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The Voice of West Virginia

Battling the virus in WV—stay the course

The news over the last few days about the pandemic in West Virginia has been generally positive—no deaths and the infection rate is running at just four percent (percent of positive results of those tested).

COVID-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh continues to praise West Virginians for taking the threat seriously and abiding by the guidelines health officials constantly stress.

“If 90 percent of our people do that—and right now I believe that’s the kind of impact we’re having, that’s the kind of cooperation we are having—we can get by and almost be like business as usual.”

That’s a huge “if.”

Take this past Saturday.  It was an unseasonably warm and generally sunny day across the state.  Anecdotally, it appeared some folks were going about business as usual, even though these are far from usual times.

I saw a bunch of people crowded together on a deck having a party.  I guess it’s true—you can’t fix stupid.

Many folks, understandably tired of being cooped up in their homes, spent part of the day outside.  Hopefully, they maintained a safe social distance.

Also, there will be increasing economic pressure to try to return to some sense of normalcy.  The constant advice for people to stay home, combined with the shutdown of non-essential services and the associated layoffs, have brought segments of our economy to a halt.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warns that lifting restrictions too early would be a huge mistake. “You’re going to be in trouble,” Fauci said on CNN Sunday.

Fauci believes the country still needs more testing and real-time results. Having results within a few minutes would make it much easier to isolate infections and trace individuals who have been in contact with the virus.

Modeling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests the peak infection period for the country is still a couple weeks away. That same modeling suggests West Virginia’s peak won’t come until April 26th.

If that’s even close to accurate, West Virginians need to stay the current course for a few more weeks. Each day West Virginia keeps the infection rate at below five percent, and healthcare providers gain more time to prepare and improve testing, is a small victory.

If we remain vigilant, the short-term pain will lead to a long-term gain for our state.

 

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West Virginia officially cancels spring football game after Big 12 ruling

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As expected, there will be no spring football at West Virginia or anywhere else in the Big 12 this year.

Sunday night, the conference announced that it was suspending all team activities effective through May 31. The suspension includes “team and individual practices, meetings and other organized gatherings.”

However, the league also loosened its restrictions on virtual meetings. Teams have been allowed to conduct video communication, but could not discuss their playbooks or anything football-related.

Per the updated rules, “Film study, technical discussions, tactical sessions and other non-physical activities may take place virtually but are limited to two hours per week in all sports.”

Upon the league’s ruling, West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons formally canceled the spring game, which had been scheduled for April 18.

“We continue to work with the Big 12 and our medical professionals to ensure the safety of our student-athletes, University and community,” Lyons said in a school release. “Extending the deadline of all athletic activities necessitates the cancellation of our spring football game. We will continue to work with the Big 12 to come up a fair and competitive plan for our athletic teams as we approach May 31.”

Mountaineers coach Neal Brown said the conference is making the right call as COVID-19 continues to spread.

“It’s disappointing for our players and fans that the Gold-Blue Spring Game is canceled. The game is the highlight of the spring for everyone,” Brown said. “These are very serious times, and this is the right decision. We need to do everything we can to protect our student-athletes, University, state and community.

“Last year’s spring game was a great day, and let’s work to bring the event back bigger and better next April.”

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88-year-old Marion County woman is West Virginia’s first coronavirus death; confirmed cases up to 124

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — An 88-year-old Marion County woman died Sunday at a Clarksburg hospital as a result of covid-19, state DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch announced Sunday evening.

Crouch said the death, the first one in West Virginia associated with the coronavirus covid-19 public health emergency, was confirmed through both the Marion County Health Department and United Hospital Center.

“We extend our sincere condolences to this family,” Crouch said in a statement.

Gov. Jim Justice also expressed sorrow.

“I ask all West Virginians to join Cathy and I in praying for the family, friends, and loved ones of this individual. It is truly a sad day in West Virginia,” Justice stated.

“We are working around the clock, along with members of my administration, and the top medical experts in our state to do absolutely everything we can to protect West Virginians.”

