Upshur County has highest COVID positivity rate in state

BUCKHANNON, WV - WVU Medicine St. Joseph’s Hospital is facing the challenges of dealing with the ever-increasing number of COVID patients. West Virginia is leading the nation in COVID positivity rates and Upshur County has the highest rates in the state. 

“The rapid increase of COVID in Upshur County is severely straining our hospital’s resources,” said Skip Gjolberg, St. Joseph’s Hospital president. “I am not sure the community understands how critical this situation has become. We have moved into Crisis Level Code Triage, with our Incident Command team meeting daily to assess the quickly changing situation.”

The hospital’s emergency department is seeing a record number of patients, with at least 50 percent testing positive for COVID or having COVID-like symptoms. 

“These patients are sicker and often younger,” said Maria Long, M.D., Emergency Department director.  “With nowhere in the state to transfer patients, we are often forced to house them in our emergency department, sometimes for hours or even days. Our staff is  overwhelmed.”

The hospital is facing staffing shortages and some staff are working 50 to 60 hours a week. The number of ventilators available statewide is also becoming an issue, requiring hospitals to carefully assess their resources.

St. Joseph’s Hospital is asking patients who do not have an emergent or urgent situation to please contact their primary care provider rather than coming to the emergency department.

“We urge our community to help us by not coming to the emergency room unless absolutely necessary, to utilize telephone, in-person or video visits with their providers, and most importantly, get vaccinated,” said Gjolberg.  “In West Virginia, 83% of COVID admissions come from unvaccinated individuals, 90% of ICU admissions come from unvaccinated individuals, and 93 percent of ventilator patients are unvaccinated. Vaccinations are going to be the only way we can beat this pandemic and prevent severe illness and death.”

With the increase in the highly contagious Delta variant, we strongly urge to you to get your vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death.  Vaccines are available through your primary care provider and at local pharmacies. 

Vaccinated people can spread the virus to others, so avoid close contact with those who are sick, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, wash your hands with soap and water, and wear a mask indoors  to help stop the spread of this highly contagious strain of COVID-19.