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WV MetroNews

The Voice of West Virginia

Excessive rain causes more hillsides to slide into state highways

CLENDENIN, W.Va. — The state Division of Highways is dealing with a number of slides after a week full of rain.

It appears it will take several days to clear Blue Creek Road at Country Lane in northern Kanawha County. The initial slide took place overnight Thursday but additional rain Friday sent more debris into the roadway.

The DOH has been working all week on a major slide along county Route 42, Middle Fork Road, in Jackson County.

DOH crews have been working 12-hour days since last Saturday to clean-up the debris and stabilize the hillside.

The slide impacts traffic to and from Rippling Waters Campground. The DOH said it hopes to get one lane open soon. The road is currently closed.

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More than 1,500 tests given on first day of third round of free COVID-19 testing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 1,500 people were testing for COVID-19 Friday in five West Virginia counties.

It’s the third round of two-day testing events that began earlier this month in 10 counties targeted by the Justice administration.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources put preliminary testing numbers Friday evening at 378 individuals tested in Berkeley County; 396 in Jefferson County; 402 in Kanawha County; 210 in Mineral County; and 200 in Morgan County.

Testing will continue tomorrow in all five counties from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

.@WVGovernor‘s initiative to increase testing: 378 individuals tested in Berkeley Co, 396 Jefferson Co, 402 Kanawha Co, 210 Mineral Co, 200 Morgan Co. Please note preliminary numbers. Continues tomorrow. https://t.co/ti1E6aowdE @WVNationalGuard @WVHHOMA https://t.co/3ScUrXmLXy pic.twitter.com/yslThnqrqW

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) May 29, 2020

The events are free and open to all residents with a particular focus on minority community members and other vulnerable residents.

The test results should be back within a few days.

Testing sites Saturday include:

Berkeley County: Musselman High School, 126 Excellence Way, Inwood

Jefferson County: Hollywood Casino, 750 Hollywood Drive, Charles Town

Kanawha County: Shawnee Sports Complex, One Salango Way, Dunbar

Mineral County: School Complex, 1123 Harley O. Staggers Senior Drive, Keyser

Morgan County: Warm Springs Middle School, 271 Warm Springs Way, Berkeley Springs

The DHHR will also have two testing events Saturday in Randolph County in connection with recent positive cases at Huttonsville State Prison. Those are set from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Valley Health Care in Mill Creek and Davis Medical Center in Elkins.

Drive-through #COVID19 testing will be available in Randolph County, WV on Saturday, May 30, 2020, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Valley Health Care in Mill Creek and Davis Medical Center in Elkins. There is no charge for testing.@WVNationalGuard pic.twitter.com/D0zKo6GMxW

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) May 29, 2020

Meanwhile, the DHHR released new COVID-19 numbers Friday evening.

There have now been 93,872 total tests with confirmed cases of COVID-19 at 1,972. There have been 74 deaths.

The state’s cumulative positive test rate is 2.10 percent. The daily test rate Friday was 2.50 percent.

The state reports 1,274 recovered cases of COVID-19 and 624 active cases. There are 33 people hospitalized, 14 in ICU. Eight of those patients are on ventilators.

Cases per county include:

Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (9/0), Berkeley (293/11), Boone (9/0), Braxton (2/0), Brooke (4/1), Cabell (59/2), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (2/0), Fayette (46/0), Gilmer (10/0), Grant (11/1), Greenbrier (9/0), Hampshire (28/0), Hancock (16/2), Hardy (39/0), Harrison (39/1), Jackson (136/0), Jefferson (172/5), Kanawha (221/2), Lewis (8/0), Lincoln (5/0), Logan (17/0), Marion (50/0), Marshall (28/0), Mason (15/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (13/0), Mineral (42/2), Mingo (5/1), Monongalia (122/11), Monroe (6/1), Morgan (17/1), Nicholas (8/0), Ohio (41/0), Pendleton (10/2), Pleasants (3/1), Pocahontas (20/1), Preston (20/5), Putnam (35/0), Raleigh (15/1), Randolph (129/0), Ritchie (1/0), Roane (9/0), Summers (1/0), Taylor (8/0), Tucker (4/0), Tyler (3/0), Upshur (6/1), Wayne (98/0), Wetzel (8/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (50/3), Wyoming (3/0).