After learning this evening of the first West Virginian to pass away from #COVID19, Cathy and I ask all West Virginians to join us in praying for the family, friends, and loved ones of this individual. It is truly a sad day in West Virginia. https://t.co/2yWsr23gUw

— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) March 29, 2020

Confirmed cases increase

West Virginia now has 124 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to information released by the DHHR Sunday night. There were 11 cases added Sunday.

The DHHR said 3,108 residents had been tested through Sunday with 124 positive, 2,984 negative and one death.

The state breakdown of cases by county is 10 individuals from Berkeley County, one from Cabell County, two from Greenbrier County, three from Hancock County, seven from Harrison County, eight from Jackson County, five from Jefferson County, 19 from Kanawha County, one from Logan County, five from Marion County, four from Marshall County, three from Mason County, two from Mercer County, 30 from Monongalia County, one from Morgan, seven from Ohio County, one from Pleasants County, one from Preston County, three from Putnam County, four from Raleigh County, two from Tucker County, one from Upshur County, one from Wetzel County, one from Wirt County, and two from Wood County.

.@WV_DHHR today confirmed 11 new cases of novel #COVID19 have been officially reported to the state, making the total positive case count 124. As of 3/29/20, 3,108 residents have been tested for COVID-19, with 124 positive, 2,984 negative and one death. https://t.co/TRvtqhkWvp pic.twitter.com/S0QHuONWb9

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) March 29, 2020

Kanawha County cases rising 

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department announced Sunday evening two more workers at Kanawha County’s Judicial Annex have tested positive for the virus bringing the number of confirm cases to seven at that building, which was closed to the public last week by the Kanawha County Commission.

Kanawha-Charleston Health Department

Dr. Sherri Young

“This epidemic is affecting our friends and colleagues,” Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Director and Medical Officer Sherri Young said. “The best thing people can do to fight it is to stay at home.”

The health department is now reporting 28 confirmed cases in Kanawha County. The state numbers released Sunday evening still had Kanawha County at 19. The additional cases are expected to be added to Monday’s count.

Young also commented Sunday on the coronavirus-related death of country music performer Joe Diffie who perform at the Clay Center in Charleston on March 8.

Young said although it’s unlikely that anyone at the performance contracted the virus, county residents need to continue to take precautions.

“Stay home,” Young said. “Wash your hands. If you have symptoms—cough, shortness of breath or fever—contact your health care provider.”

During a briefing Sunday evening, President Donald Trump extended the CDC social distancing guidelines to April 30. Trump said the peak of the virus remains about two weeks away.

 

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Parents, suspects in deaths of own daughters, found dead in Monroe County

BALLARD, W.Va. — The parents of two girls found dead Saturday in a Monroe County creek were found dead by police in a remote area near Ballard Sunday afternoon.

WVSP

Keven Anderson

State Police First Sgt. Andy Evans told MetroNews the bodies of Keven Anderson, 40, and Helen Rattamasribounreuang, 30, both of Ballard, were found side by side in a wooded area near a large field off Crawford Road at around 4 p.m. The deaths, an apparent murder-suicide, brought to an end a 24-hour search for the unmarried couple.

Evans said the investigation began Saturday morning with a suspicious fire at the family’s home. At around 2 p.m. Saturday, a pair of fishermen on Indian Creek spotted the body of the couple’s 11-month-old daughter. Sgt. Evans said DNR police floated the creek and later found the body of the couple’s 7-year-old daughter. Evans said both girls were homicide victims. Police then began looking for Anderson and Rattamasribounreuang as persons of interest.

Troopers and other law enforcement found the couple’s vehicle late Saturday night. A more intense search Sunday on family property resulted in the discovery of the two bodies in a remote area, Evans said.

WVSP

Helen Rattamasribounreuang,

“We have reason to believe they died in the early morning hours (Sunday),” Evans said.

Evans said family members have a lot of unanswered questions.

“It’s something that we may never able to answer,” he said. “No one expected a situation like this.”

Evans said as many as 30 law enforcement officers took part in the investigation and search including troopers, deputies from Monroe and Greenbrier counties and DNR police. He said another 20 volunteer firefighters assisted.

