spread

It appears nearly all the COVID-19 cases in Randolph County are at the state prison in Huttonsville. Keeping it that way — that is, preventing the disease from spreading into communities around the corrections center — may be the most important task facing Gov. Jim Justice and other state officials during the next several days.

One hundred and sixteen Huttonsville inmates and eight staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus by Friday. Only about a week ago, just one case had been reported inside the prison.

That is less an indication of how quickly COVID-19 spreads than of the disease’s insidious nature. Most of those carrying the virus show few, if any, symptoms. That can allow an explosion in cases such as that at Huttonsville.

On Wednesday, the governor said all of the prison’s inmates and staff are being tested. He added that prisoners and employees at all other state corrections centers will be tested.

Good. Formerly, only those displaying symptoms of COVID-19 were being tested. Checking everyone may prevent another outbreak such as that at Huttonsville.

That is important not just to prisoners and corrections center personnel, but to the wider communities. As we have pointed out previously, we in the Ohio Valley are aware of that because of infections that began at a prison in Belmont County, then spread to neighboring counties.

Justice is right that, as he stressed Wednesday, prison inmates “deserve to be protected just as much as I deserve or any of us deserves.” But the very nature of penal institutions as incubators for COVID-19 makes isolating the disease there, before it can jump to households outside the prison, critical.

It also makes an immediate full-out testing campaign at other prisons imperative.

•••

A mail carrier in Pendleton County is in a world of trouble — and should be –for what state and federal investigators say was an attempt at election tampering.

Thomas Cooper, 47, was charged with attempted election fraud this week. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says Cooper, in handling mailed requests for absentee ballots, changed five submitted by Democrats to specify they wanted Republican ballots. Cooper insists he did so “as a joke …”

It is no laughing matter, especially to West Virginians with a long, sordid history of election fraud.

Perhaps Cooper was merely attempting to have a bit of immature fun. If so, we are sorry for him. But his offense, if proven, requires significantly harsh punishment. Tampering with the election process for any reason simply is unacceptable.

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