.@WV_DHHR reports as of 5:00 p.m., on May 29, 2020, there have been 93,872 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 1,972 total cases and 74 deaths. #SaferAtHomeWVhttps://t.co/6dszYSzzDc pic.twitter.com/hu7SZuGK7x

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) May 29, 2020

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Princeton hospital board votes to permanently close in-patient services at Bluefield Regional

PRINCETON, W.Va. — Bluefield Regional Medical Center will be reduced to an emergency room with lab services following a vote by the Princeton Community Hospital Board of Directors to permanently close inpatient and ancillary services at BRMC impacting 340 jobs.

File

Bluefield Regional Medical Center

The Princeton hospital purchased the Bluefield facility last June. It said Friday the unstable health care environment forced the move which will happen by the end of July.

“I am deeply saddened by this announcement and I regret that this is the outcome of the acquisition,” Princeton Community Hospital Board of Directors President Rusty Sarver said in a statement.

He said Bluefield Regional has served the community well and has dedicated workers.

“Regrettably, with the volatility of today’s health care environment, our decreasing population, and reductions in federal funding and reimbursements from government and commercial insurers, there are no other viable options,” Sarver said.

The Princeton hospital board, which purchased BRMC last year, said it hopes to gain approval to convert Bluefield Regional to an emergency services facility with lab services including x-rays.

The board is encouraging Bluefield Regional workers to apply for open jobs at the Princeton hospital.

Rural hospitals in West Virginia have taken a hit in recent months, most citing the reimbursement issue as one of the reasons for closure. Both Fairmont Regional Hospital and Williamson Memorial Hospital have closed this year.

WVU Medicine and Mon Health have been approved for separate new facilities in Fairmont. WVU Medicine plans to provide limited services out of the Fairmont Regional building until its facility is constructed. Williamson Health & Wellness purchased Williamson Memorial out of bankruptcy.

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Phased-in plan announced for return of WVU football

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU football players will return to campus between June 15-29 under the WVU Athletic Department’s phased-in plan to restart football after what will be a three-month shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

USA Today Sports

Shane Lyons

Phase 1, announced Friday afternoon, will first bring coaches and staff back to the Puskar Center between June 8-22, players will return in a two-week slot beginning in mid-June.

“Phase 1 is the first step to getting Mountaineer football ready for the 2020 season,” WVU AD Shane Lyons said in Friday’s announcement. “This two-week phased approach enables us to safely get our football staff and players back to campus and will provide the guidance for the return of other student-athletes starting in July. I want to thank our medical team and department staff who worked endless hours in putting together a plan that puts the safety of our football student-athletes, staff and University first.”

The return will include protocols for screening, distancing, cleaning and sanitation. Both groups will be tested for COVID-17 at last 72 hours before their return date. If the results are positive they cannot return. Coronavirus CDC guidelines will be followed.

Friday’s announcement included information about a few of the protocols to be followed including “limited personnel in the facilities at all times, face coverings to be worn in all common areas and daily screening and temperature checks for staff and student-athletes. Weight room equipment will be relocated outdoors, properly distanced and sanitized after each use and virtual remote meetings will still occur.”

The department said there are also protocols for quarantine and treatment of positive cases.

The Big 12 announced last week that student-athletes and its member schools could return to campus June 15 for voluntary workouts.

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“When I Grow Up” regional winners announced

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Treasurer John Perdue had to make an adjustment with his annual SMART529 “When I Grow Up” essay contest Friday when it time to name the 15 regional winners and the statewide teacher winner.

Perdue usually visits the schools of the winners in the spring and brings them to Charleston for the final announcement in the fall. He chose Facebook Live to announce the regional winners Friday because of the ongoing pandemic.

“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t visit these students in person at their schools this year, but a live online event was the next best thing, and still an exciting way to recognize these winners,” Perdue said.