Members of the state police crime scene unit were still on the scene Sunday evening.

 

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Gubernatorial campaigns alter strategies amid coronavirus pandemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher is glad he started his gubernatorial campaign last April.

Thrasher, who is challenging Gov. Jim Justice for the Republican nomination, has visited 48 counties since launching his run for office. It is at county events and door-to-door campaign stops where laid out his plan for the state.

“There’s no substitute to looking someone in the eye and telling them who you are and why you are running and shaking their hand,” he said.

Like the other candidates for the state’s highest office, Thrasher will not be knocking on doors ahead of the May 12 primary; campaigns have suspended in-person events and shifted to remote work because of the coronavirus pandemic. Contacting voters now focuses primarily on utilizing phone banks and online resources.

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Woody Thrasher

Thrasher said not being able to go to local events limits the ability to sell his message.

“If we would have gotten this campaign halfway through and then shut down, we would have not been able to meet the number of people that we had,” he said, reflecting on his run for office so far.

“Hate to lose that opportunity. We just continue with what we can.”

Thrasher has embraced telephone town halls, in which thousands of Republicans are called and allowed to ask Thrasher questions.

He also described to MetroNews the campaign’s postcard outreach; volunteers are sending notes to Republican voters asking for their support.

“We’re not going to do nothing. We just focus on those things that we’re able to continue to do,” Thrasher said.

“You’ve got to adapt to the situation. You have to show a little creativity. I think our campaign has done that.”

Activist Stephen Smith recognized changes were needed after multiple town halls.

“It was at a few of those where we started seeing people take this more seriously by not shaking hands,” he said. “At first, we didn’t know how serious it was. It was watching and listening to the people of the state and seeing they were taking more and more precautions that made us want to follow their lead.”

Smith has focused on digital outreach since launching his run for the Democratic nomination in November 2018. His campaign has utilized Facebook to engage with supporters and promote candidates of West Virginia Can’t Wait, a grassroots effort uniting people on issues such as expanding education programs and increasing the minimum wage.

File

Stephen Smith

“We can’t go door-to-door. We can’t do town halls,” Smith said. “What we’re doing to replace those is to essentially build a grassroots campaign from inside people’s living rooms.”

West Virginia Can’t Wait has gone beyond working to attract voters; the group launched a coronavirus web page on March 13, which includes information about the pandemic as well as resources related to testing, food delivery and voting. Smith reached out to supporters the same day about how to best address the coronavirus and its effects. The final proposal includes increasing unemployment benefits and allowing voting by mail.

Smith’s campaign is also recruiting what he calls “neighborhood captains,” people responsible for contacting neighbors about their condition without having to leave their homes.

“We are essentially turning our field operation into a coronavirus response team,” he said. “We think that’s the right thing to do and the best way to combine the message of how we need long-term government by and for the people, and how — in the short term — we can model what that looks like.”

Smith will also be leading Facebook town halls six nights a week to “give people a different vision of what our state can look like.”

“Telling the stories of people selling masks and organizing food distribution and standing up for one another in this moment,” he described.

West Virginia Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, is using his Facebook page as a resource for informing the public about COVID-19. Stollings, a physician with Madison Medical Group, has held Facebook live events discussing the pandemic from a medical prespective.

“The idea is to give someone the chance to talk to a primary care physician,” campaign manager George Manahan told MetroNews.

The Stollings campaign, like others, had to change their plans because traditional campaign efforts stopped.

“It’s really difficult to ask people for money in this environment when some people have lost their jobs (and) some businesses are closing,” Manahan said. “In some cases, people who have existing money on their own and can fund their own campaigns have an advantage.”

Yet Manahan stressed Stollings’ message remains strong as questions about the coronavirus and its impact linger.

“We’re all rewriting the rules as we sort of go through it,” he added.

Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango’s campaign was taking part in digital efforts and phone banking before the pandemic shut down fieldwork.

“We just want to reach voters in as many ways as possible,” Salango said. “I think digital now more than ever is key.”

