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Coronavirus cases jump by 74 between Tuesday and Wednesday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in West Virginia increased by 74 between Tuesday and Wednesday evenings according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

The department reported Wednesday evening 2,979 total positive cases throughout the pandemic and 93 deaths. The last recorded death in West Virginia related to the pandemic was announced by state health officials on June 27.

The department reports 564 active cases.

Officials also updated the confirmed cases and probable cases in each county: Barbour (15/0), Berkeley (442/18), Boone (21/0), Braxton (3/0), Brooke (8/1), Cabell (126/4), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (10/0), Fayette (66/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (15/1), Greenbrier (59/0), Hampshire (42/0), Hancock (20/3), Hardy (43/1), Harrison (65/0), Jackson (143/0), Jefferson (227/5), Kanawha (319/9), Lewis (18/1), Lincoln (8/0), Logan (24/0), Marion (58/3), Marshall (40/1), Mason (19/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (44/0), Mineral (55/2), Mingo (20/3), Monongalia (166/14), Monroe (11/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (10/1), Ohio (95/1), Pendleton (12/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (24/1), Preston (64/15), Putnam (57/1), Raleigh (52/1), Randolph (161/1), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (11/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (15/1), Tucker (6/0), Tyler (4/0), Upshur (20/1), Wayne (111/1), Wetzel (10/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (79/8) and Wyoming (7/0).

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Justice stands by using coronavirus funding for road projects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday defended his proposal to spend federal coronavirus relief funding after U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., criticized the proposal for dedicated highways spending.

Justice unveiled the plan for spending more than $1.2 billion from the federal government last week. The proposal includes providing municipalities with $200 million, small businesses with $150 million and WorkForce West Virginia with $687 million.

There is also $100 million for “COVID-19 related highway projects.” Justice said Friday state officials have classified highway work as coronavirus related.

Manchin during a Fox News appearance Tuesday questioned Justice’s priorities for the funding.

“I don’t know of a pothole that has had the COVID virus. I haven’t found one yet,” the senator told host Neil Cavuto.

Justice said at Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing state officials saw there was going to be an excess of federal dollars.

“We went and got every legal opinion that you could get, and gave them all of the information from the Highway Department on roads that were absolutely going to be vetted through the EMS in all kinds of situations to be able to qualify,” he said. “Our expert opinions and our legal opinions said absolutely these roads qualify.”

Justice added the state should use the leftover federal funding for benefitting the state.

“These roads didn’t get in this shape on my watch. These roads got in this kind of shape simply because we went decades and neglected our roads and pulled money away from the maintenance of our roads in every way,” he said.

State lawmakers have questioned who has oversight of the federal funding and the state Legislature’s involvement allocating money.

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US Air Force veteran explains push to remove Charleston plaque

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A U.S. Air Force veteran said he pushed the city of Charleston to remove a plaque honoring Confederate soldiers for multiple reasons, including historical inaccuracies.

Calvin Grimm spoke on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline” about why he asked Charleston city officials to remove the marker at Ruffner Memorial Park, noting the city should not honor individuals who represented the Confederacy.

“It’s un-American,” he said. “There is nothing about the Confederacy that should be represented on public grounds period.”

Crews on Monday removed the plaque dedicated to the Kanawha Riflemen, a militia chapter associated with the Confederate Army. The United Daughters of the Confederacy installed the plaque in 1922; Grimm said the dedication happened on the anniversary of Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

Grimm noted historical issues with the plaque; the militia group did not start in 1856 as listed, but rather 1859 following John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry aimed at starting a slave revolution.

“These men were all slaveholders in the Kanawha Valley,” he said of the militia members.

“Between them, they owned 237 slaves.”

Grimm also noted the use of a “colored cook, faithful during the war,” which Grimm took exception.

“That is a gross misrepresentation of what that man accomplished in life, and he was most likely conscripted,” he said. “This notion that he faithfully served during the war … that perpetuates to the narrative that slaves somehow enjoyed being enslaved, and that goes back to the underlying problems with all of this Confederate narrative.”

