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Major Strain

Help needed by county health departments

County health departments are under enormous strain because of the drastic increase in COVID-19 cases. They need help, especially in the critical work of contact tracing.

That is an attempt to identify people who, because of contact with others who test positive for the disease, may have picked it up. Often, if the contact has been close enough, quarantining is necessary.

Health department personnel throughout our area have been working very hard to handle various tasks linked to the epidemic. Many who normally perform tasks such as clerical and accounting have been pressed into service as contact tracers. That has been necessary despite the fact some health departments have hired temporary employees solely to handle that task.

COVID-19 has become an avalanche. In West Virginia, 13,678 active cases of the disease were reported on Sunday. That was up from 10,707 just a week before.

Clearly, the need for contact tracing is going to increase at a dramatic rate. Local health departments need help — badly and immediately.

State officials should provide them with adequate funding to hire more contact tracers. Handling the task adequately truly is a matter of life and death.

•••

The last thing the embattled coal industry needs is new federal regulations that may prove costly.

Then again, the last thing miners and their families need is black lung disease. It debilitates and too often kills.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s inspector general recommended tighter restrictions on silica dust in mines. It has been known for decades that coal dust is the primary cause of black lung disease.

Once thought to be on the decline, black lung seems to be making a comeback in some regions of the country.

Are the recommended new rules desirable? We don’t know. We do know that more attention needs to be paid to curbing black lung.

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