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Ben Salango

Salango is answering video questions through his Facebook page and website. Salango said the questions are often similar, noting issues like the coronavirus and health care.

“People send those questions in and we’re able to respond,” he said. “That answers more than just one person’s question. It really gives you an idea of our platform.”

Although with limited campaign opportunities because of the situation, Salango has numerous endorsements to his advantage. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; the state AFL-CIO chapter; and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association are among those standing by the commissioner.

“I think this election, perhaps more than others, people will look at endorsements to get more information about the candidates,” Salango said. “People will look to those organizations and those individuals for guidance on who they should vote for in the primary.”

The Salango campaign is also slated to roll out television advertisements next month.

Smith shrugged off Salango’s endorsements, pointing out his campaign has received more in individual contributions than the other gubernatorial candidates. More than half of the contributions are $20 or less.

“When you look at it that way, the number of people who have invested in what we are doing is far greater than not just anyone in this race, but anyone who has run for governor,” he said.

Former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren endorsed Smith in September. Warren, a U.S. senator representing Massachusetts, ended her campaign this month.

Incumbents rarely lose primary races, and Thrasher faces a stiffer test by running against his former boss. Justice asked Thrasher to resign as commerce secretary in June 2018 because of problems with the RISE West Virginia program.

“Before we ever undertook this, we wanted to make sure we had a reasonable chance to win,” Thrasher explained. “I just didn’t want to do this as an exercise. I wanted to do it to win.”

Thrasher’s plan for the weeks leading up to Election Day is to continue to connect with voters through telephone town halls, social media and postcards, and he said he feels confident he can win the nomination.

“We felt very strongly in the beginning we had a chance, and we knew it was an uphill battle,” he added.

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Into the elite: Ranking West Virginia’s Elite Eight appearances

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No March memories will be made this year, but NCAA tournament history is full of memorable moments for Mountaineer basketball.

Given the shortage of current games to watch, now is the perfect time to look back at West Virginia’s top tournament showings.

We will provide a round-by-round synopsis of the best games.

After starting with WVU’s four most memorable first-round games, we delved into a much more memorable set of second-round performances. From there, we went into West Virginia’s most dramatic Sweet 16 games — both the thrilling and the heartbreaking.

There have only been three Elite Eight games in West Virginia history, but every one of them was worthy of revisiting.

Here’s a look back at each time the Mountaineers reached the last step on the road to the Final Four.

3. West Virginia 86, Boston University 82 (March 14, 1959) — Charlotte, N.C.

The theme of the 1959 season played out once again as West Virginia clinched its first Final Four appearance.

Mountaineers fall behind. Jerry West does amazing things. Mountaineers win.

West Virginia trailed the Terriers with 12 minutes remaining before West went on a personal 10-0 run to put the Mountaineers up 71-67 just four minutes later. WVU would not relinquish that lead the rest of the way.

West finished the game with 33 points. The win marked West Virginia’s 14th second-half comeback in 18 games.

The Mountaineers advanced to the Final Four, where they would face Louisville on its home floor in the national semifinals.

(If you haven’t already done so — watch the above archived footage of the game. There’s no sound, but it is a remarkable piece of film featuring some jarring differences in how basketball was played decades ago. As in, people taking granny shots from the free-throw line in a game to reach the Final Four.)

2. Louisville 93, West Virginia 85, OT (March 26, 2005) — Albuquerque, N.M.

The Pit was the site of one of the greatest college basketball games of all-time — North Carolina State’s stunning championship win over Houston — and this showdown of Big East rivals sent way out west belongs in the same league.

West Virginia set a school record with 18 three-pointers, though that barrage somehow did not end up being enough against the equally red-hot Cardinals. The Mountaineers finished the game shooting 55.3 percent from the field compared to Louisville’s 55.2 percent.

Forced to abandon his zone defense for a press at halftime, Rick Pitino watched Louisville fall behind by 20 before finally rallying. The Cardinals finally tied the game on a Larry O’Bannon with 38 seconds left in regulation.

