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W.Va. Attorney General and challenger weigh in on mask order and emergency powers

As the state’s top legal officer, the Attorney General often has an advisory role for issues such as the governor’s emergency powers.

Incumbent Attorney General Patrick Morrisey discussed his view of Gov. Jim Justice’s ongoing use of emergency powers to handle the coronavirus pandemic, during a recent appearance on “Panhandle Live” on WEPM Radio. Morrisey also discussed this week’s mandate for West Virginians to wear face coverings, which was issued under the emergency powers.

In a separate telephone interview, Morrisey’s opponent for the upcoming election, Democrat Sam Petsonk, also discussed when and how those powers are invoked.

Morrisey has been publicly involved several times already in shaping how the emergency powers have been used during West Virginia’s response to the pandemic.

When West Virginia delayed its primary election by a month, Morrisey issued an opinion citing state code once the governor has declared a State of Emergency, which went into effect because of the coronavirus on March 16.

In April, when the governor cited emergency powers in halting elective medical procedures, Morrisey spoke up at a regular briefing to conclude the order would apply to abortions.

Executive power

As the state’s pandemic response has gone on, though, some West Virginia citizens and lawmakers have questioned the extent of the powers and how long they are intended to go on. Justice has spoken about needing to react until medical science has settled on a vaccine or treatment.

The governor’s executive orders — and there have been 50 of them now — typically cite Chapter 15, Article 5, Section 6 of state code, which includes the authority “to control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area, the movement of persons within the area and the occupancy of premises therein.”

That would last until “the proclamation of the termination thereof by the Governor, or the passage by the Legislature of a concurrent resolution terminating such emergency.”

Justice brushed off a question on Friday about whether the Legislature should be called in to oversee the allocation of $1.25 billion in federal relief, saying that would result in a “soapbox show” and a “political nightmare.”

Gov. Jim Justice

The federal spending issue is not a matter of the governor’s emergency powers, but it is part of a related question about his authority.

Justice and his staff have said Congress intended for chief executives to oversee the relief spending and that the budget passed by lawmakers has boilerplate language allowing the executive branch to direct federal grants.

Although state representatives in many other states have helped direct spending, Justice’s administration has described relying on guidance from the Bailey & Glasser law firm from Charleston and  BDO which is Binder Dijker Otte, an international accounting and tax advisory network.

Justice said he welcomes discussion about the decisions he makes, but then said he doesn’t have time, citing the state health emergency.

“If anyone can find a fallacy with what I’m doing, I’d welcome it and welcome it tomorrow,” the governor said, then adding “I’ve got a lot to do here.”

Marshall Wilson

Five state lawmakers, including Delegate Marshall Wilson, I-Berkeley, who is running independently for governor this fall, challenged the governor’s use of emergency powers in a filing with the state Supreme Court. The thrust of the legal challenge is that Justice should have been involving the Legislature.

The writ alleges, “West Virginia’s governor is currently ruling the state by executive fiat and is drastically expanding the power of the executive branch.”

After this week’s mask order, Wilson issued a statement contending the governor’s actions violate the Constitution.

“Even if such ’emergency’ authority were available to the Chief Executive, he certainly would hold no authority to extend indefinitely his dictatorial rule over the People of West Virginia in the absence of their guidance via their duly elected representatives in the Legislature,” Wilson stated.

Guidance from the Attorney General

Morrisey was asked on “Panhandle Live” whether his office was consulted on the mask order, the latest example of the governor’s use of emergency powers. He did not respond in terms of legal guidance but instead discussed whether face coverings are effective.

“Rather than go through the consultation part, I would say this: First, I’ve looked at a lot of the clinical literature relating to masks and certain types of masks seem to actually have some efficacy,” Morrisey said.

Specifying N95 masks, in particular, Morrisey said, “they do seem to be effective in reducing the spread of contagion because it minimizes the droplets, so I think that’s a good thing.”

But, “other types of masks, that’s a separate question,” he added. The governor’s order applied to face coverings meant to be cloth.

“I would encourage people to wear the masks that are going to help them reduce the contagion,” he said.

