Health officer pushes for continued precautions as Kanawha County hits 100 COVID deaths

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state’s most populous county has reached a grim milestone during the COVID-19 pandemic with 100 virus-related deaths.

Kanawha County’s 99th and 100th deaths were a 73-year-old male and a 94-year-old male reported Tuesday. Dr. Sherri Young, the chief health officer with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department (KCHD) told MetroNews she mourns the losses and that reaching 100 deaths is a reminder that citizens must continue to take this virus seriously.

“I want people to remember that 100 people have died due to this disease. That gives us the responsibility to wear our masks, socially distance, be careful when we are out in public and be very diligent about washing our hands,” Young said.

Dr. Sherri Young

Young said the health department rules a death as COVID-19 related if a physician determines that the patient would have lived longer if COVID-19 were not a factor.

According to data from the KCHD and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), 57 of the 100 dead in the county were residents of a long-term care facility. 76 of those deaths were citizens 70 years of age and older and 18 were between the ages of 60 and 69.

Three victims were between the ages of 50 and 59, two between the ages of 40 and 49 and one victim was between the ages of 30 and 39. Kanawha County has seen no one younger than 30 die due to COVID-19.

Young said when you look at the cases of deaths many were the result of community spread and it’s the reason everyone should be tested for the virus.

“When you look at a nursing home, these are not individuals who have traveled out or went on vacation or traveled to a big congregate setting,” she said. “This disease was brought into the nursing homes and into the settings by probably someone who was asymptomatic, traveled and had community spread.”

Further data on the 100 deaths in the county showed 91 victims were white, seven were black and two were ‘other.’ 52 victims were male and 48 were female.

The latest update from the DHHR Wednesday shows Kanawha County more than doubles the next closest county in deaths with Logan County at 43. Mercer County has 29 COVID-19 related deaths and Jackson County has 24.

Kanawha County, a population of just under 180,000 in a state with 1.81 million people, counts for nearly 25% of the state’s death total as the DHHR reported 391 Wednesday.

VIEW: COVID-19 dashboard by DHHR

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a total of 215,194 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday after adding 748 in the past 24 hours.

Young said the pandemic has devastated communities nationwide.

“Even though a lot of people who have died in Kanawha County have been elderly or had pre-existing conditions, we still had a 40 and 43-year-old die. We still had younger people die in other counties,” She said.

“Of those 215,000 that have died across the country, there are young people who have died from this disease.”

Young called the pandemic unprecedented times and much worse than a normal flu season because the health communities have ways to prevent the flu. She said COVID-19 has been constant and no signs of letting up as the death toll rises.

“In the worst flu season, you may see 88,000 deaths and that’s just the top end. Usually, it’s somewhere between 25,000 to 50,000. This is something that has far exceeded a bad flu season,” Young said.

According to the latest flu data from the CDC, the 2019-2020 season saw an estimated 22,000 deaths nationwide, 34,000 deaths in 2018-2019, 61,000 deaths in 2017-2018, and 38,000 deaths in 2016-2017.

As of Wednesday, the KCHD reported 3,242 total cases of COVID-19 in the county with 997 active and 2,145 recovered. There are 65 probable cases.

KCHD is holding a free testing event Thursday in Clendenin from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Old Smith’s parking lot at 106 Beech Street. Flu shots will be offered there. Young said the department has given out 2,500 flu shots at drive-thru events since September and is on pace to be more than any other year.

“We do not want flu season to overlap with COVID pandemic,” she said.