It was on the ensuing possession that John Beilein may have pushed the wrong button for the first time since the beginning of West Virginia’s run through the Big East tournament.

With absolutely nothing happening in WVU’s half-court offense, Beilein still eschewed calling a timeout to set up a final shot. The Mountaineers ended up settling for a poor J.D. Collins shot that was easily rejected by Louisville’s Brandon Jenkins.

The first half of overtime was close even, but Louisville finished the game on a 9-2 run that kept West Virginia from reaching its first Final Four since West led the way.

Despite the defeat, the trajectory of WVU basketball in the 15 years since its 2005 Big East and NCAA tournament successes show that this was the most significant March in modern program history.

1. West Virginia 73, Kentucky 65 (March 28, 2010) — Syracuse, N.Y.

A decade later, one simply looks at the names in the box score and wonders “How did that happen?”

Kentucky was loaded with eight future NBA players on its roster, including a pair of future All-Stars in John Wall and Boogie Cousins as well as a future all-defensive team player in Eric Bledsoe.

West Virginia had two guys who would appear in the NBA — Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones — for fewer than 100 combined games.

But the future did not matter on a day where the Mountaineers were the better team — or at least they were after spotting the Wildcats an 11-0 lead in a game that began looking like it would develop into an expected Kentucky blowout win.

Joe Mazzulla was the best player on the floor, scoring a career-high 17 points to lead West Virginia to its first Final Four in 51 years. He was only starting because Truck Bryant had broken his foot in practice earlier in the week.

Da’Sean Butler played all 40 minutes for the Mountaineers, scoring a team-high 18 points while hitting four threes.

Kentucky was a miserable 12.5 percent (4 of 32) from three-point range and 55.2 percent (16 of 29) from the free-throw line.

There might have been more pure excitement in West Virginia’s previous two Elite Eight appearances, but the magnitude of what the Mountaineers pulled off against the Wildcats makes this WVU’s greatest postseason victory of any round.

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U.S. Census participation push continues in pandemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 28 percent of all U.S. households had responded to the 2020 U.S. Census including 19 percent of West Virginians as of Friday, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Those with the U.S. Census and other agencies, like the National Coalition for Literacy, were working to promote Census participation during the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.

“If everybody in the state doesn’t fill out the Census, the government doesn’t know how many people there really are in the state and isn’t able to provide the right level of support,” said Deborah Kennedy, president of the National Coalition for Literacy.

“Construction of roads, funding for the schools, funding for your local hospitals and healthcare programs — if any of those things are important to you, then answering the Census is the way to make sure your community receives the support that it should have from the government.”

Census forms can be completed online, by phone at 1-844-330-2020 or by returning paper forms that were sent by mail in March.

U.S. Census operations remained suspended through Apr. 1 while adjustments were made to the schedule of operations to comply with social distancing and other guidelines to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The response deadline was being pushed back into August.

Kennedy cautioned that legitimate U.S. Census mailings would have return addresses for Jeffersonville, Ind. where the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Processing Center is located.

For those getting any future field visits, “The Census people will never ask you questions about your finances, your bank account number, your debit card number. They’ll never ask you for your Social Security number or your Medicare number,” she said.

 

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Lacy first George Washington player to win Ostrowski Award

— By Ryan Pritt, Charleston Gazette-Mail

George Washington’s Kalissa Lacy revels in the process and finds enjoyment in the effort she puts into improving her game at the gym year-round.

Preseason, her name wasn’t necessarily at the top of many player-of-the year lists, but her rapid ascension from a nice shooter as a freshman to one of the best all-around players in the state has been fueled by her unyielding work ethic and this season, that work paid big dividends.

Lacy (24.6 points per game) led all of Class AAA in scoring by five points per contest, won her second-straight Mountain State Athletic Conference scoring title and showed great improvement across the board all against one of the state’s toughest schedules. For those efforts, she was named the Mary Ostrowski Award winner as the state’s player of the year as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

“The feeling is absolutely incredible,” Lacy said. “I was pretty much speechless. I’ve worked for this for a long time. Since last year when I made first-team, All-State, it just made me hungrier. I wanted more.”