As a legal matter, he said, “If there are issues or questions — and people are entitled not only to their perspectives but to their constitutional rights — so if there are people with questions they can call our office. I do think when you’re doing things like this you want to be very sensitive to people’s First Amendment rights or expressive rights.

“So obviously encouragement, in my mind, is the appropriate approach.”

Morrisey also addressed how long the governor’s emergency powers may last. He noted that a preparedness declaration has a shelf life of 30 days. But an emergency declaration may go on much longer.

“In terms of the public emergency, the Legislature did not put any cap on that,” Morrisey said.

“I think the governor has done a lot of positive things during this pandemic. But I think people do legitimately say ‘What’s the right role? Should there be a time limit on emergencies? Should there be other consultation that’s required when you have an emergency? What’s the trigger when you actually call the Legislature back?'”

He predicted a vigorous legislative discussion over the terms of any emergency executive authority.

“I would argue West Virginia should revisit some of its authority,” he said. “I think that’s a debate the Legislature’s going to have.”

The challenger’s view

Petsonk, in a telephone interview, a lawyer in Beckley who has focused on labor issues, also spoke about the Attorney General’s role in providing guidance about legal issues such as the governor’s emergency powers.

He indicated the state’s top lawyer should only go so far with his own perspective.

“Merciful heavens, we don’t need a lawyer telling a politician how to overrule a panel of top scientists on how to protect the public health. Talk about too many cooks in the kitchen. That is not the role of the Attorney General,” he said.

However, he said, the Attorney General should be prepared to interpret state laws.

“What is the role of the Attorney General? To interpret our statutes, our laws and to look out for our fundamental constitutional rights — our religious freedom, freedom of expression, the right to address our legislators and observe the affairs of government and, of course, the right to an equitable, thorough, efficient and free public education.”

Over the past few months, the governor has used the emergency powers to order citizens to stay home unless it’s necessary to go out, to keep businesses closed unless they are deemed essential and now to wear face coverings when they’re in public.

“Each of these issues needs to be scrutinized, but, of course, broadly speaking the governor has expansive powers,” Petsonk said. “In fact, in West Virginia we have always embraced a strong executive framework.”

Disputes over the balance of power could be settled by the courts, but the Attorney General could weigh in with guidance.

“It’s not for the Attorney General to make a final determination as to the constitutionality of any particular measure but rather to assess the overall balance of power and the competing values in our Constitution, in our statutes and advise the governor about the best way to balance those rules in protecting the public interest,” Petsonk said.

Petsonk is particularly focused on oversight of federal relief dollars as they flow through the state and to local governments.

“Namely, during and after a disaster or emergency, our county and municipal governments can claim reimbursement from a variety of federal programs to recover monies that offset the local, out-of-pocket emergency expenditures,” Petsonk said.

“But they must keep scrupulous records in order to do so. The Attorney General should ensure adequate guidance for documenting those local expenditures so that we don’t forfeit our ability to recover those losses through federal reimbursement.”

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Kennedy Award winner Ethan Payne bound for Marshall

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — 2019 Kennedy Award winner Ethan Payne is headed west on I-64 to Marshall University. The rising senior running back and defensive back verbally committed to join the Herd Sunday afternoon.

Payne broke the 41-year-old record for points scored in a regular season (276 points). He rushed for 2,845 yards and 49 touchdowns in twelve games, leading the Dots to an 11-1 record and a spot in the Class AA quarterfinals.

100% committed 🟢⚪ @CoachG_Adkins @DOCMUFB @CalebFavino pic.twitter.com/cIbnetdeCg

— Ethan Payne (@epayne414) July 12, 2020

Ethan’s younger brother Toby, a rising junior, also holds a scholarship offer from Marshall.

(This story will be updated)

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Musselman standout Blake Hartman gears up for senior season

— Story by Taylor Kennedy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Musselman’s Blake Hartman is ready to get things going with his team next season. Hartman missed the Applemen’s state quarterfinal game against Parkersburg South due to injury. He was injured in the previous round against Parkersburg.