Perdue’s office has conducted the essay contest for 13 years. There’s money on the line for the winning students to invest into their SMART529 college savings program.

“This is a great program,” Perdue said. “It really helps West Virginia grow and helps grow West Virginia young people for the future of our state.”

More than 4,600 students across the state entered the essay contest this year, the highest ever. Regional winners came from three age groups in five regions. The regional winners get $500. A grand prize winner will be named in the fall and will collect an additional $4.500.

Organizers brought back a former contest winner, Kennedy Quinlan to speak during Friday’s event. She thanked her parents for sacrificing for college education early. She said her made her beginning thinking about college.

“They helped me realize how important school is,” Quinlan said.

Perdue also credited parents.

“Your parents are playing a major role in your life,” he said.

Perdue named Monongalia County teacher Tamara Klemkowsky as the program’s teacher winner Friday. She teaches second grade at Suncrest Elementary School.

The regional winners and their what they want to be when they grow up include:

Madison Barnes, first grade, Memorial Primary, Mercer County, pediatric audiologist

Mya Scyphers, second grade, Sun Valley Elementary, Mercer County, librarian

Lauren Hensley, fifth grade, Chapmanville Middle School, child psychologist

Piper Ann Carmen, first grade, Geary Elementary Middle, Roane County, nurse

Charlotte Holley, third grade, Alban Elementary, Kanawha County, author

Sophi Seay, fourth grade, Hurricane Town Elementary, Putnam County, baker

Noah Schoenberger, first grade, Brookhaven Elem., Monongalia County, author/illustrator

Dylan Roth, third grade, Lumberport Elementary, Harrison County, scientist

Isabelle Ringler, fifth grade, Eastwood Elementary, Monongalia County, teacher

Brooklyn Maxwell, first grade, Romney Elementary, Hampshire County, landscape architect

Dominic Snyder, third grade, Tomahawk Intermediate, Berkeley County, architect

Makinly Shaffer, fourth grade, Augusta Elementary, Hampshire County, dermatologist

Cameron Mitchell, kindergarten, Doddridge Co. Elementary, chef

Breena Bartley, third grade, St. Joseph’s Grade School, Hancock County, plastic surgeon

Luchia Fato, fourth grade, Wheeling Country Day School, Ohio County, cardiologist

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Justice says youth sports, school sports conditioning can resume June 8

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday that youth sports can restart in West Virginia beginning June 8 followed by games starting June 22.

Gov. Jim Justice

“These are low-contact youth sports,” Justice said.

He also announced during his state capitol coronavirus media briefing that high school sports and band activities sanctioned by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission would be allowed to begin summer conditioning activities June 8.

“Our medical experts now believe it is safe,” Justice said.

The guidelines will include mandatory social distancing when the youth sports games restart on June 22, Justice said.

“What this means is that we’ll be able to have a little league game provided we keep an absolute distance between the fans that are there, the moms and the dads that are watching those kids,” he said.

Justice mentioned baseball, soccer and equestrian events as some of the low-contact youth sports allowed to resume.

The SSAC has been working to put together guidelines for summer conditioning. Justice said the guidelines will keep the players in small groups, hopefully buying time when there can be larger group activities when sports resume in the fall.

MORE Read SSAC guidelines here

“First of all, we need to bring the kids back and keep them apart and let them get back into shape, to get their conditioning done,” Justice said.

He said safety would be the top priority.

“Protect our kids in their reconditioning, protect our kids in their practices and we move forward so we’ll be able to have something as we move back to normal,” Justice said.

High school sports abruptly ended on March 12 when Justice began shutting down activities in the state has the virus became more active in the U.S. Eventually no state championships were crowned in high school basketball and there were no spring sports seasons.

Gov. Justice also announced Friday remaining adult sports facilities will be allowed to reopen June 8 including indoor tennis courts and outdoor basketball courts.

“Our guidance will follow very soon,” Justice said.

