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One Person at a Time, One Shot at a Time

It is dangerous, perhaps even foolhardy, to try to predict the future during a pandemic.  However, the trendlines in West Virginia continue heading in the right direction.

Here are some relevant stats based on the figures released by West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources Wednesday.

–The number of current active Covid-19 cases in West Virginia was 8,067.  West Virginia peaked at 29,257 back on January 10 and it has been declining steadily ever since.

–Two months ago, DHHR was consistently reporting over 1,000 new cases each day, but now the number is usually between 200 and 300, sometimes fewer. Wednesday, the state reported only 169 new cases.

–Hospitalizations from the virus reached over 800 in early January.  That number has dropped to under 300.

–More and more people are being vaccinated.  As of Wednesday, 443,223 doses of the vaccine had been administered.  According to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, 16 percent of the state’s population had received at least one shot, while 10 percent were fully vaccinated.  Those numbers continue to be among the best in the country.

–The county alert system map showed most counties in red just a few weeks ago.  Now none of the counties is in the red.  About half of the state’s counties are green, meaning they have a low infection rate.

–West Virginia’s allotment of doses has increased from just over 20,000 a week when the state first began giving shots, to more than 40,000.

Of course, the pandemic has taken its toll here. As of Wednesday, 2,285 West Virginians have died from the virus. As Governor Justice has reminded us during his briefings, these are individuals, not just numbers, and each loss is a personal tragedy.

The vaccination rollout has had glitches with registration and scheduling.  That is and will continue to be frustrating for many.  However, it is important to keep in mind the size and complexity of this undertaking.

Some counties have been able to vaccinate a higher percentage of their population than others.  General James Hoyer, head of the state’s Joint Interagency Task Force for Vaccines, said on Talkline this week that his team was working to balance out the dose distribution.

We still have a long way to go. Our health care professionals will have to continue their relentless determination to vaccinate everyone in the state who wants a shot. There is no easy way to accomplish that monumental task.

It is one person at a time and one shot at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Northern school systems make adjustments as classes go fully in-person

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The West Virginia Board of Education has mandated all elementary and middle schools have five days of in-person instruction starting next week, but one school system in north-central West Virginia has already resumed such schedule while another area school system is preparing for the change.

The board voted Tuesday to mandate in-person learning starting March 3. High schools will have in-person lessons as long as their county is not red on the state Department of Health and Human Resources county alert system map.

Preston County Schools has already been having a full week of face-to-face instruction. Superintendent Steve Wotring said the school system has adjusted its schedule because of limited classroom exposure; Fridays are dedicated to working with virtual courses.

“Tutoring, on-on-one work we need to do with children, reaching out to families and making sure our virtual students are staying where they need to be,” he described.

In Harrison County, Superintendent Dora Stutler told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM officials were ready to make the call last week.

“I spoke with our health department, and he felt it would be safe for us to return on a five-day-a-week schedule,” she said.

Stutler said all Harrison County Schools employees older than 40 years old have received doses of the coronavirus vaccine if they requested such.

“Over 1,500 employees, we have 800 that have been vaccinated,” she said. ” We’ve got one group of 100 that will get the second vaccine this Thursday, and that will be our last clinic.”

Stutler noted the return to five days of in-person instruction requires special planning; social distancing will be enforced and plexiglass dividers are being installed.

“We would have not considered in-person if we didn’t feel and if the health department thought it wasn’t safe to return,” she said. “It’s just better for students to be in-person socially, emotionally and academically. It’s just a better situation for our students.”

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West Virginia, Vietnam sign economic MOU

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia officials have signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade related to the state’s commodities.

Gov. Jim Justice, state Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch and U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., participated in the announcement Wednesday, as did representatives of Vietnam.

“International trade and working together with one another is so, so important to West Virginia,” Justice said. “As we move forward in all of the areas that can benefit each other — whether they be energy, agriculture or aerospace — all of the different things that are available to each and every one of us, we look forward to working very closely with you.”

U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va. (File)

Miller noted West Virginia is a “commodity state,” and adding or changing trade policies will impact its future.

“I know West Virginia stands ready to supply and export to Vietnam significant quantities of our abundant and high-quality coal and natural gas among other areas and industries,” she said.

Gaunch credited Miller for her work related to trade; Miller told MetroNews before last November’s election a significant portion of her job is developing trade relationships.

“I have been working diligently sort of as an ambassador to our state to let other countries know what incredible resources we have here, what a wonderful workforce we have here, and working on direct foreign aid into the economy,” she said.