“I wasn’t able to play in that game against Parkersburg South, which sucked. I got hurt in the Parkersburg game in round one. That hurts a lot. I feel like we could have had another shot at Martinsburg in the semifinals. It is what it is. You learn from it, and you use it as fuel for next season,” says Hartman.

Since being injured, Hartman has been putting in the extra work to get even better than he was last season. At the end of last season, he weighed 190 pounds. Since then, he has put on 30 pounds of pure muscle. Hartman can thank his personal gym at his house for helping him put muscle weight on.

“I probably have the best weight room at my house out of anyone. I’ve got benches, squat equipment, and dumbbells. I do not think I have missed a beat. I feel like I have gotten a lot stronger. I am up to 220 pounds. My numbers are going up. Strength wise that is where I needed to be,” says Hartman.

Musselman’s Blake Hartman (Photo by Christopher C. Davis/@EP_BigCameraGuy)

On the other hand, Hartman thinks the conditioning aspect of his game needed improvement.

“Conditioning wise it is hard. It is hard to get motivated to run. That is the hard part as well, and that is staying motivated. When you are working out by yourself, it is a lot harder than working out with your team,” says Hartman.

With the pandemic still going on in our society, athletes will focus on how to get better each and every day. Along with getting better, athletes sometimes self-examine themselves, and see what else needs improving outside of being an athlete. Hartman thinks that he has gotten closer with his family since quarantine began.

“Time with family has been the biggest thing. Being an athlete in high school, you are not around your family as often as you want to be. You are always at school, football, lifting, and watching film. You are constantly doing stuff. Being around my family, I feel like I have created a better relationship with them. That has been my favorite part about it [quarantine],” says Hartman.

Hartman has also been getting a lot of attention at the next level. Division 1 head football coaches have been keeping their eye on the upcoming senior. Hartman announced three days ago, via Twitter, his top six schools. 

Top 6🔥… Recruitment still 100% open
PC: @LPDesigns304 pic.twitter.com/vLr4c9lvGF

— blake (@BlakeHartman6) July 7, 2020

“It is more of my relationships with the coaches. Right now, those coaches have been keeping in touch with me. I have close bonds with the coaches that have been recruiting me on each staff. That is the key part in where I want to be. I am not worried about playing at the next level. Most of the schools that are recruiting me, I know I will earn a great education there. I do not want to be one of those guys that just offer me. I want to know that I am one of those guys that actually wants me. I felt that the most with the schools that offered me,” says Hartman about choosing his top six schools.

Hartman will still be on those program’s radars going into next season. His mentality is to try and be a better player than he was the previous season.

“I am trying to attack every year like I have something to prove. Going into my freshman season, that is how I treated it, and I had a great year. Every single year I have to keep that mindset. Just keep increasing, and keep going up,” says Hartman.

Musselman’s Blake Hartman (Photo by William Wotring/The Dominion Post)

His goal for next season is the same for any athlete, winning the state championship.

“Obviously you want to win the state championship. That should be the goal for every player in the state. If it is not then there is something wrong. Even if you are not one of the best teams in the state, there is no reason you do not want to win the state championship.”

That goal of reaching the state championship begins on September 4th as Musselman faces Martinsburg. 

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Active coronavirus cases surpass 1,300

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Around 31% of West Virginia’s coronavirus cases are active.

According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, 4,207 tests have come back as positive as of Sunday morning, a 41 case increase from the department’s Saturday evening report. The department noted 1,305 cases are active.

Nearly 207,000 tests have been recorded by state health officials during the pandemic. Ninety-six deaths have tied to the coronavirus, including the death of a 68-year-old Ohio County woman reported Saturday.

The daily rate of positive cases over all tests is 4.53% compared to the cumulative rate of 2.03%.

