Where Pocahontas County Appears to be at with COVID-19

A lot of people are confused about where Pocahontas County stands regarding the Corona-Virus since West Virginia utilizes two distinct county color coded virus maps.

One, the DHHR Daily Map, is computed each day at midnight and is published on-line at https://dhhr.wv.gov at 10:00 a.m. each day and is based on a fourteen (14) day rolling average of active virus cases in each county. According to the map published on Wednesday, September 16th, Pocahontas County is coded “Gold”, because the county has a 14-day average of 12.99% active or probable cases per one hundred thousand population.

But what is on that DHHR daily map does not determine how our schools operate.

A second weekly map is prepared by the Department of Education and DHHR every Thursday at midnight, and published every Saturday at 5 p.m. This is the one that determines how schools and school athletics can function. Just to confuse things, these two maps can differ.   For example, last Saturday, the Department of Education did their own evaluation of the numbers of virus cases and rated Pocahontas County differently as being in the “yellow” category. This allowed the schools here to hold in-school classes for the entire following week with extra safety restrictions and to play their normal sports schedule but with spectators being limited only to the parents and guardians of the players. Thus, Friday night’s PCHS home football game against Petersburg High School will be played at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, September 18th.

A summary of the school color code system for counties is as follows:

“Green” Counties mean those with 3% or less of active virus cases over a 14-day average. Schools in those counties can hold in-school classes and play sports with each student athlete allowed six tickets for spectators.

“Yellow” applies to counties with a 14-day rolling average of 3,1% to 9.99% of active or probable cases. Those counties can conduct in-school classes with some additional safety restrictions. They can play sports but with spectators limited to the players’ parents or guardians.

“Gold” is a new category just established by the governor for counties with a 14-day average of 10% to 14.99%. School systems classified in the Gold category can still conduct in-school classes with even stricter safety protocols but their athletic teams can only play other “Gold” rated schools with limited spectators.

“Orange” applies to counties with a 14-day average of active or probable COVID-19 cases of 15% up to 24.9%. As of the Saturday evening that a county is listed on the school map as being orange, all in-class education and athletic competition is suspended until a future Saturday school map is published which shows their average has lowered to at least the “Gold” range.

“Red.” counties will have to immediately suspend all in-school activities and go to totally virtual/distance education, until their 14-day average drops back to at least the Gold level on a future Saturday evening school map.

So, where does Pocahontas County stand with the virus? A check with the Pocahontas County Health Department indicates that as of Wednesday, September 16th, there are zero confirmed active cases of COVID 19 in the county and only five “probable” cases.  

Thus, of the cumulative total of 58 cases in Pocahontas County, fifty-three have totally recovered, and five remain as unrecovered “probable” cases -which the CDC counts the same as confirmed cases.

However, the county still shows up on the September 16th daily map as being “Gold” but only because of the 14-day average. So, barring any new outbreaks, the chances of the county’s average dropping back to at least “yellow” on this Saturday’s school map look very promising. Remember, that school map, which is released on Saturdays, is actually calculated on Thursday nights at 12 midnight and remains in effect until a new map is released the following Saturday evening.

The local Health Department in Marlinton deserves a lot of credit for their speedy contact tracing of active and probable cases. This has -so far at least- led to a determination that the cases in the county were due to people visiting friends or relatives in the county or residents visiting outside the county themselves and returning, and spreading the virus to people they are in contact with, as opposed to having uncontrolled community spread within the county. Contact tracing has led to quick quarantines of those affected which has limited the virus spread here.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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