Miller helped launch the Congressional Energy Export Caucus last October, which focuses on domestic energy and furthering trade with global partners. She is also a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Mountaineers fall at Iowa State in first game minus Smith

(Mike Carey postgame Zoom conference)

In its first game without injured point guard Madisen Smith, No. 18 West Virginia fell flat on the road, losing to Iowa State 85-68 at Hilton Coliseum.

“Evidently Madisen Smith is our energy,” WVU coach Mike Carey said. “I need at least one of them bring the energy and get everybody going.”

Smith suffered an injury in Saturday’s win over TCU and West Virginia struggled for much of its first contest without her. The Mountaineers (17-4, 11-4) faced a 66-50 deficit entering the fourth quarter and never drew any closer.

“We’re putting people in different positions and this was the first time we did it live in a game,” Carey said.

Despite shooting 56 percent in the opening half, West Virginia trailed 46-38 at the break thanks in large part to defensive struggles and 10 turnovers.

Three Cyclones — Kristin Scott, Ashley Joens and Lexi Donarski — reached double figure in the opening half, with the trio combining for 39 points on 13-of-23 shooting, including 6-of-12 on 3-pointers.

“We weren’t defending and even when we did, we didn’t box out and they got offensive rebounds,” Carey said. “We didn’t rotate well.”

West Virginia held an early 19-12 lead following consecutive triples from Kysre Gondrezick and Jasmine Carson, but the Cyclones closed the first quarter on a 14-5 spurt over the final 4:11.

West Virginia coach Mike Carey talks to an official during the Mountaineers’ loss at Iowa State. Photo by Luke Lu

With the game tied at 30 nearing the midway point of the second period, the Cyclones pulled ahead for good with a 9-2 run in a span of 1:41. Scott scored the first six points on a conventional three-point play and a 3, before Donarski made a trey to give ISU (15-9, 11-6) the 39-32 lead.

WVU got back to within 48-43 at the 8:12 mark of the third quarter on Kari Niblack’s three-point play, but Iowa State reeled off 18 points over the final 6:40 of the period to take a comfortable lead into the fourth.

“I’m playing some players a lot more minutes than in the past and it showed tonight,” Carey said.

Gondrezick led the Mountaineers with 19 points, while Kirsten “KK” Deans added 14. Jayla Hemingway scored 12 in the Mountaineers’ second setback in their last 14 games.

WVU dressed only eight players and early foul trouble limited Esmery Martinez to 2 first half minutes, while Carey said Niblack, “wasn’t feeling well and I almost didn’t even play her.”

The Cyclones, who made 13-of-27 triples, had five double figure scorers led by Joens’ 20 points. Donarski and Scott scored 18 apiece, while reserves Emily Ryan and Kylie Feuerbach added 13 and 10, respectively.

The Cyclones also made all 14 of their free throw attempts.

“Give Iowa State all the credit,” Carey said. “They played harder than we did. We acted like we had no legs, no energy, no nothing.”

West Virginia, which defeated Iowa State 65-56 earlier this month, has three regular season road games remaining starting Saturday at Kansas.

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Offensive barrage lifts West Liberty over Fairmont State

— Story by Taylor Kennedy

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. — West Liberty lit up the scoreboard in a 126-96 rout over Fairmont State Wednesday evening. The Hilltoppers extended their winning streak to eight games, and they picked up their fifth straight victory against the Falcons.

“I thought it went really well,” said West Liberty head basketball coach Ben Howlett. “The pace of the game was exactly the way we wanted to play. We looked at Fairmont, and they played Saturday at Alderson Broaddus, Monday in Cleveland, and they came here today. They played a lot of games in a short amount of time so we wanted to increase our pressure. Offensively, I think that was our best effort we have had all year.”

The Hilltoppers shot the lights out shooting 65% from the field. West Liberty entered Wednesday’s game after one of its worst shooting performances against Davis & Elkins. WLU shot 37% in that game.

“It is kind of funny because after Monday it is not like we did a whole lot,” said Howlett. “We stretched and shot a lot. Our guys were rested coming into this game. We talked about how important this game was just from a conference and regional standpoint. There is a whole bunch of stuff that meant a lot in this game.” 

Four Hilltoppers reached double figures, including a career-high 21 points from freshman Zach Rasile. Rasile made all six of his shots, including five from behind the arc.

