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High Alert

State should test in nursing homes frequently

Most nursing homes and other long-term care centers in West Virginia have been free of COVID-19 since the epidemic began. Not all have been that lucky.

During the weekend, eight more deaths were reported at the Princeton Care Center in Mercer County. A total of 12 people there have succumbed to the virus since an outbreak was identified in late July.

At last count, 59 residents of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities in our state had been killed by COVID-19. Nine counties have been affected.

On Sunday, the state Department of Health and Human Resources reported active outbreaks at nursing homes in 17 counties. In some of those facilities, no active cases of the disease were reported, but the DHHR was keeping them on the active list until the 14-day incubation period for COVID-19 had passed since the last recovery.

Good. We have heard the words, “out of an abundance of caution” many times during the COVID-19 epidemic. It needs to be emphasized as the strategy for public health officials — and those at nursing homes — until the coronavirus is history.

Gov. Jim Justice exercised some of it last week, after a case of COVID-19 was found at the state Veterans Nursing Facility in Clarksburg. Among the governor’s actions were dispatching National Guard personnel to help at the veterans home.

For a few weeks, it appeared our state would be spared a major COVID-19 disaster. Some nursing homes began easing restrictions on visiting. Then the virus came roaring back.

Now, most if not all nursing homes are back on alert, with visitors banned. They need to be kept in place. Justice and other state officials need to keep up extraordinary measures, such as frequent testing at nursing homes. Our most vulnerable are in crisis. We simply cannot let them down.

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