Outbreak at sheriff’s department addressed by officials

TAYLOR COUNTY—As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Taylor County, two new outbreaks have been announced by health officials with the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department.

During the Monday morning COVID-19 update call, Grafton-Taylor County Health Department Threat Preparedness Coordinator Shawn Thorn revealed that the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department had three employees test positive for the virus, classifying them under an outbreak status.

“That is the minimum number that will classify them as an outbreak,” he reminded.

Thorn shared that the health department had been working with the Sheriff’s Department to ensure that proper cleanings and restrictions were being carried out.

“Because of the outbreak, we carried out deep cleaning in the courthouse, community corrections office, the deputy’s building, the prosecutor’s building and both of the annexes,” said Taylor County Commission President Orville Wright. “It was done on Wednesday, so everything should be good to go now.”

Sheriff Terry A. Austin further revealed that the three infected individuals were coming to the end of their quarantine periods.

“The three officers have been quarantined since they tested positive and will be out of that period on Wednesday,” he explained. “As soon as we had knowledge that the first officer tested positive, we immediately took action to ensure that risk to others would be lessened.”

He said that calls were immediately placed to the Taylor County Commission so that the cleaning could be started.

“We also notified headquarters and the West Virginia State Police,” he commented. “The state police have been really great and have been answering calls where officers would have to come into contact with individuals, while our officers have been off.”

Austin reported that everyone in the office from deputies to court security underwent testing to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“We also have had all of the cruisers deep cleaned to make sure that everything was safe there,” he noted. “We want the public to know that we are doing everything to ensure their safety.”

According to Austin, the three officers who have tested positive are doing well and should return to work after receiving negative test results later this week.

“As per the guidelines, the officers will have to have a negative test before they will allowed back, but once they have returned, they will be on a restricted duty until they can undergo a second testing after a period of time,” Austin reported.

In addition to the Sheriff’s Department, Little Feet Daycare and Preschool had eight employees who had tested positive for the virus by the Monday morning call, placing them in an outbreak status, as well.

With two active outbreaks and cases on the rise, health officials are urging residents to be cautious over the New Year’s holiday.

“We have not had a relaxing time as far as cases in the county, as holiday gatherings has caused the case count to rise,” Thorn expressed. “Our infection rate was beginning to trend downward, but since Christmas, we have seen that rise slightly.”

The county’s infection rate was trending at 69.31 percent and 9.34 percent of the population had tested positive for the virus.

Thorn further revealed, as of Monday morning, the county was reporting 490 total cases of COVID-19, with 86 of those still being active. In addition, they had tallied 93 probable cases, 391 recovered individuals and 13 deaths, county-wide

“We are still seeing a lot of positives from spread over Thanksgiving and while making calls over the weekend, one of our nurses reported that some of the patients had dozens of contacts on Christmas Day,” he disclosed. “So, again for the New Year’s holiday, please celebrations within your own households.”