“I have always known he [Zach] could shoot it,” said Howlett of the McDonald, Ohio native. “It was a confidence thing for him. What is funny is that I probably yelled at him harder than any other play two or three games ago. Since I yelled at him, he has been shooting great. I might just keep yelling at him all the time.”

West Liberty saw another career performance from junior Malik McKinney. He tallied 21 points off the bench. McKinney went perfect from behind the arc and at the free-throw line.

“Over the last three games, he has looked really good,” said Howlett of the Maryland native. “Malik’s speed gives us so much on the offense and defensive end. Malik is going to continue playing minutes for us. With Will [Yoakum] out indefinitely, Malik is going to have to step up and be a big part.”

West Liberty senior Dalton Bolon recorded his seventh 20-plus point performance. He scored 27 Wednesday evening. Bolon scored 20 of his points in the first 10 minutes of the game.

“As far as a first-half performance, I have seen a lot of good ones here. From a scoring standpoint, that was the best I have seen from an individual in a half,” said Howlett of Bolon’s performance. “Dalton was in the zone. I was watching him in shootaround and it was the same thing. He was dialed in.”

Junior Pat Robinson piled in a new season-high 30 points against Fairmont State. Robinson connected on 13 of 17 shots, including one of two from long distance.

“I just got done telling our team that I think Pat’s effort, not just offensively in the second half, but his defensive effort he was everywhere,” said Howlett. “I felt like every single play that was made Pat was involved in some way.”

West Liberty’s bench outscored the Falcons 54-16. McKinney and Rasile contributed to 38 of the 54 bench points.

“Our bench is really good,” said Howlett. “We’ve got guys that could get starter minutes off the bench. We need to be peaking at the right time. We are not quite peaking, but we are on the right track to peak.”

West Liberty’s continuous pressure and relentless energy against Fairmont State got Howlett off the ground. The Hilltoppers got a ten-second violation against FSU in the first half, which led to Howlett jumping with enthusiasm.

“I usually do not show a whole lot of emotion out there, but I was so fired up that we got a ten-second call,” said Howlett of his vertical. “I can run for days, but I am going to be sore from that jump probably for the next couple of days.”

Two players reached 20-plus points for Fairmont State. Junior Isaiah Sanders led the Falcons with 27 points shooting 55% from the field. Sophomore Dale Bonner recorded his sixth 20-point performance scoring 24 Wednesday evening.

With the win, West Liberty (12-3) takes sole possession of first place in the MEC North Division from Fairmont State (10-4).

West Liberty will head down to Wheeling University on Saturday. Fairmont State is scheduled to play at Glenville State on Friday, and the Falcons will end their regular season on Saturday against Frostburg State.

Other Men’s MEC basketball scores:

West Virginia State 88, Davis & Elkins 80

Notre Dame College 84, Frostburg State 76

Wheeling 99, Alderson Broaddus 98 (OT)

Concord 77, WV Wesleyan 76

Women’s MEC basketball scores:

Glenville State 83, Charleston 81

West Liberty 94, Fairmont State 69

WV Wesleyan 67, Concord 56

West Virginia State 95, Davis & Elkins 70

Alderson Broaddus 71, Wheeling 69

Notre Dame 71, Frostburg State 55

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Capito confident about getting infrastructure bill done

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The leaders of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee expressed confidence Wednesday about having an infrastructure bill ready before Memorial Day.

The leading committee members — including West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito — discussed the need for new legislation at the start of a hearing about using a measure to address climate change, infrastructure needs and economic needs.

Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., and Capito, the highest-ranked Republican, stressed the importance of a new transportation bill. The committee unanimously approved a $287 billion measure in July 2019, but Congress did not consider the proposal. Lawmakers opted last September to reauthorize existing transportation legislation as part of a sweeping continuing resolution. The reauthorization is set to expire Oct. 1.

Capito and committee members met with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg earlier this month about transportation and infrastructure needs.

“I think the meeting signified a commitment by the administration to see that this bill becomes a reality, as this is one of my top priorities as our ranking member,” she said.

Carper said it is necessary to improve the nation’s outdated infrastructure. Lawmakers have dedicated $19 billion over the last decade toward repairing roads and transit systems following natural disasters. Carper noted the money is beyond what legislators have approved for the Highway Trust Fund; the Tax Policy Center estimates Congress has transferred more than $140 billion in general revenues to the fund since 2008 as the fund cannot be supported by federal fuel taxes and similar revenue.

“The burdens of poor road conditions are disproportionately shouldered by marginalized communities,” he continued. “Low-income families and peoples of color are frequently left behind or left out by our investments in infrastructure, blocking their access to jobs and education opportunities.”