The department also updated the number of confirmed and probable cases in each county: Barbour (19/0), Berkeley (514/19), Boone (34/0), Braxton (5/0), Brooke (25/1), Cabell (192/7), Calhoun (4/0), Clay (12/0), Fayette (79/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (19/1), Greenbrier (71/0), Hampshire (42/0), Hancock (39/3), Hardy (46/1), Harrison (120/0), Jackson (148/0), Jefferson (251/5), Kanawha (400/12), Lewis (22/1), Lincoln (9/0), Logan (40/0), Marion (106/3), Marshall (64/1), Mason (24/0), McDowell (9/0), Mercer (62/0), Mineral (65/2), Mingo (30/2), Monongalia (522/14), Monroe (14/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (20/1), Ohio (143/0), Pendleton (15/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (36/1), Preston (81/19), Putnam (86/1), Raleigh (75/3), Randolph (186/2), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (12/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (23/1), Tucker (6/0), Tyler (10/0), Upshur (24/2), Wayne (123/1), Webster (1/0), Wetzel (34/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (176/9) and Wyoming (7/0).

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West Virginia’s first Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars announced

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Twenty-five high school seniors have been selected as West Virginia’s first Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars and look to make an impact on the state’s children.

The students selected will receive a scholarship of up to $10,000 per year,  or $40,000 total, for their college education which is geared towards education as West Virginia teachers.

“My counselor kept hounding all the people who are going to be teachers and said ‘you need to fill this out, it’s going to be a really good scholarship,'” Kensley White, a scholarship recipient from Van Junior-Senior High School said on MetroNews ‘Talkline.’

Kensley White

“It was a three-step process and 25 people out of hundreds got chosen for it.”

White will be attending West Virginia State University to pursue a degree in elementary education. She said she has grown a passion to teach the youth.

“I have been a member of my church up here for a few years and every summer we hold a bible school and I love to teach the kids at bible school,” she said.

“I have even considered special education because I have grown up with a little cousin and he pulls at my heartstrings and taught me patience. That is something I am very passionate about.”

The program, the first in the state to be open to a national applicant pool, is designed to help West Virginia address ongoing teacher shortages in the fields of math, science, special education, and elementary education, a release said.

Recipients commit to teaching in one of those fields in West Virginia for at least five years after graduation. Each student is paired with a practicing classroom teacher mentor, who will provide guidance throughout their college careers.

White said she sees potential with giving back to the state.

“Looking at it now, it seems difficult to make a five-year commitment but I want to see growth in our state and keep jobs here instead of everyone leaving. Because we have so much potential in our state to grow,” White said.

Other scholarship winners include:

– Maggie Bailey from Wirt County High School is attending West Virginia University at Parkersburg to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Emily Barr from Nicholas County High School is attending Glenville State College to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Kailee Beckman from North Marion High School is attending Fairmont State University to pursue a degree in special education.
– Olivia Burns from Hurricane High School is attending Marshall University to pursue a degree in math.
– Wiley Byers from Greenbrier East High School is attending Fairmont State University to pursue a degree in math.
– Payton Campbell from Lewis County High School is attending West Virginia Wesleyan College to pursue a degree in special education.
– Kyler Carper from Wirt County High School is attending Fairmont State University to pursue a degree in science.
– Brooke Choiniere from Spring Mills High School is attending Fairmont State University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Ashley Davis from Ritchie County High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Samuel Dudgeon from Mount View High School is attending Ohio Valley University to pursue a degree in math.
– BreighAnne Glover from Hedgesville High School is attending Shepherd University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Chase Haines from Spring Mills High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in science.
– Emma Haley from St. Clairsville High School in Ohio is attending West Liberty University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Josie Hill from Point Pleasant High School is attending Glenville State College to pursue a degree in math.
– Somer Kerr from Philip Barbour High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Stori Ketterman from Petersburg High School is attending Shepherd University to pursue a degree in science.
– Faith Lovejoy from Buffalo Putnam High School is attending West Virginia State University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Jacob Massey from Sherman High School is attending West Virginia State University to pursue a degree in math.
– Emily McElwain from Greenbrier East High School is attending Concord University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Sophia Miller from Parkersburg South High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Megan Noss from Preston High School is attending West Virginia Wesleyan College to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Caroline Smith from Nicholas County High School is attending Concord University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Mallori Straub from Morgantown High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
– Isabella Vint from Scott High School is attending Marshall University to pursue a degree in math.

