WV’s County Alert System Map Compromises Public Safety


Courtesy of The WVDHHR

The County Alert System map, as of 11-30-20

Staff Opinion

Recently, a lot of attention has been focused on West Virginia’s County Alert System map, and how it reports COVID-19 numbers.

The map is skewed in order to make a county look better on the map than they are in reality.

In November, Lewis County had an uptick in numbers.  On the Harvard Biometrics Scale, LC was a “red” county, citing strong community spread and positivity rates.  However, on both the WVDHHR County Alert System and WVDE models, LC was “green” and “yellow”, citing a minimal community spread.

This comes as a result of staff and patients at William R. Sharpe Hospital in Weston, with the majority if not all of their twice-weekly tests, coming back negative.

We are not against testing to stop the spread of the virus. And, the goal is to have no positive cases, but it is important to know about positive and negative results and trends. Maybe it is high time that we begin to educate the general public on these numbers, and what they mean. However, because of the false sense of security in regards to community spread, people see a green color on the map and assume that means that it is safe to do as they wish, while in reality, there are a significant number of cases, and they are putting themselves at extraordinary risk.

We suggest rather, that we go by the infection rate when determining the relative safety of having students in school or playing sports.

This isn’t just a local issue; it is state-wide.

In mid-November,  45 out of 55 of West Virginia’s counties, currently have at least one “red” metric, but only five of the counties are currently “red” on the map. This means that even though there is a significant amount of spread happening in these counties, they are often earmarked as a less restrictive color so that there are fewer restrictions on businesses and schools in that county.

Many believe that the school system should follow the Harvard Biometrics scale alone.

As was best put by someone within the LCHS community, “The people who go to Harvard are smart…”

There is truth in this statement.

Maybe it is time that we start letting those who are most skilled decide the metrics which may well determine the way that COVID-19 spreads. People who aren’t acting with political or economic interests beneath the surface. People who truly care only about public health.

Politics should be irrelevant when we are dealing with public safety, but because of the political aspect that is by nature attached to the executive positions in both our state and the federal government.

Relying so heavily on positivity rates often gives residents a false sense of security by sugar-coating the facts, which in turn produces more positive cases.

This is not meant to disrespect those who have made significant strides in preventing the spread of COVID-19, nor those who work in conjunction with our elected officials to make policy regarding the pandemic. They often give medically sound advice, but for the sake of politics, their advice is sometimes either ignored or partially disregarded for other agendas.

While it seems like there isn’t much action we can take, there indeed is. Send a letter to the Governor, our state senator, or our member in the house of delegates. Don’t let them forget that they work for you.

In order to see change, we have to drive for it, because things don’t just fix themselves.