Capito noted the economic benefits related to infrastructure projects.

“This bill could facilitate a recovery from the pandemic that has devastated our communities and wreaked havoc on our communities and our economy,” she said. “Transportation infrastructure is the platform that can drive economic growth — all-American jobs, right there, right on the ground — now and in the future, and improve the quality of life for everyone on the safety aspects.”

Carper and Capito shared optimism about finalizing a measure before the end of September, with Carper noting he wants the markup to happen before Memorial Day.

Capito said a bill must provide a long-term investment in a fiscally responsible manner, flexibility to states for addressing unique transportation needs and build upon a connected network.

“Our committee has a strong track record of developing these bills in a bipartisan manner,” Capito said. “We can come together and once again use this bipartisan process to develop a bill that includes priorities from both parties.”

The ranking member also cautioned about pushing a plan that could isolate lawmakers, referencing comments from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a fellow committee member and the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

Axios reported Sanders has talked to the White House about passing an infrastructure plan through budget reconciliation, meaning the Senate could approve a bill with 51 senators rather than the typical 60 votes. The chamber is split between the Democratic and Republican caucuses, but the vice president can cast a tie-breaking vote if needed.

“The strong bipartisan support that exists for a surface transportation reauthorization bill and other infrastructure legislation should not extend to a multi-trillion dollar package that is stocked full with other ideologically driven, one-size-fits-all policies that tie the hands of states and communities,” Capito said.

Sanders said during the hearing his state and other rural areas are dealing with poor infrastructure and governments are wasting money by continuously rebuilding roads rather than support maintenance.

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Suicide hotline calls were up sharply in recent months, DHHR officials tell senators

Calls to West Virginia’s suicide prevention hotline increased by 60 percent in recent months compared to the same period the prior year, Department of Health and Human Resources officials told lawmakers.

Jeremiah Samples

“There are potential problems here that we’re very closely monitoring,” DHHR deputy secretary Jeremiah Samples told senators.

He described that increase as the highest in the nation.

The rise coincides with some of the darkest days of the coronavirus pandemic.

DHHR said from October to December 2019, the hotline received 1,492 calls.

From October to December 2020, the line received 2,383 calls.

For some context, officials with the department said the line was heavily promoted as a resource during the most recent period. But it also coincided with a period when days are shorter, people are inside more, holidays may make some feel lonely and, in this case, widespread isolation because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is a problem out there that is a consequence of the pandemic that has not been fully quantified, and it’s very worrisome,” Samples told senators. “And sadly, lot of folks, it’s leading to their death.”

Samples has provided that same stark statistic to both the Senate Finance and House Finance committees, during separate meetings. DHHR annually presents its proposed budget, which includes descriptions of the public health issues that require attention and resources.

Although the presentation is intended to be financial, some of what is presented can be distressing.

Stephen Baldwin

On Wednesday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin followed up on the increased number of suicide hotline calls. Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, said he had come across similar numbers in his home county, where crisis calls were up 200 percent over the summer compared to the previous year.

Baldwin said that prompted him to look into suicide numbers, rather than calls. What he learned is that there’s a significant lag to compile those numbers.

Samples said the state Medical Examiner’s Office has a fatality review process, but those investigations require time to completed. So conclusions may require a year or two. National statistics also experience a significant lag, he said.

“Besides the number of calls that come in, is there any other way to gauge at this point suicide in West Virginia over the covid pandemic?” Baldwin asked.

Samples referred to the expertise of Christina Mullins, the commissioner for the Bureau for Behavioral Health.

Bill Crouch

DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch has often talked about mental health needs during his segments during the governor’s regular briefings about the pandemic response.

Speaking to lawmakers on Wednesday, Crouch also alluded to consequences of the pandemic.  He described worries about how isolation affected the prevalence of substance use disorders.

“We often talk about the epidemic within a pandemic, and that is still there,” Crouch said. “During difficult times when people are either at home or things are not opened up, our SUD population does not always have the support and the resources they need out there, so very concerned about that.”

State health officials worried that the affects will continue even after the pandemic is over.

“We have a lot of fear about the aftershocks of covid-19 on mental health,” Samples said.

“In West Virginia, in particular, we historically have very poor rankings on poor mental health days, major depressive episodes and other key metrics in behavioral health. West Virginia is typically at the bottom of the states as far as per capita individuals dealing with those issues. So it could potentially be a major problem for us as folks have not gone in and received care for some time or they’ve avoided social settings.”