“I’m incredibly proud of these young scholars, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish over the next four years and beyond,” said Sarah Armstrong Tucker, Chancellor of West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Commission and Community and Technical College System in a news release.

“When we worked with the Legislature and Governor Justice last year to revamp this program, we knew we wanted to create a preeminent scholarship that would produce new generations of strong, committed teachers for years to come in the Mountain State. This cohort is just the beginning, and it’s certainly a bright one.”

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch said, “I am pleased to congratulate the inaugural class of Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars. Their interest in and commitment to education is commendable, and I know this scholarship is paving the way to build capacity among our teacher ranks.

“The challenges we face in filling content areas such as math, science and special education are very real. Programs such as this will assist us to meet the demand with a highly qualified corps of new teachers.”

A virtual celebration of the scholars will be held on Wednesday, July 29 at 2:00 p.m. on Facebook Live.

For high school seniors who want to become a teacher in West Virginia, applications open on July 15, 2020 for the 2021 cohort. Visit underwoodsmith.org for more information.

The Underwood-Smith award is stackable with other forms of financial aid. West Virginia residents who receive the PROMISE Scholarship as well ($4,750 per year) receive nearly $15,000 per year to help pay for college.

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Buses, cafeterias and cleanup will get extra attention as W.Va. schools reopen in covid era

Cooks, custodians and bus drivers will be crucial to opening West Virginia schools as the coronavirus pandemic continues this fall.

But the president of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, the union that represents those workers, says only about half are comfortable so far.

“Half the people say ‘all right, this is nothing,’ they’re going to go back to normal, ‘let’s hit it,” said union leader Joe White.

“The other part of them say, ‘You know what? I’m concerned about this. I have a lot of concerns.'”

What would help most, White said, is a clear overarching plan and consistent communication about it.

“Most of the employees haven’t gotten any information about what’s going to happen or what to expect. They’re waiting on counties to get their plans out. They don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “So the uncertainty is what’s concerning a lot of our members, and rightfully so.”

Gov. Jim Justice announced this week that the school year in West Virginia would be delayed until at least Sept. 8.

The governor said the delay was necessary because of alarming increases in numbers reflecting infection rates and hospitalization rates.

More time to prepare for uncertain circumstances is also necessary, Justice said.

“We need to buy ourselves some time,” he said.

The state Department of Education released a framework for reopening this week, and all 55 county superintendents were working on plans specific to their districts.

State Superintendent Clayton Burch

The delay was crucial for preparation all over West Virginia, said state Superintendent Clayton Burch.

“It was the best course of action. It does put students back in schools, which is what we want,” he said. “But it puts all 55 counties on the same page to be prepared to start.”

Much of that effort will focus on buses, cafeterias and cleanup.

A major question will be cost.

Howard O’Cull

“It’s very difficult to get an answer to that,” said Howard O’Cull, director of the West Virginia School Boards Association.

“There are monies that have been shifted to counties, federal monies, that allow county boards to meet many of those requirements.”

Along with state allocations, he said, “There is some capability to address the getting kids to school, home, trying to work in the classrooms. How it all shakes out financially, I don’t think anyone knows that.

“I think the assumption is, we need to get school started, try to figure out issues with finances, try to find creative ways to deal with those issues.”

Transportation

Students will be two-to-a-seat on buses, according to state leaders. That’s somewhat more flexible than the one-to-a-seat scenario that was discussed earlier this summer.

“They just couldn’t do the multiple routes, half-loaded buses,” White said, citing cost. “As you know, we’re short on bus drivers around the state anyway. So they couldn’t really do the one-kid-per-seat, skip a seat. I’ll be honest with you, it probably would have been noon before they got to the buildings.”

Drivers are to wear face coverings when students are loading and unloading.

Cleaning buses after runs will be another challenge. More efficient equipment would help, White said.

“We could probably go in there in about two-and-a-half minutes and disinfect a bus with the proper equipment,” he said. “But what are we gonna do? Are we gonna go back to the 60s and use a bucket with a rage? Is that what we’re going to do and spend 30 minutes disinfecting a bus when we could get a battery operated mister and mist the bus with a peroxide solution?

