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Health official: Vacations, church gatherings driving up Logan County COVID-19 case numbers

LOGAN COUNTY, W.Va. — Active COVID-19 cases in Logan County were continuing to climb Tuesday, just one of the counties in southern West Virginia dealing with recent spikes in cases.

Steve Browning, administrator for the Logan County Health Department, said, though case numbers were still on the rise, the daily increases in Logan County were beginning to come in at lower amounts following jumps in July attributed to a couple of factors.

Returning vacationers was one, Browning said.

“Then we had a few church outbreaks that were primarily related to a gospel group and then just one on its own that was separate from that. Then it was their contacts that started to become positive,” he explained.

“Those two factors, with the contacts becoming positive, all sort of started to balloon our numbers really quick.”

On Monday, Governor Jim Justice included Logan County on his latest outbreak list along with Mercer County, specifically the Princeton Health Care Center, and Raleigh County.

“Logan County’s population surely is not that significant as far as the total population of this state,” he said.

“It is absolutely ridiculous to have 100 cases in Logan County.”

As of Tuesday morning, the Logan County Health Department was reporting 176 total confirmed positive COVID-19 cases dating back to March. Of those cases, 87 were active. Thirteen people were hospitalized.

Southern West Virginia, Governor Justice said, was seeing the effects of virus migration from the southern U.S.

Browning said the speed of the Logan County spread surprised him.

Going forward, he was reminding residents to avoid crowded places, enclosed locations and close contact with others. When that was not possible, he said people should be wearing masks.

“Hopefully, we can get through this part of it and settle them back down again and return to some much more manageable numbers,” Browning said.

He said it was up to Logan County residents to make that happen.

“If we can do one thing, we can just watch out for our neighbors and our community.”

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COVID death numbers up in West Virginia, positive cases down

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported seven additional COVID-19 deaths in its Tuesday report, increasing the number of deaths in West Virginia since the pandemic began to 124.

According to the DHHR, the virus claimed the lives of a 43-year-old Mingo County man, a 55-year-old Taylor County woman, a 68-year-old woman from Kanawha County, a Preston County man who was 70, a 73-year-old man from Marshall County, a 91-year-old man from Wood County and a 92-year-old man from Grant County.

“Each death reported is a solemn reminder of the seriousness of this disease. We send our deepest sympathy to these families,” DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said Tuesday.

The DHHR COVID-19 dashboard has hospitalizations at 111 with 40 patients in intensive care.

Total number of cases increased by 78 between Monday and Tuesday representing the lowest number of cases added a day since July 12. There have been 7,051 since the pandemic started. The DHHR said 1,865 cases are active while 5,062 people have recovered.

The daily positive test rate is 2.41 percent with the overall positive test rate after more than 298,000 tests is 2.38 percent. The rate of spread is .98.

.@WV_DHHR reports as of 10:00 a.m., on August 4, 2020, there have been 298,290 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 7,051 total cases and 124 deaths. #SaferAtHomeWV https://t.co/gk9xAkvkxR pic.twitter.com/oqalgbZsa3

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) August 4, 2020

Overall confirmed cases per county include:

(Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (29/0), Berkeley (637/24), Boone (88/0), Braxton (8/0), Brooke (60/1), Cabell (341/9), Calhoun (6/0), Clay (17/1), Doddridge (4/0), Fayette (131/0), Gilmer (16/0), Grant (80/1), Greenbrier (87/0), Hampshire (74/0), Hancock (100/4), Hardy (53/1), Harrison (198/1), Jackson (158/0), Jefferson (287/5), Kanawha (835/13), Lewis (26/1), Lincoln (68/1), Logan (157/0), Marion (174/4), Marshall (126/3), Mason (50/0), McDowell (45/1), Mercer (167/0), Mineral (112/2), Mingo (142/2), Monongalia (913/16), Monroe (18/1), Morgan (25/1), Nicholas (32/1), Ohio (259/1), Pendleton (40/1), Pleasants (7/1), Pocahontas (40/1), Preston (102/23), Putnam (173/1), Raleigh (191/7), Randolph (203/3), Ritchie (3/0), Roane (14/0), Summers (6/0), Taylor (52/1), Tucker (11/0), Tyler (12/0), Upshur (36/3), Wayne (189/2), Webster (3/0), Wetzel (40/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (228/12), Wyoming (23/0).

