FAIRMONT — From June 22 to June 28, four more Marion County residents tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases locally to 57, according to Lloyd White, administrator of the Marion County Health Department.
White updated the Marion County Commission at its meeting Wednesday and said the free COVID-19 testing has been completed, but during those test dates, officials captured several positive cases in different communities of the county.
Marion County has had 57 total positive cases of COVID-19, and two deaths attributed to the virus, according to White. He said a grant allowed the Marion County Health Department to set up testing sites in different municipalities, which allowed for the county to test a large amount of individuals. Through the mobile unit, the Health Department tested 590 people, and found three positive cases of COVID-19 in the last month-and-a-half.
“I am so proud that we are the only county health department in this state to have the capability and the ability to do mobile,” White said. “It has been a goal of mine for many years that we would be able to have a mobile unit to do community outreach with for preventative services.”
White also said 49 people have recovered from COVID-19, and there are eight active cases as of now. He said the reopening of certain businesses and services could have led to a slight uptick in cases, but overall, if people continue following the guidelines, the number of cases will decrease.
“Masks do work,” White said. “I know there are the naysayers that say that they don’t. There is a reason why those countries that typically wear masks have less cases than we do, and it has been attributed to the wearing of masks.”
Seeing that neighboring states have been closing services back down due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, White said, it could happen in West Virginia if people are not careful.
“If we don’t continue to do the right things and we see statewide our cases continue to elevate, I certainly think the governor would start pulling back on some of the openings that we have been allowed to do,” White said. “If people would just only do the right things, then we won’t go there.”
White told commissioners the health department was able to continue providing other services throughout the testing period, in part due to the budget allocated by the county commission. Although the free testing will no longer be offered, White said the
County Commissioner Ernie VanGilder said he would like to see antibody testing implemented in Marion County, in some way, in order for people to find out if they had COVID-19 and recovered. White said that although the idea could be popular in the community, it would likely have to come at a cost. He said he would not want to offer it at a cost because the information received through the tests would not be as useful to most people as the regular COVID tests.
“I’m taking somebody’s money for pretty much nothing; I just can’t do that,” White said. “Once testing becomes more reliable, then perhaps we’ll take a look at that. But right now, it’s just not.”
All three county commissioners praised White’s performance throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Also at the meeting, the commission recognized the efforts of Joel Dugan, chair of art, architecture and design at Fairmont State University, and his students for their work on a new mural at Palatine Park. The group completed the piece Tuesday, and Dugan said he would be happy to work on more murals in the park, to fill in the wall in the park.
“I think I’m moving in the direction of hoping that that can be a class that runs both in the fall and spring,” Dugan said in the meeting. “I would love to have the opportunity to do a project each spring and each fall... Have another section of this wall come to life every year.”
County commissioners also praised Dugan’s initiative, and said this could be the beginning of public art being painted on the wall.
“It was just an idea a year ago,” said County Commissioner Randy Elliott. “Maybe this is just phase one. We’ve got so much space there on the right and left to continue the murals.”
County Administrator Kris Cinalli said he is impressed that Dugan and the students were able to make the mural a reality during this unprecedented time.
“It looked like probably two or three months ago that it wasn’t going to happen at all,” Cinalli said. “I think for them to pull this off, the actual painting, is just amazing.”
Dugan also said he would like to involve more community members in the creation of these murals, and said he would be in contact with both the county commission and the City of Fairmont for potential future projects.
“I think it would be nice to work with some of the local community schools and help some of the youth develop an understanding of what murals are,” Dugan said. “It obviously could help to empower the youth.”