“This is 2020. What should we do? We should invest in that to make sure the students and employees are safe in West Virginia.”

But Burch said the state has no choice but to provide transportation for students.

“We’re a rural state. We have to transport our children,” Burch said. “We don’t have any other means for any of these children to get to school.”

School meals

This will also be more complicated than usual.

A possibility is operating cafeterias at half-capacity.

“That looks to me like they’re going to have to have additional lunches,” White said. “If there’s a high school with three lunch breaks to accommodate everybody, they’re going to have to have more lunch breaks at 50 percent capacity. So yes, that’s going to cause more work on our food service, our cooks, our custodians.”

With additional lunch shifts, he quipped, “they could be eating all day.”

Another possibility is having students eat in classrooms.

“I’m not a fan of eating in the classrooms,” White said, citing the work of delivering meals to classrooms and then cleaning up afterwards.

Cleaning

Keeping schools clean in the age of covid will be an ongoing challenge.

“We may need some extra time in the afternoons and evenings for some of the extra cleanings we want to provide,” Burch told state school board members last week.

White agreed about the need, but said the level of detail necessary will be an enormous challenge.

“In some areas, it’s not all going to be possible,” White said. “The custodial staff in some areas is very small in a lot of areas. We have some schools that have one custodian or one and a half. Then they’ve got all this additional cleaning and disinfecting.”

Current standards, he said, will mean “everything that’s a high-touch area has to be wiped down, has to be cleaned, has to be disinfected. The cafeterias have to be disinfected, the gymnasiums have to be disinfected, the sports equipment that they use has to be disinfected. And it is going to be an almost non-stop, impossible task for some of these folks.”

To operate with the appropriate degree of cleanliness and efficiency will cost money, White said.

“If they’re taking this seriously, they’re going to have to invest. It’s going to take equipment to use and it’s going to take more staff,” he said. “If they want to be serious about this. What is a life worth? We have to ask that question.”

WVSSPA executive director Joe White speaks with @HoppyKercheval about the reactions of school service workers to the delay of school openings. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/adw9l6O0di

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 10, 2020

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Herd That’s run ends in TBT quarterfinals

(Game highlights courtesy of TBT/ESPN)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Herd That gave Overseas Elite all they could handle for a half before the four-time TBT champions pulled away for a 93-76 win in the tournament quarterfinals.

The Marshall alumni team trailed 47-41 at halftime and trimmed the deficit to three points midway through the third quarter. However, Overseas Elite closed the third on a 13-4 run and they held a double digit lead the rest of the way.

Ot Elmore (right) guards 18-year NBA veteran Joe Johnson (Photo by Ben Solomon)

7-ime NBA All-Star Joe Johnson scored a TBT-best 35 points in just 28 minutes. Jon Elmore led Herd That with 23 points. 20 of those were scored in the first half. Chris Cokley scored 17 points and Ryan Luther added 11.

The No. 23 seed Herd That defeated the Peoria All-Stars 80-65 and The Money Team 102-99 to advance to the quarterfinals in their first appearance as the official Marshall alumni team.

Photo by Ben Solomon

“We had a great group so that’s what really makes it special,” said Herd That guard Ot Elmore. “Unfortunately, we ran into Joe Johnson and company. There’s not a whole lot of people that have ever been part of the basketball world that have had an answer for him.”

“I would have stayed in that hotel for another month if we could keep playing with this group and keep playing in this tournament,” said Herd That guard Jon Elmore. “The overall experience rivals our NCAA Tournament when we won a game. That is how special TBT is.”

Herd That quarterfinal press conference

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Body recovered in Kanawha River at St. Albans

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. — A body was recovered by authorities Saturday evening in the Kanawha River near the boat ramp in St. Albans.

The body was first spotted by some fishermen. They called Kanawha County Metro 911 at around 6:10 p.m.

Emergency crews arrived on the scene to recover the body near St. Albans Roadside Park.

St. Albans police are investigating.

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Two-day testing events result in 5,800 tested; COVID-19 death reported in Ohio County

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources said nearly 5,800 people were administered COVID-19 tests in two days of testing in six different counties.