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Signature verification to begin after Kanye West’s campaign meets WV ballot deadline

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Rapper Kanye West is a step closer to being an official candidate for president in the November General Election in West Virginia after those representing his campaign turned in more than the required number of signatures Monday to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.

State code requires 7,300 valid signatures, 1 percent of the state’s electorate. The West campaign turned in more than 15,000 signatures, including more than 3,000 Monday. Most of the signatures were from Kanawha and Monongalia counties.

MORE Kanye West’s candidate certificate HERE

The signatures have to be validated by county clerks which could take up to 10 days to complete.

The West campaign was able to beat a Monday midnight deadline. He’ll run as an independent. The number of states where West has qualified to be on the ballot is somewhat of a moving target. Reports Monday indicated he had qualified in 10 states but had missed deadlines in 10 others.

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MetroNews This Morning 8-4-20

West Virginia’s Covid 19 death toll rises by five. Outbreaks are being reported in several southern West Virginia communities and hospitals in Beckley and Logan are dealing with high numbers of positives both among patients and staff. Charleston’s St. Francis Hospital is being prepped as a “surge hospital”. The storm named Isaias is dumping a lot of rain on the Eastern Coast this morning–and West Virginia’s eastern panhandle will get some of it. Governor Justice explains how CARES Act money will translate to road upgrades. In Sports, the Big XII goes with 9 conference games and one non-conference game at home. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 8-4-20” on Spreaker.

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Ritchie resurgence rolls into third year under Rick Haught

ELLENBORO, W.Va. — Rick Haught became head coach of the Ritchie County Rebels in 2018 and he inherited a program that won just 2 of their previous 36 games. Two years ago, the Rebels qualified for the playoffs with 7 wins. Last fall, they went 10-2 and were the No. 2 seed in Class A, falling to eventual champion Wheeling Central in the quarterfinals.

“With each year you kind of build upon what you want to do after you see what you’ve got,” Haught said. “We just kind of jelled. It turned into a real special season. We got beat by the two teams that ended up at Wheeling Island.”

“Halfway through the year we started really thriving,” said Ritchie County senior tight end/defensive back Dakota Wayne. “We started really getting the playbook down pat with a whole bunch of new players in new positions that we weren’t used to. We had some setbacks but we finally got through it. We finally realized about game six or seven that we can actually go somewhere with this season.”

“It was pretty enjoyable,” said Ritchie County senior running back/linebacker Tre Moss. “It was one of the better years we have had in the past couple. To get that rolling, everyone has good expectations for us.”

Several key skill players return for the Rebels this fall. Leading receiver Gus Morrison is back. He caught nine touchdown passes in 2019. Although Garrett Owens graduated after a 15-touchdown season, leading rusher Tre Moss returns. He rushed for 1,668 yards and 18 scores.

“We have Tre back and we are going to try to put him in a couple different positions to see if we can utilize his abilities,” Haught said. “We will look a little bit different but I still think that we can be extremely explosive because we have some young guys up front and I really like what they are starting to show.”

The Rebels feature a run-heavy offense but Ethan Haught excelled as an every-game starter at quarterback in his freshman season. He accounted for 17 total touchdowns.

“He matured extremely well,” Haught said. “What helped him is he had a great group of guys that could take a lot of pressure off of him. He threw the ball well enough to where that was an added threat. I thought for his youth he was extremely composed and handled himself extremely well.”

In just two seasons, Ritchie County has become a top contender in the Class A championship picture with a shift in confidence and postseason experience in their corner.

“The kids were hungry but they were unsure of themselves,” Haught said. “They were really excited when things went well and it just built upon that. The kids we have now have been there, seen what it has taken to be successful but they still have pretty lofty goals.”

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West Virginia will have modified absentee voting for the General Election

Holding a statewide election is a complicated matter and executing an election fairly and accurately becomes even more problematic during a pandemic.

Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office and the state’s 55 county clerks executed a temporary fix for the Primary Election by mailing absentee ballot applications to over 1.2 million registered voters.  About 261,000 voters requested absentee ballots and, of those, nearly 225,000 filled out those ballots.

It was a mammoth undertaking, considering normally about 7,000 absentee ballots are cast, and it worked remarkably well.  Props to the county clerks, their staffs and Warner’s office for pulling it off.

However, there will be a different procedure for November. There will be no mass mailing to voters.

Instead, voters can apply for an absentee ballot through a portal on the Secretary of State’s website that will go live August 12 (GoVoteWV.com).  The request will go into the Statewide Voter Registration System and then be routed to the voter’s county clerk, who will send out the ballot.

Or voters can contact their county clerk directly.  In either instance, voters only need to cite “medical” as the reason for getting an absentee ballot.

Warner said the decision to modify the absentee ballot process for the General Election was made after consulting with county clerks.

Natalie Tennant, the Democratic former Secretary of State who is challenging Warner in November, wants to follow the same process used in the Primary for November. She argues that since it worked well in the Primary, there is no reason to change course.

She also contends that the plan put forth by Warner amounts to “voter suppression.”

Yes, the Primary system worked well, all things considered, but it was a massive, and at times, confusing undertaking.  The clerks and their staffs were stretched to the breaking point, as they worked to process tens of thousands of absentee ballots.

Additionally, of the 261,000 ballots sent to voters, more than 36,000 were never returned to the clerks.  Voters who requested an absentee ballot, but then turned up to vote in person, had to vote a provision ballot, if they did not bring their absentee ballot with them.

Also, Governor Justice had a “Stay at Home” order in place during Primary Election season, and it was not modified to “Safer at Home” until a few weeks before the delayed election.  Election officials had to prepare for the possibility that people should not leave their homes, thus the expanded absentee voting.

The plan for the General Election is a more practical solution. Voters will have plenty of opportunities to exercise their right. They can request what is essentially a no excuse absentee ballot online, by phone or in person. They can vote in person early or on Election Day.

Warner’s office and the clerks need to conduct extensive public education so voters know how to get an absentee ballot, but that is doable, and the process is not complicated.

If a voter chooses not to participate in November, it won’t because they didn’t have the opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

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Big 12 elects to play 10 in 2020

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Big 12 Conference announced late Monday that they have adopted a “9+1” schedule format for the 2020 football season. League presidents and chancellors met Monday to discuss scheduling options.

Each Big 12 team will play their traditional round robin conference slate and one additional non-conference game. The league anticipates that conference play will begin in mid-September or late-September, with non-conference games completed prior to the start of league play. The Big 12 school must host the non-conference game. The league schedule will be solidified in the coming weeks.

The Big 12 Championship Game, currently scheduled for December 5, could be delayed by a week or two.

“I would like to salute the work of our university presidents and chancellors, athletics directors, coaches, medical advisors and administrators who have worked tirelessly and collaboratively during these extraordinary times,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.  “We believe this change provides the best opportunity going forward.  However, we will undoubtedly need to be flexible as we progress through the season in order to combat the challenges that lie ahead.”

West Virginia appears to be set with their non-conference game. Athletic Director Shane Lyons appeared on MetroNews Talkline Friday and said that Eastern Kentucky is still expected to visit Morgantown. That game is currently slated for September 12.

WVU is scheduled to open Big 12 play at home against Kansas State on September 26. The Mountaineers lost non-conference games against Florida State and Maryland due to new ACC and Big 10 scheduling policies.

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Orders close court systems in Logan, Lincoln counties

LOGAN, W.Va. — The increase of COVID-19 cases in southern West Virginia forced two county court systems to shut-down regular activities Monday until further notice.

Court orders from circuit judges in Logan and Lincoln counties provide for limited emergency hearings to be held.

Logan County Chief Circuit Judge Eric O’Briant signed an two-page administrative order citing information he had received from the Logan County Health Department.

According to Logan County Health Officer Dr. Livia Cabauatan, from March 18 to June 21 there were only 21 positive cases of COVID-19 in Logan County but from June 22 to July 30 the total was 119. Logan County’s cases had exceeded 140 by Monday.

Circuit Judge Will Thompson entered a similar order for Lincoln County Circuit Court Monday afternoon after the Lincoln County Commission called for the county courthouse in Hamlin to be closed because of the current threat.

Thompson signed an order last Friday closing most of the functions of the court system in Boone County for one week after an employee in the Boone County prosecutor’s office tested positive for COVID-19.

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Marsh says growing numbers show widespread nature of virus

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Hospitalization numbers in all categories in the Mountain State have reach all-time pandemic highs. The number of West Virginians in the hospital as of Monday was 116, 50 people are in ICU beds and 17 of those are on ventilators.

Clay Marsh

WVU Vice President & Executive Dean for Health Sciences Dr. Clay Marsh,, the state COVID-19 czar, said Monday the demographics of new cases here and across country are taking a notable turn.

“In Florida in April the average age of a COVID positive test was 65, today it’s 35, so young people are really driving a part of this expansion,” Marsh said Monday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

More than 294,000 COVID-19 tests have been conducted statewide and the cumulative infection rate is at 2.36 percent. According to data from the DHHR, 23 percent of the positive tests are in the 20 to 29-year-old age group.

“As we are testing more people and we’re seeing this really spread everywhere now,” Marsh said. “I think that the number of positive cases underrepresented the real spread of the virus.”

.@claymarsh speaks with @HoppyKercheval about updated COVID-19 numbers in WV. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/qEdsJaUNq4

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) August 3, 2020

In Morgantown, where bars have been ordered closed since the middle of July, Gov. Justice extended that closure to Aug. 13 at midnight. Active cases have largely been in the under 29 age group but have dropped since a peak of 398 during the second week of July to 136 at the beginning of August.

“And that’s because in Morgantown at one point, 75 percent of the people that were testing positive in the Mon outbreak were between 18 and 29-years-old,” Marsh said.

Doctors have found evidence that the virus does damage to vital organs like the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. But it’s unclear whether some of this damage is directly caused by the virus or by secondary complications of the infection.

“We need to really underscore to our younger people that this is not just the flu,” Marsh said. “We need to pay attention and keep from getting infected because of these potential side effects.”

Marsh said data shows the virus has spread to all areas rural and urban. He said guidelines must be followed.

“We haven’t seen the worst of this yet, this thing is building up,” Marsh said. “We went through the first phase and we think we made it through, now we’re in the next phase, but until we have a solution for this thing will continue to evolve.”

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Kanawha County BOE approves in-person plan for re-entry

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Students in Kanawha County will go back to the physical classroom next month under the county’s plan voted into place on Monday.

The board for the state’s largest school district unanimously approved an in-person plan for the school system re-entry that includes a staggered return September 8-11, blended learning model from September 14-25 and an in-person 5-day option beginning September 28, in addition to a Kanawha County Schools’ Schoology option and West Virginia Department of Education virtual option.

The staggered return includes grades first, third, sixth, eighth, and eleventh going to the classroom on September 8. Pre-K, second, fourth, seventh, and tenth grades return to the classroom on September 9 while kindergarten, fifth, ninth, and twelfth grades go to school on September 10. Students online learning through Schoology will take place on September 11.

The blended learning model for September 14 through September 25 includes in-person classes for two or three days a week and online classes for two or three days a week. Students would be divided on schedules based on alphabetical order.

Beginning on September 28, 5-day in-person classes would begin. Parents would also have the option of having their kid(s) learn online five days a week either through Schoology or virtual learning. That decision must be made by August 11.

The Board approved an in-person plan for KCS re-entry: staggered from Sept. 8-11, blended from Sept. 14-25th, in person 5-day option beginning Sept. 28th IN ADDITION TO a KCS Schoology option & WVDE Virtual. The vote was 5-0. Further details will be avail. shortly on website.

— Kanawha County (@KCBOE) August 3, 2020

Board members agreed that the plan selected gives them time to see how the students are doing in the first couple weeks of school and how the virus is spreading.

Gov. Jim Justice hinted at making a major announcement about schools on Wednesday. Schools are allowed to open on September 8 at the earliest under his current plans.

Teachers in Kanawha County will report to school every day unless Justice issues any orders.

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