Kanawha County Covid-19 cases increase in and out of schools

Megan Hippler

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Child wearing face maskImage from Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Covid-19 is alive and thriving in the Kanawha Valley.

On Tuesday, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department reported an additional 38 Covid-19 cases, bringing the total number of active cases to 509.

The number of active cases is climbing quickly. On Thursday, the Health Department reported there were 301 active cases, meaning there has been a 69% increase in the county's number of active cases in less than a week.

On Monday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources released the latest statewide alert map, indicating counties with high infection rates, high percentage of positive cases, or both. As of the August 16th map, Kanawha County is on orange alert, the second-highest alert in the system. Three counties are red-- Barbour, Wetzel, and Berkeley—and twenty-three total counties are in the orange. Only ten of West Virginia’s fifty-five counties are still green.

Also on Monday, the Kanawha County school system released the first of its weekly coronavirus reports to contain a full school week. The report listed eleven cases of Covid-19 in Kanawha County schools during the previous week. It does not indicate whether the positive case was in a student or an employee.

The high schools with positive cases were Capital High School and George Washington High School with one case each. Dupont Middle School and Horace Mann Middle School also reported a single case each. Belle Elementary, Cross Lanes Elementary, Kanawha City Elementary, Lakewood Elementary, and Midland Trail Elementary reported one case each while Flinn Elementary School had two cases.

None of the schools closed, and there has been no indication that the schools or the Kanawha County Board of Education are going to be making changes to the current coronavirus policy because of these cases.

At Governor Jim Justice’s coronavirus news conference at the State Capitol Building on Monday, he reiterated that he will not be implementing a statewide mask mandate but will instead leave any such decisions to the local entities—like County Boards of Education—who can remain alert to their particular situations and adjust their plans as needed. Justice also cited the legal battles against statewide mask mandates as one of the reasons to avoid issuing a blanket mandate as he fears a mandate from the government would make the vaccine hesitant double-down on their stances.

“Yeah … we’re absolutely trying to appease both groups,” Justice said of those supporting for a state-wide mask mandate and those who are not vaccinated. “The reason we’re trying to do that is we’re trying to keep everybody moving together.”

With the total number of active Covid-19 cases in West Virginia increasing by 39% in the past week, Justice continued to emphasize the need for West Virginians to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“We’re going to have more people die,” Justice said. “That’s all there is to it. It’s time to be on your toes, West Virginia. It’s time absolutely to be vaccinated.”

Booster vaccinations are also now available in Kanawha County this week following the Center for Disease Control’s Friday recommendation that immunocompromised Americans receive a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to bolster their systems against the delta variant. Third doses are available to individuals twelve and older who have had two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and “are solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise,” according to the Food and Drug Administration.

“While people who are immunocompromised make up about 3% of the U.S. adult population, they are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are more at risk of serious, prolonged illness,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Kanawha County residents wishing to know more about the vaccines or their eligibility for the third dose should talk with their doctor or contact the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department on their website or at (304) 344-KCHD (5243).

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Megan Hippler writes about West Virginia humanities. Her work has appeared in Orion, Seamwork, and PopSugar.

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