CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Nursing home visits are being allowed again in West Virginia as the state focuses on coronavirus outbreaks in the general populations of individual counties without clamping down on areas without them.
But Gov. Jim Justice warned Monday that the visits could end quickly in some places if further outbreaks occur within nursing homes themselves.
Officials will use the same color-coded county alert system they’ve applied to public school systems to determine whether nursing homes will remain open.
Counties with the lowest rates of community-spread virus cases will be depicted in green, followed by yellow, orange and red. Visits will be unrestricted in green and yellow counties, will be limited to compassionate care nursing home residents in orange counties and will be banned in red counties.
Most of the state’s 55 counties are coded green. The only one currently coded red is Logan County, where there have been 14 coronavirus-related deaths over the past two weeks. A Logan County nursing home, Trinity Health Care, is undergoing an outbreak involving 87 residents and 55 staff members. Five people have died. Monroe County is the lone county whose status is orange.
Colors for counties with populations of under 16,000 will be based on the number of new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a 14-day rolling average. Those with higher populations will continue to use a seven-day rolling average.
Justice halted nursing home visitations on Aug. 12 as statewide positive cases and deaths surged. The Republican governor also stopped the visits in March, then let them resume in mid-June.
There currently are outbreaks at 31 nursing homes, although many only have a few cases. Officials have blamed some of the outbreaks on out-of-state vacations.
“If by chance we have additional outbreaks because of visitation, then we’re going to have to batten down the hatches and go back to no visitation,” Justice said.
Health officials said there have been at least 9,100 confirmed virus cases and 179 virus deaths in West Virginia. The number of deaths has jumped 54% this month.
The virus usually results in only mild to moderate symptoms, but is particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with other health problems.
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