COVID-19 safety protocols top of mind in eastern panhandle this Independence Day weekend

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HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. (WDVM) — West Virginia is one of only seven states with a seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests increasing at least 25 percent in the last week.

The latest data comes as numbers are also rising dramatically in the Sunbelt states. In the eastern panhandle, Harpers Ferry Town Council Member Jay Premack is taking proactive steps to keep his scenic Potomac River community safe this holiday weekend.

The town is installing temporary rest rooms with hand washing and sanitizing stations, since the National Park Service facilities are still closed during the pandemic. Signs are being posted to encourage safe social distancing and the wearing of masks. And the Jefferson County Health Department is giving businesses a supply of masks for customers who do not have them.

“The bottom line here is we are all in this together and we’re going to get through this together,” says Premack.

Of particular concern to the eastern panhandle is the high number of positive COVID-19 cases in surrounding suburban Maryland and Virginia counties. In Loudoun County, Virginia, for example, there is an outbreak of at least 100 teenagers and young adults who just returned from a “beach week” escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The West Virginia health officer for the eastern panhandle is grateful for the initiatives Harpers Ferry is taking this holiday weekend. But he says individual behavior is key.

“Being outdoors is great,” says Dr. Terrance Reidy, who tracks the public health data for health officer for Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties. “There is less of a chance of what you exhale effecting someone else. And keeping your distance, at the minimum six feet which really means you should stay at least ten feet apart.

A former director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Obama administration, Tom Frieden, sums it up: “It’s not about the number of tests that get done,” he says. “It’s about what gets done with them. “If it comes back five days later and people don’t isolate in the meantime, it’s useless.”

West Virginia now ranks 11th among all the states for its rate of coronavirus infections.

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