By Sarah Richardson
The Greenbrier County Board of Health met earlier this week to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and local transmission numbers, expanding their team thanks to an ELC grant, and ongoing harm reduction clinics.
As of Wednesday, Oct. 7, Greenbrier County had 140 total confirmed cases with 11 active cases, one probable case, and two hospitalized. “We don’t have any current outbreaks in Greenbrier County,” said Director of Nursing/Administrator Nikki Dolan, “but we do have five cases that are related to an outbreak in Monroe County. That’s affecting us.”
The Monroe County Health Department confirmed on Oct. 7 that there had been eight new COVID cases reported within the previous five days. The outbreak occurred last week at Collins Aerospace in Union, leading to the closure of the plant for deep cleaning.
“That business has 320 employees, so I anticipate probably some more cases from that,” said Dolan.
The Board also discussed the ongoing hiring process of four additional positions thanks to an ELC grant awarded to the department under the CARES Act. ELC stands for Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The ELC grants total $2.5 million for two years, with $1.5 million designed for use in the first year, and $1 million for the second year. The addition half million is dedicated for infrastructure that the state intends on updating within the first year.
The department is hiring a Nurse 2, Epidemiologist 1, Sanitarian 1, and Office Assistant 2. The positions are needed in part to create a rapid response team for COVID-19 and other public health threats. They will be funded through June 30, 2022 and cannot be guaranteed after that.
All positions are hired through the West Virginia Division of Personnel. If you are not a current or former employee through the West Virginia Division of Personnel system, your name must appear on a register to be considered for these vacancies.
Those interested in the positions can visit the Greenbrier County Health Department’s FaceBook page and follow the links in the pinned post at the top for more information.
Throughout the pandemic, the department has continued their harm reductions clinics around the county, including at their office in Fairlea as well as in Rainelle. They are working to secure funding to continue the programs another year.
“We just applied for our third year of funding for $100,000, and we will hopefully know about that in the next month or so,” said Dolan. “If that’s funded, we will probably try to do two Rainelle clinics if possible. Rainelle is having some really rough times right now.”
The department had previously conducted their clinics out of Gods Way Home, but is now seeking a new, permanent spot to host these events. “We have the mobile unit, but there’s three or four people working these things, so we need someplace,” said Dolan. “We are also doing a ‘sweep the streets’ tomorrow, where they pick up needles, which are another concern of Rainelle’s. They are finding needles. I think the community may think harm reduction is bringing in the drug users, and we try to tell them that the drug users are there. If anything we are educating them more on safety. You have to bring your needles back or you don’t get any, and we’re vaccinating them and testing them.”
These harm reduction clinics are held the first Monday of each month. In Fairlea, the department hosts clinics, as well, on Tuesdays from noon to 4 p.m. Participants must go through a program and get trained, but are then given Narcan to be used in case of an overdose. In August alone, they gave out 111 does of the life-saving drug.
“It’s crazy, but they say they are using it,” said Dolan. “We train them on how to use it, and we have an agreement with the U.C. School of Pharmacy where they are donating it to us, and it’s the name brand Narcan.”
Anyone is able to attend the harm reduction clinics; they are open to the public. Call the health department at 304-645-1787 for more information.