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Yeager Airport plans to takeover management of Summersville Airport

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Yeager Airport Director Nick Keller told the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority board on Wednesday that the airport plans to take over management of the Summersville Airport in Nicholas County.

Keller, addressing the board during its monthly meeting, said the takeover of the general aviation facility that has short runways and small aircraft will happen pending approval from the Army Corps of Engineers who owns the land. He added that the drafted management agreement between the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority and Nicholas County Airport Authority has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with no objections.

Keller said officials in Nicholas County and Summersville approached the airport a few months ago and discussions began.

Nick Keller

“They asked if we could help them develop the airport and basically take over management and the day-to-day operations. Kind of leverage the resources that we have here to build up the airport and help increase economic activity,” Keller told MetroNews.

Keller said Yeager Airport would base one full-time employee and one part-time employee in Summersville, which is financially covered in the management agreement. The Nicholas County facility does not have any full-time staff. The airport director noted it’s common practice across the country for an authority to manage more than one airport.

Positions that will work with the Summersville Airport might be airfield electricians, mechanics, and the marketing department.

Keller called it a win-win for both facilities, with Summersville using the state largest airport’s resources and Yeager being able to sell fuel under its fueling contract.

“I see an airport as an opportunity for economic growth for any community. Obviously, this is great opportunity for that airport. If we can bring in jobs, more activity and help improve their economy while also helping us sell more fuel and bring in more fuel revenue,” Keller said.

COVID-19 update

During the meeting, Keller told the board the airport will be receiving $2,085,178 from the FAA in the Airport Coronavirus Grant Program that was part of the December stimulus package. He said he was notified of the total last week.

The funds will be used for operations, personal, maintenance and debt service, according to Keller, and to backfill any operational losses.

“We are starting to see our passenger numbers go back up. Spirit Airlines resumed the Orlando service on February 11. The bookings have been very good,” Keller said of the airport’s status in the pandemic.

Woody Williams Military Flight Operations Center

An expansion of the Woody Williams Military Flight Operations Center is expected. Keller said the airport is pushing to build a new center of 4,000 square feet, double the size of the current one, next to its U.S. Customs Building currently under construction.

The airport director said he wants to shift the military aircraft onto a different section of the General Aviation air-ramp.

“Our military activity has been so special that we have outgrown the current Woody Williams Center. A lot of times, especially in the summer months, we will have two military units here at the same time. We don’t have enough operations space for them to both be at,” Keller said.

A contract was approved with Thrasher Engineering for architectural design on the center. Keller said once that is finished, officials will determine the cost estimate and if it is feasible to move forward.

Marshall aviation school

Keller told MetroNews that the Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School is on schedule to open this fall. He said the hangar and classroom buildings will be finished with construction in July.

Yeager Airport is putting a bid out in march for the aircraft parking apron that will be constructed in the summer. The university has an aircraft there now and two others expected to touch down by the fall.

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‘Worse than all the storms I’ve been to,’ first responder to Wayne County says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority Response Team have seen their share of disasters—-but team leader James Mason says the ice storm damage in Wayne County is unmatched.

“There’s a level of devastation that we saw in Wayne County that was worse than all the storms I’ve been to,” Mason said.

Trees had to be removed to reach homes Photo/KCEAA

Mason and crew members have responded to seven bad storms up and down the east coast in recent years. They returned back to their Charleston station Wednesday afternoon after spending nearly a week in Wayne County.

The crew, which has as many as 11 members, included medics that were part of the health and welfare crew that traveled with the National Guard to check on residents and cut down trees. They also made 911 runs.

Mason said he was amazed at how well Wayne County residents were doing given the damage.

“These are some of the most hearty, proud people you ever want to be around. They were very self-sufficient,” he said. “But anyone after 8 to 12 days without power, without food, without running water, that will take a toll on anybody.”

MORE Power restoration efforts coming down the home stretch

Mason said he can’t get over the damage caused by the trees that couldn’t withstand the weight of the ice.

“There were trees that were exploding after coming down a couple hundred feet. My military background it feels like, it sounds like small detonations and you can feel the ground moving if you’re close enough to it,” he said.

Mason said the volume of trees was unlike he’s ever seen.

“It’s really hard to describe. I’m really grasping for words,” he said.

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Athletic directors try to navigate through challenges before winter sports competition begins

With the start of winter sports competition exactly one week away, excitement is building up for the return of high school athletics across the state.

