Mingo County saw a significant spike in the number of new COVID cases following the Thanksgiving holiday.
On Wednesday of this week, Mingo County Health Department Administrator Keith Blankenship said a combined 51 new cases were confirmed on Monday and Tuesday.
Prior to the holiday, Blankenship pointed out, 10 to 12 cases in a 24-hour period would have been a more usual representation for each day.
“Will the trend continue for the rest of the week? I think it will because it’s pretty apparent this is coming out of the holiday situation,” he said. “We won’t know for certain if it’s a new pattern that’s going to hang around a while or if it’s really due to the holiday, but most everyone thinks it’s due to the holiday.
“We’ll likely get a little pause next week, but it’ll probably spike again at the first of the year following Christmas.”
With respect to the outbreak of the new Omicron variant recently and first confirmed in 190 people in South Africa, Blankenship said there have been at least five cases in Canada — confirmed earlier this week — with the first U.S. case having been reported in California on Wednesday, Dec. 1.
“The Omicron variant is probably not as severe as the media is making it out to be at this point…the symptoms appear to be a lot milder,” he said. “And because the numbers are not that great yet, I certainly don’t want people to get all torn up over it.
“But I think I would be doing a disservice to the community if I didn’t advise everyone to go back to what we were doing in the past, which is wearing our facemasks for this variant and COVID in general, especially during the holidays.”
While the new variant seems to be less severe than its predecessor — the Delta variant — Blankenship said a major concern among the health community is that it is thought to be five times more transmittable.
“The physician who discovered it basically stated it is not as severe, with the majority of patients not having to be hospitalized,” he said. “They basically had normal symptoms like most people have, but there will always be those cases when somebody gets really sick with it.”
In the meantime, Blankenship said, the state continues to suggest that Mingo County’s vaccination numbers remain too low, particularly among its Medicaid recipients.
This continued concern, Blankenship said, in spite of significant numbers of Mingo County’s residents having and continuing to cross over into Pike County for their vaccinations at health providers like ARH and/or Pikeville Medical Center, for which the county is not being credited.
To boost the seemingly lower WV DHHR numbers, one of the state’s four Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCO) — UniCare — will be in Kermit later this month giving out $25 Walmart gift cards as an incentive to help boost the numbers.
Blankenship said UniCare representatives will be in Kermit on Dec. 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., during Christian Help’s annual Christmas food giveaway, offering the gift cards to everyone who gets vaccinated during these hours at this specific location.
He said the vaccination event is a collaborative partnership between Christian Help, WV Medicaid, Hurley Drug, the town of Kermit, and the MCHD, whose staff will be onsite providing the vaccinations.
“If you receive the vaccine on this day, and it doesn’t matter which county or state you’re from, you’ll receive the $25 Walmart gift card,” he said.
As of presstime, Mingo County remained in the red with a positivity rate of 14.34 percent, and an infection rate of 44.52 percent.
Four new deaths were reported during the last seven days, bringing the current total to 88.