By Ammie Ruddle
The Pendleton County Board of Health met on May 12 at the Pendleton Community Building.
Pendleton County Health Department Administrator Amber Hedrick started the meeting by going over the county budget. She said even though, due to population decrease, the state Legislature decreased funding by $7,045, the health department was able to balance the budget with federal COVID-19 relief funding and include a five percent increase to salary across the board. This salary increase was allocated by state lawmakers during the 2022 legislative session. Hedrick stated this will be the first regular salary increase provided by the state in many years.
In addition to the pay increase, Hedrick stated, all health officials that have worked throughout the pandemic and are currently still working recently received incentive pay of $5,800 before taxes. Hedrick went on to say this incentive pay is the first of its kind to the county for any emergency service, including COVID-19.
Hedrick ended the discussion of budgeting and finance stating that, aside from waiting on one grant, the county is on budget and may even have enough left over to expand Pendleton Community Care to have some “extra storage.”
The next item on the agenda was COVID-19. Nurse Andrea Reel told the board that vaccines are still being regularly administered. She stated they are administering the second booster once a week and all slots (30-40) are filling up each week.
She then went on to talk about a second COVID-19 outbreak at Pendleton Manor. This outbreak includes both the staff and patients.
Deaths recently significantly increased in the county. Last month, health officials reported the 22nd death of a Pendleton County resident due to COVID-19. Four of the 22 deaths — 18 percent of coronavirus deaths in the county — were reported in less than a month’s time.
Kim Kline, regional epidemiologist, added that “the county is seeing a rise in flu cases as well as stomach virus cases since the beginning of flu season.”
The county also is preparing for an increase in tick diseases as the weather gets warmer and more outdoor activities will be taking place. The health department advises checking for ticks regularly.