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Putnam teen charged with embezzlement from Starbucks

 

WINFIELD, W.Va. — A Putnam County teenager faces a long list of embezzlement charges after allegedly taking $5,000 worth of gift cards from Starbucks.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Department this week charged Paige Gritt, 18, of Red House with 42 counts of computer fraud and 42 counts of misdemeanor embezzlement. According to a criminal complain Gritt was employed by Starbucks in Teays Valley and scanned 42 Starbucks gift cards for which no payment was received.

Investigators say the time of the card scans corresponded with her work schedule and also video surveillance showed her scanning the cards and pacing them in her pocket. When questioned, Gritt told deputies she could provide bank statements proving she paid $2,000 of her own money for the cards. Deputies said those records were never provided.

The cards, ranging in value from $100 to $500 were given to various students at Buffalo High School where Gritt was a student. Deputies interviewed several of those students who received the cards and said Gritt gave them the cards “to do something nice for her friends.” Deputies were able to recover a dozen of the cards.

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Marsh: Masks are Mountain State’s secret weapon

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — State Coronavirus Czar Doctor Clay Marsh predicts the second round of battling COVID-19 in West Virginia will be much more difficult than the first round because many are tired and fatigued and want to start doing things they are used to doing.

Clay Marsh

“They’ve said, ‘Well, we’ve stayed at home. We’ve down so well. The weather is nice,'” Marsh said Friday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Marsh said the important issue in the second phase is trying to encourage residents to wear masks.

“That’s the piece that’s our secret weapon that we haven’t really deployed yet,” Marsh said.

He said masks are like having a vaccine because research shows if 60 percent of residents wear them the R-naught infection spread number can stay around 1 or lower. Marsh said if 80 percent of residents wear masks the rate of spread will be even lower.

“Masks show you care about others,” Marsh said. “It’s a critical step in the next phase.”

.@claymarsh talks to @HoppyKercheval about most recent updates on COVID-19 in WV. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/HHv1u9xVjL

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 29, 2020

Marsh said COVID-19 will spread into rural America in the second phase this summer. He said West Virginia must move forward with that knowledge.

“We have to be aware of that and to me, with our very vulnerable population, it is really important that we really do take a leadership as a people,” Marsh said.

As of Friday morning. the state was reporting 1,951 total confirmed cases since early March with 74 deaths. There have been 93,377 total tests. The percentage of positive tests is just above 2 percent with the daily test rate below 1 percent.

Cases per county include:

(Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (9/0), Berkeley (290/11), Boone (10/0), Braxton (2/0), Brooke (4/0), Cabell (59/2), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (2/0), Fayette (46/0), Gilmer (10/0), Grant (10/1), Greenbrier (9/0), Hampshire (29/0), Hancock (15/2), Hardy (38/0), Harrison (40/1), Jackson (135/0), Jefferson (168/4), Kanawha (218/2), Lewis (7/0), Lincoln (5/0), Logan (17/0), Marion (50/0), Marshall (28/0), Mason (15/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (13/0), Mineral (43/2), Mingo (6/1), Monongalia (121/11), Monroe (6/1), Morgan (17/1), Nicholas (8/0), Ohio (41/0), Pendleton (9/2), Pleasants (3/1), Pocahontas (18/1), Preston (17/5), Putnam (35/0), Raleigh (15/1), Randolph (126/0), Ritchie (1/0), Roane (9/0), Summers (1/0), Taylor (8/0), Tucker (4/0), Tyler (3/0), Upshur (6/1), Wayne (98/0), Webster (0/0), Wetzel (8/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (51/3), Wyoming (3/0).

.@WV_DHHR reports as of 10:00 a.m., on May 29, 2020, there have been 93,377 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 1,951 total cases and 74 deaths. #SaferAtHomeWVhttps://t.co/EJ6YKZQ17Q pic.twitter.com/yYn7hiE3sy

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) May 29, 2020

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Some visitors now allowed at Raleigh General Hospital

RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. — Raleigh General Hospital is one of the first hospitals in West Virginia to begin to lift restrictions on hospital visitors implemented to limit coronavirus spread.

For weeks, a zero-visitor policy had been in place at Raleigh General.

However, beginning this week, certain patients have been permitted to have one well visitor per day.

