West Virginia DHHR says report of 1st COVID-19 death was erroneous

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (12:48 p.m.):

Officials with Sundale Nursing Home in Morgantown, West Virginia, say a patient that was reported to be the state's first death due to COVID-19 is actually alive.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources issued an urgent correction Friday afternoon to their earlier announcement, saying that they had received an erroneous report from the Sundale Long Term Care home that indicated one of the 28 people with the coronavirus there had died from complications of the disease.

Sundale Nursing Home Marketing Director Donna Tennant told local media shortly afterward that the patient was, in fact, alive and at Mon Hospital, in serious condition.

Tennant said there was miscommunication between staff at Sundale and DHHR, causing the state's health department to erroneously report the death.

Tennant said she isn't sure how the mix-up happened.

Just before 1 p.m. the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources released this statement from Sundale Long Term Care regarding the false death report:

"Last night Sundale Long Term Care home reported that a resident from our facility died. We have since learned that this individual did not pass away, as we originally believed. The individual has COVID-19 and is currently hospitalized in critical condition at a local hospital. We sincerely apologize for the confusion and the erroneous reporting that was relayed to the local health department, Monongalia County Health Department and ultimately to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, which reported the death in an official capacity."

As of Thursday evening, West Virginia's statewide total of confirmed cases had risen to 76.

With the correction by state officials, total deaths due to COVID-19 in West Virginia remain at zero.

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West Virginia has seen its first confirmed death due to COVID-19.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) announced on Friday that a 76-year-old Monongalia County man was the first West Virginian to die as a result of the novel coronavirus.

The man was a resident of the Sundale Long Term Care home in Morgantown, which has about a third of all the cases that have been identified so far in the state.

Sundale nursing home medical director Carl Shrader said, as of Thursday, 20 residents and eight staffers at the Morgantown facility had the virus, with four tests pending after an aggressive effort to screen nearly everyone at the center.

“What's on all our minds is containing it where we have it and not letting it rage on if possible,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Shrader has described Sundale as “ground zero” for the virus in West Virginia.

The DHHR says the man who died had underlying health conditions, but they would release no further details.

By Thursday evening, West Virginia's statewide total of confirmed cases had risen to 76, with the breakdown of counties as the following:

Berkeley (4), Harrison (4), Jackson (5), Jefferson (4), Kanawha (15), Logan (1), Marion (2), Marshall (3), Mason (1), Mercer (2), Monongalia (24), Ohio (1), Preston (1), Putnam (2), Raleigh (2), Tucker (2), Upshur (1), Wood (2)

The DHHR said that as of March 26, 1,855 residents had been tested for the novel coronavirus, with 76 positive and 1,779 negative — with 43 tests pending at the state lab.

The 27 newest cases as of Thursday were identified in Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Ohio, Putnam, Jackson, Kanawha, Logan and Raleigh counties.

Individual medical providers around the state are required to report test results to their local health departments, which then provide them to the DHHR. Commercial labs also are required to report their test results to DHHR, but the department says the reporting of negative and pending tests from commercial labs has been inconsistent.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice has repeatedly warned of the virus’s potential damage in a state where about 20% of the population is 65 or older and a high percentage of people have existing health problems. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that West Virginia has the nation’s highest percentage of adults at risk of developing serious illnesses from the virus.

A statewide stay-home order that directed all nonessential businesses to close went into effect Tuesday night, intensifying previous moves by Justice, who has ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, casinos, gyms, health clubs, recreation centers, barbershops, nail salons and hair salons.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) issued the following statement in response to the confirmed death:

“Today is a heartbreaking day for all West Virginians. We lost one of our own to this terrible virus that is affecting each and every one of us. Gayle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones. The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime and today it hit home for every West Virginian. I will continue to do everything possible to take care of those on the front lines like our nurses, doctors, and first responders and those who are at a higher risk of complications from the coronavirus. First and foremost, West Virginians always take care of one another and we must come together as a state to take care of everyone in need. His family, friends, and loved ones will be in all of our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” said Senator Manchin.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.