Variant cases climbing: U.K. COVID-19 infections rising in Mercer; local death reported

·2 min read

May 22—BLUEFIELD — Health officials are continuing to see a steady uptick in United Kingdom COVID-19 variant cases in Mercer County.

As of Friday, there were 34 confirmed U.K. variant cases in Mercer County, which is up from 29 U.K. variant cases on Thursday. The U.K. variant is more contagious than the regular strain of COVID-19, but the COVID-19 vaccine is still largely effective against it.

While U.K. variant cases are climbing in Mercer County, the numbers are still low when compared to neighboring Raleigh County, which has seen 108 U.K. variant cases to date along with two cases of the California variant. McDowell County is reporting 11 cases of the U.K. variant and Monroe County has seen nine cases of the U.K. variant and two cases of the California variant.

During a meeting last week of the Mercer County Board of Health, health department administrator Roger Topping warned that cases of the variant, along with the regular COVID-19 strain, are still climbing in Mercer County because many citizens are refusing to take the vaccine.

"It's certainly not going away," Topping said of COVID. "It basically doubled from March to April."

So far there have been 117 COVID-19 related deaths in Mercer County.

New COVID-19 related deaths also continue to be reported in the region. An 86-year-old female from McDowell County was one of three virus-related deaths reported by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Friday morning.

The McDowell County Continuous Care Center, which is located in the Gary community, also is still considered an active virus outbreak site by the state. According to the DHHR, four staff members at the nursing home and one resident have contracted the virus.

No new virus-related deaths were reported Friday in Southwest Virginia. In Virginia, health officials do not currently provide a listing of U.K. variant cases per county, only per health district. Health districts are composed of multiple counties. The Cumberland Plateau Health District, which includes Tazewell, Buchanan, Russell and Dickenson counties, is reporting 395 U.K. variant cases.

Tazewell County, which continues to see new COVID-19 cases, reported four new infections Friday.

— Contact Charles Owens at

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