Monongalia County reported the most tests given during the Friday-Saturday events with 2,955 tests. The county has produced the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state since July 1. Gov. Jim Justice said Friday he would be watching the numbers over the weekend to determine if restrictions would be needed for the county which could include the closing of bars and no longer allowing indoor dining at restaurants.

The DHHR said 807 tests were recorded Friday and Saturday in Marshall County, 262 in Mercer County, 730 in Preston County, 301 in Wayne County and 771 in Upshur County.

The test results are expected back within a few days.

The DHHR reported the 96th COVID-19 related death since the pandemic began Saturday evening. The 68-year-old woman lived in Ohio County.

“It is with great sadness that we report the loss of this West Virginian and send condolences to her family,” state DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said. 

County health departments around the state added 72 positive cases to the state’s overall numbers between Saturday morning and Saturday evening. The state now has 1,252 active cases. A week ago, on July 4, there were 693 active cases. The state’s daily positive test rate Saturday evening was 4.12 percent. It’s overall test rate is 2.02 percent, the highest since June 1.  There remain 56 people in the hospital statewide.

.@WV_DHHR reports as of 5:00 p.m., on July 11, 2020, there have been 204,914 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 4,146 total cases and 96 deaths. #SaferAtHomeWVhttps://t.co/SAd0CfUbju pic.twitter.com/bKehtjwuhq

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) July 11, 2020

Overall cases per county include:

(Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (19/0), Berkeley (512/19), Boone (33/0), Braxton (5/0), Brooke (23/1), Cabell (192/6), Calhoun (4/0), Clay (12/0), Fayette (79/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (18/1), Greenbrier (71/0), Hampshire (42/0), Hancock (38/3), Hardy (45/1), Harrison (115/0), Jackson (148/0), Jefferson (248/5), Kanawha (398/12), Lewis (21/1), Lincoln (9/0), Logan (36/0), Marion (105/3), Marshall (62/1), Mason (24/0), McDowell (8/0), Mercer (62/0), Mineral (63/2), Mingo (28/2), Monongalia (510/14), Monroe (14/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (20/1), Ohio (140/0), Pendleton (15/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (36/1), Preston (77/16), Putnam (85/1), Raleigh (73/3), Randolph (185/2), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (12/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (22/1), Tucker (6/0), Tyler (10/0), Upshur (24/1), Wayne (123/1), Webster (1/0), Wetzel (34/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (175/9), Wyoming (7/0).

 

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Source: WV MetroNews

DNR admits mistake in hunting regulations

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A mistake in the 2020 game regulations resulted in a cascade of criticism for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources in the past week. Officials say however, it was an oversight and will be corrected.

The issue was a controversial proposal to allow those under the age of 14 to use a crossbow for hunting in the four archery hunting only counties of southern West Virginia. The Natural Resources Commission rejected the proposal which had drawn a lot of fire. The most adamantly opposed was the West Virginia Bowhunters Association.

DNR Director Steve McDaniel even recommended the measure be rejected at the May commission meeting due to the groundswell of opposition.

However, when the printed regulations brochure was published, the proposal was noted as if it had been approved.

“It takes a while to build the template for the regulations brochure and when we did that, to save time, we had all of the proposed regulations in there. It was supposed to be removed, but it wasn’t,” said McDaniel.

His phone began ringing the moment the printed regs arrived at sporting goods stores around the state.

“It was an oversight. We apologize. We were already running behind because of the delay to the meeting and with everybody working from home trying to get the regulations printed. It slipped through the cracks. We’ll get it fixed.” he said.

The first shipment of the printed regulations was recalled by the agency. McDaniel said there wasn’t enough time to reprint, which would also be costly. He expected there would be a sticker added to reflect the correction before they are distributed back to agents statewide in the coming days.

The state law which allowed for the use of crossbows in West Virginia was deliberately tooled to disallow them in Wyoming, Logan, Mingo, and McDowell Counties. The proposed change to allow their use among youth hunters drew a firestorm of criticism and was overwhelmingly rejected by members of the commission.

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Source: WV MetroNews