Lacy edged one of the deepest and closest player-of-the-year races in recent memory with Nitro’s Baylee Goins, North Marion’s Taylor Buonamici, Fairmont Senior’s Marley Washenitz, University’s Ashten Boggs and St. Joseph’s Bailee Adkins all receiving significant support.

The junior became just the seventh underclassman to win the award since it began in 1977, joining Ostrowski, Julie Wheeler (Morgantown), Alexis Hornbuckle (Capital/South Charleston), Mariah Byard (North Marion), Taryn McCutcheon (Parkersburg South) and Jordyn Dawson (Huntington).

Lacy is the first player off of a team that did not make the state tournament to win the award since Linsly’s Ashley Battle in 2000. But Linsly isn’t under the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission umbrella and isn’t allowed to compete in state tournaments. The last player off of a state-tournament-eligible team to win the award despite falling short of the state tournament was Monique Tarantini of St. Francis in 1983.

Finally, Lacy is also the first George Washington player to claim the honor.

“Being ranked up there with those names, it’s just incredible,” Lacy said. “It’s such an honor. Those are amazing basketball players and some big steps to follow.”

They’ve been Lacy’s steps to follow in terms of scoring in the MSAC for two seasons now. This year, the 5-foot-9 shooting guard improved her scoring average by six points per contest led the conference by 7.3 points per game over South Charleston’s Myra Cuffee.

But it wasn’t only what Lacy did, but who she did it to. GW navigated one of the toughest schedules in the state, playing the top three seeds in the Class AAA tournament — Parkersburg, Woodrow Wilson and Greenbrier East — a combined seven times. There were also two games against No. 7 South Charleston, one each against No. 1 Wheeling Park, No. 6 Cabell Midland and No. 10 Huntington as well as Class AA No. 2 Winfield and Class A No. 4 Summers County.

With out-of-state games against Paul Blazer, Ky. and Fort Frye, Ohio and there were virtually no breaks on the schedule the Patriots.

The focal point of every opposing defensive game plan, Lacy came up with some of her biggest outputs against the toughest competition. She scored 34 and 30 points in regular-season wins over Woodrow Wilson, 31 in a loss to Wheeling Park and 28 and 23 in losses to Parkersburg.

“It was tough,” Lacy said of facing defenses engineered specifically to slow her down. “I knew I had to get past it. Getting beat up going to the basket was hard on my body, but you just have to battle through.”

Going to the basket was one area Lacy put in the most work. She has been a weapon on the perimeter since her arrival at GW, but committed herself to being a better ballhandler, a more diversified weapon in transition and better on the defensive end, all of which shone through. In particular, Lacy’s presence at the top of GW’s press led to steals and run-out layups.

“On the defensive end there’s been a lot of improvement and growth,” GW coach Jamie LaMaster said. “We put her on top of our press with her length and size and lateral quickness – she gets up there and gets in passing lanes and gets her hands active and she’s tough.”

The season came with its share of adversity too. Lacy was suspended from school in late January, missing games against South Charleston and Summers County for a misuse of social media.

It was a tough pill to swallow for a student-council member and four-sport athlete with a GPA over 4.0.

“I took it as a learning experience,” Lacy said. “I had to put it behind me. Like in basketball, you can’t worry about the last play, you can only worry about what’s coming. I was in the gym every day with my dad [during the suspension] trying to get better and work through it. It just showed me you have to watch what you put out there.”

On the court, Lacy’s output set another high bar for her own progress. Of the six other underclassmen to win the player-of-the-year award, only McCutcheon didn’t win it as a senior and she transferred to finish her prep career in Michigan.

Next year will certainly be a tough act to follow for Lacy and with it, will come plenty of pressure and an even target to wear over her maroon and silver jersey. But Lacy knows just one way to attack anything – head on and with unrelenting effort.

“There’s definitely some pressure, but I have the confidence in myself and my teammates,” Lacy said. “Coach LaMaster is one of the best coaches in the state and I know he has confidence in me. I’m going to be going against teams that see me as a big target, but I have to brush it off and forget I won this award, because I’m coming for it again.”