Since semifinal weekend of high school football season, there’s been a three-month pause on competition.

“Athletes and coaches are excited to get back in the swing and try to get some normalcy back in our lives,” said James Beckman,  athletic director and girls basketball coach at East Fairmont High. “We’re trying to get through this together at East and I know it’s frustrating dealing with maps and social distancing. But we’re trying our best and doing a good job with the guidelines. If we can get through a complete season, I think it’s a successful season.”

Winter sports teams were permitted to begin practice February 15. Girls basketball teams are allowed to begin competition on March 3, with boys basketball starting two days later. For all basketball teams, as well as swimming and wrestling, a minimum of 14 preseason practices is a requirement prior to beginning play.

With such a condensed schedule, athletic directors and coaches are navigating through the challenges over the last several weeks.

“I’m very blessed that I have coaches that are very active in preparing their schedules and helping with officials,” said Jared Robertson, athletic director and boys basketball coach at Greenbrier West High. “We don’t have as many sports as some schools, which probably helps.

“But the biggest thing is everybody being on the same page so we know they have a place to practice. We’re lucky to have two gyms, which not everybody has.”

Morgantown athletic director John Bowers echoed Robertson’s thoughts on how beneficial it is to have coaches who take the initiative in making their team’s schedule.

“I tell my coaches, ‘go make your schedule and if you have any questions about timing of games or we need a game on this date, I’ll find you a game,’” Bowers said. “But I give our coaches a lot of autonomy to schedule and they do a great job with it.”

Morgantown athletic director John Bowers says the Mohigans’ coaches do a good job of taking care of their team’s schedules.

Still, with spring sports permitted to begin practicing March 15 and competition allowed to begin April 12, a quick and tough turnaround awaits. The state swim meet is scheduled for April 20-21, while state wrestling is to be held April 21-24. Basketball state tournaments for girls and boys, respectively, will take place April 27-May 1 and May 4-8.

“The hardest will be on the kids in winter and spring sports,” Robertson said. “We’ve tried to do everything possible for kids to be able to do both and make it as painless as possible. That challenge hasn’t gotten here yet, but we’re at least trying.”

“For multi-sport athletes, it’s very tough and the well-being of our athletes is the first concern,” Beckman added.

While high school athletes often want to play as many games as possible, those in charge of scheduling are also tasked with trying to find the right balance between playing enough, but perhaps not too much. 

Basketball teams are allowed to play up to 18 games.

“As a basketball coach, I’m very against playing four games in a week, but that’s happening in Charmco this year,” Robertson said. “Part of me wanted to scale back a bit on games, but when you look at the possibility of having four games in a week and maybe two are postponed because of covid situations or whatever it is, I just want our kids to be able to play. If a kid can go play a basketball game every night, then he or she wants to go play a basketball game.” 

There is also the challenge of dealing with and enforcing attendance policies, which presently are being handled on a county-by-county basis.

In Monongalia County, high school athletes are being alloted eight tickets per contest for people living in the same household or grandparents.

In Greenbrier County, they are sticking by the WVSSAC’s recommendation of allowing only athletes’ parents, grandparents and members of the same household to attend, before reevaluating in mid March.

“Hopefully cases continue to trend downward and we hope to be able to open it back up and get it back to normal as much as we can during this,” Robertson said.

But attendance restrictions, along with limited or in some instances no concessions, bring about a financial hit for high schools — and many are already trying to overcome one from their losses during football season.

“It’s going to mean less revenue for our athletics and our sports boosters who run the concession stands,” said Matt DeMotto, a former athletic director and current principal at Bridgeport High. “We’ll be getting some money through the state to support our athletic programs and that’s critical.”

Bowers thought back to football season when the Mohigans had half of their six scheduled home games wiped out.

“Six home football games in a year can power a budget for a year-and-a-half or two years,” Bowers said. “We only end up playing three and those games were on limited attendance with restrictions, so it kind of cripples you. We’re hurting and I’m sure most people are. I salute those that have allocated funds to the schools, but now I just hope they hit the process button fast, because we need it.”

Beckman believes it’s pivotal for athletic departments to scale back where they’re able to during this unprecedented time.

“We’ve had to open up the books to see what ways we can save money, from not taking as many bus trips and not scheduling as many workers as in the past,” Beckman said. “We’re trying to cut back on expenses because the revenue isn’t what it’s been in the past. You’re still having to spend on officials, equipment and things of that nature. But we’re still making some revenue and some is better than nothing.”

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