The decision for limited visitation was partly based on a “lower than expected volume of COVID-19” in the region Raleigh General serves, hospital officials said.

Matt Roberts, Raleigh General CEO

“We felt comfortable that we had run all the traps in terms making sure that we were going to continue to be able to protect our patients, providers and employees and felt like it was time to start letting some people back in,” said Matt Roberts, Raleigh General CEO.

As of Friday morning, information from the state Department of Health of Human Resources showed seven active cases of COVID-19 out of the 15 known cases confirmed in Raleigh County dating back to March.

A total of 3,691 people had been tested with no COVID-19 deaths in Raleigh County.

Roberts said the three COVID-19 patients treated at Raleigh General since the start of the pandemic had recovered and were home.

Under the latest policy changes, the Raleigh General patients who could have a single visitor included inpatients, patients having surgeries and other procedures, emergency room patients and obstetric patients.

Visitors had to be age 12 or older, screened upon entry and arrive with their own masks or other face coverings which were to be worn at all times while inside the facility.

Inpatient visitor hours were from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Visitors who could not pass screenings were being asked to reschedule their visits until they were symptom-free.

Additional visitor changes, Roberts said, would depend on the trajectory of COVID-19 cases.

“I think it’s a wait-and-see,” he told MetroNews. “We’re just going to continue to be conservative and, as the opportunities present to further open our facility, we will slowly open even more and more things.”

As of Friday, visitors were still not allowed for high-risk, isolation, immunocompromised or respiratory patients who were under observation or those who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Also not allowed were visitors for patients coming in for lab work and imaging.

Going forward, “Our biggest focus is on protecting our patients, our employees and our providers,” Roberts said.

Roberts estimated Raleigh General had resumed services to between 80 percent and 90 percent of pre-COVID levels at the close of May.

Hospital information showed no-visitor policies with just a few exceptions continued at facilities for WVU Medicine, Charleston Area Medical Center and others in West Virginia.

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Registration gap continues to close between West Virginia political parties

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — New West Virginia voter registration numbers show those registered Republicans or no-party continue to gain on those registered as Democrats.

The numbers, which represent those who will be eligible to vote in the June 9 Primary Election, show Democrats with just shy of 475,000 registered voters (38.6 percent), Republicans with 425,000 voters (34.5 percent) and no-party at approximately 281,600 (22.9 percent).

Democrats held a 188,700 registration advantage over Republicans heading into the 2016 Primary Election but that advantage has now shrunk to 49,953. The registration advantage for Democrats in 1995 was 349,000 voters.

There will be just shy of 1.3 million state residents eligible to vote in the primary.

MORE See latest voter registration numbers here

West Virginia Republican Party Executive Director Byron Fisher said registration numbers for Republicans showed a sharp increase during the time the Democratic-controlled U.S. House was holding impeaching proceedings against President Donald Trump.

“Impeachment was definitely a turning point,” Fisher said Friday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.” “In the month of December, Republicans gained 2,002, January 816, February 2,669 (registrations).”

.@ByronFisherKY joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss the rising trend of Republican Party registration in WV. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/BcGwa6Ggps

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 29, 2020

Fisher said on the day the U.S. House voted to impeach Trump, Dec. 19, 19 Democrats in Boone County changed their registrations to Republicans.

“Takline” Hoppy Kercheval focused on the registration reversal in a Jan. 16 column.

“In 2000, Republican voters made up 29 percent of the electorate. That equaled 310,000 voters. Percentage-wise, that has gradually risen to 34 percent.

The Republican registration strength is particularly evident just since the last election. Over the last four years, county clerks have done a remarkable job clearing the voter registration rolls of inactive voters.

As I pointed out in yesterday’s commentary, that hit Democrats particularly hard. They lost 93,000 registrations, while gaining just 9,600 new voters for a net loss of 83,000 voters,” Kercheval wrote.

Fisher said Friday updating the voting rolls has been significant but he said the support for President Trump has been more significant. He said there are now 21 West Virginia counties where Republicans outnumber Democrats in registered voters.

“There are 18 more where the gap is near 1,000. We are definitely closing the gap,” Fisher said.

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