“The best part is I’m blessed to get to work with her another year,” LaMaster added. “Kids like that don’t come around very often. If she continues to improve and show growth, I’m not sure what the ceiling even is.”

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School systems changing meal delivery efforts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Several county school systems in West Virginia are transitioning this week to what’s being described as more efficient models to feed students and their families with the continuing school shutdown connected to the coronavirus.

Clayton Burch

According to information released by the office of state School Superintendent Clayton Burch, beginning Monday, “most counties will move to distributing multi-day meal boxes that will be replenished each week. These boxes will provide breakfast and lunch for five days (the extent of the regular school week) for children.”

Burch said if families have unmet food needs that can get information about alternate community sites and food banks by contacting the United Way at 211.

“We have been able to identify vendors that will work within the federal reimbursement guidelines to take some of the burden off of county meal distribution systems,” Burch said. “When done effectively, counties can utilize their workforce to support this effort which will only require employees to work a limited number of days during distribution periods.”

Burch said feeding children remains a top priority.

Monongalia County has already made the transition. The school board has entered a partnership with the restaurant Bartini Prime.

File

Ron Lytle

Monongalia County School Board President Ron Lytle said co-owner Justin Byers told officials he would be willing to manage the program and make sure students continue to get nutritious meals.

“I thought, ‘Does he know what he’s getting into?'” Lytle said. “He grabbed it by the horns. he had the volunteers out and he had the refrigerated trucks.”

The school system is approved by the USDA to give the food to Bartini Prime for them to prepare. Lytle said families have to register at feedmonkids.com in order to make sure there’s enough food for each family. Lytle said registering is the key.

“If somebody wants that service they need to get on that site. It’s heartbreaking to turn someone away when all they want is food,” Lytle said.

The meals in Monongalia County are now being delivered each Thursday. Lytle said the deliveries will include 10 meals (five breakfast meals and five lunches) for each child that are ready for the oven or microwave.

WAJR’s Mike Nolting contributed to this story. 

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Justice calls for investigation of Alecto’s exit

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said the owners of the now closed Fairmont Regional Medical Center may have violated both state and federal law on its way out the door.

Justice said Alecto missed a deadline to pay money owed to hospital employees in Fairmont.

“I am calling on state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to immediately begin an investigation into Alecto because these hardworking healthcare workers do not deserve to be treated like this,” Justice tweeted late Friday night.

I am calling on @MorriseyWV to immediately begin an investigation into Alecto because these hardworking healthcare workers do not deserve to be treated like this. #WV #WVGov

— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) March 27, 2020

Alecto closed the doors at Fairmont Regional March 19. Alecto executives met with members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199 and told them their wages would not be paid and their health care would not be extended, West Virginia Director for SEIU District 1199 Joyce Gibson told MetroNews.

“What they owed them they refused to give them,” Gibson said. “As far as earned benefit time, their vacation, holidays, tuition reimbursement, the things like that, their 401k match and they literally told them they weren’t going to pay it.”

SEIU 1199, which represents more than 300 employees who worked at Fairmont Regional, is planning a lawsuit.

“We are outraged, outraged over this,” Gibson said.

More than 600 doctors, nurses and staff received 60-day layoff notices in late February. Alecto stayed for only a month instead of the 60 days.

Gibson said it’s difficult to understand how a health care company can walk out on a community especially during the current coronavirus crisis.

“At a time needed most for hospitals, during this COVID-19 epidemic, they just shut their doors, literally. It’s unbelievable,” Gibson said.

Gibson believes there’s also equipment in the closed hospital that could help the state during the current public health emergency.

Justice has previously said the equipment is tied to “a bunch of liens” and probably would be difficult to obtain.

Justice has worked with WVU Medicine which has agreed to take over the emergency department the hospital building within a month with plans to build a permanent smaller hospital after gaining a Certificate of Need from the state. Mon Health also plans to file for a CON with plans for a Fairmont-area hospital.

The post Justice calls for investigation of Alecto’s exit appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews