A Monongalia County nursing home with at least 20 coronavirus cases has become “ground zero” for West Virginia’s growing virus caseload, officials said Wednesday.
Carl Shrader, medical director for the Sundale nursing home in Morgantown, said 16 residents and four staffers have tested positive for the virus. Seventy-six tests were pending as of Wednesday morning, he said, with results expected in the coming days.
“This is ground zero for COVID-19 in West Virginia, and I’m sitting in it,” Shrader told The Associated Press.
A majority of West Virginia’s 39 positive cases, as of Tuesday, have been reported in Monongalia County.
The tally at Sundale came on a day when officials moved to extend tax deadlines and the statewide school closures.
By Wednesday evening, West Virginia had yet to register a death from the coronavirus. But testing remains limited, meaning most people who could be spreading the highly contagious virus might not know that they’ve been infected.
Sundale has tested almost all of its 98 residents, Shrader said. Isolation measures are in place throughout the facility and the West Virginia National Guard is assisting in the effort. He said the facility has received donations of testing supplies and safety equipment.
Shrader said the first positive result came Sunday and set off a panic among families barred from visiting residents over safety precautions.
“Clearly, it was terrifying and very emotional for families and staff and in general,” he said.
Gov. Jim Justice acknowledged the rising toll at Sundale at the start of a virtual prayer service at the Capitol, saying the state must protect it’s seniors.
“This terrible virus, we know, attacks them and attacks them first and foremost. And those are the ones that we have to look out for in every way especially, we want to look out for all of us but especially them,” he said of the elderly.
The governor has repeatedly warned of the virus’ potential damage in a state where about 20% of the population is 65 or older and has a high percentage of people have existing health problems. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that West Virginia has the nation’s highest percentage of adults at risk of developing serious illnesses from the virus.
Justice moved Wednesday to extend the state’s tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, echoing a similar move by the federal government. He also announced that the statewide school closure will continue until at least April 20.
A statewide stay-home order that directed all nonessential businesses to close went into effect Tuesday night, intensifying previous moves by Justice, who had ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, casinos, gyms, health clubs, recreation centers, barbershops, nail salons and hair salons. Justice’s Greenbrier resort also has been closed, along with lodges and the famous Hatfield–McCoy Trails.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, and the overwhelming majority of people recover. But severe cases can need respirators to survive, and with infections spreading exponentially, hospitals across the country are either bracing for a coming wave of patients or already struggling to keep up.