Grimm said the plaque could be placed in the West Virginia Culture Center although with notes about the historical errors. He added discussions about streets and monuments honoring Confederate leaders should happen.

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Justice, Salango to debate at least once

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Both major party candidates in this year’s gubernatorial contest have agreed to debate ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Gov. Jim Justice and Democratic candidate Ben Salango both announced Wednesday they have accepted invitations from the West Virginia Broadcasters Association for a debate in October.

Justice campaign manager Roman Stauffer said the governor is anticipating the opportunity.

“(Justice) believes a debate will be informative and provide an excellent forum for West Virginians to see the difference between his record of creating jobs, growing our economy, paving roads, fixing highways, leading us through the COVID-19 pandemic, and so much more versus liberal trial lawyer Ben Salango’s radical ideas that are bad for West Virginians,” Stauffer said.

Salango, a Kanawha County commissioner, used part of his statement to jab Justice, who has made frequent appearances at the state Capitol for coronavirus briefings. Public health officials have also appeared at the press conferences.

Reporters have attended briefings virtually with no opportunities to ask Justice follow-up questions.

“Unlike his daily campaign press conferences, Justice will be forced to actually answer questions,” he said.

Salango also announced he has accepted an invitation from Nexstar Media Group Inc. to another debate; Nexstar Media Group owns WOWK-TV in Charleston, WBOY-TV in Clarksburg, WVNS-TV in Beckley and WDVM-TV in Hagerstown, Maryland.

“Voters deserve an opportunity to compare and contrast the candidates. We plan to give them that opportunity,” Salango added.

Justice told MetroNews last month he would be willing to have “two constructive debates,” while Salango pushed for “as many as possible.”

During the 2018 midterm elections, the West Virginia Broadcasters Association hosted the only debate between U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Republican Party’s candidate for Senate.

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41 coronavirus cases in Preston County linked to Myrtle Beach

KINGWOOD, W.Va. — More than 40 confirmed coronavirus cases in Preston County have been linked to travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the county health department said Wednesday.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has confirmed 66 cases in the county, with the county department reporting 41 cases connected to the popular beach. More than 48% of cases involve people between the ages of 10 and 19.

Preston County Health Department administrator V.J. Davis said younger people are less likely to show symptoms and feel the full effects of the virus.

“Our hope is that even if people are they saw what happened with this outbreak and being more careful while they’re there and hopefully being more careful when they came back,” he said. “I have nothing to support that other than a hunch.”

None of the people who have recently tested positive are hospitalized, yet Davis noted “some of them have been more sick than ever.”

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Todd Duncan completes title defense at WV Junior Amateur

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With a second consecutive round in the 60’s, Todd Duncan of Daniels completed a successful title defense of the WVGA Junior Amateur golf championship at Glade Springs Resort.

Duncan is the first boys player to win back-to-back overall championships in 33 years. The Shady Spring High School rising senior finished the 36-hole event at 7-under, nine shots ahead of runner-up Nick Fleming. Duncan put five birdies on his scorecard Wednesday, en route to a final round of 69 (3-under). He currently holds both WVGA junior major championship titles and the Class AA WVSSAC individual championship.

In the boys 12-and-under bracket, Clarksburg’s Carson Higginbotham cruised to a ten-shot victory. He posted an impressive two-day total of 5-over. Charles Town’s Argyle Downes won the 14-and-under division at 4-over.

For the ladies, Hurricane’s Savannah Hawkins (3-over) won the 18-and-under division while Brielle Milhoan of Vienna won the 14-and-under division.

Final WVGA Junior Amateur results

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Health officials urge caution over holiday weekend with COVID-19

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As Independence Day approaches, health officials are cautioning residents to continue taking precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19 during the holiday.

Dr. Sherri Young, health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department (KCHD) led a press conference at the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center in Charleston on Wednesday to speak on those precautions.

She urged individuals to make the decision that is best for them and their family in regards to travel and celebrating the holiday.

Dr. Sherri Young

“If you choose to go somewhere else, please keep that social distancing, please continue to wear your mask, please continue to have that hand sanitizer and wash your hands,” Young said.

“We want you to have vacations, we want you to have your days off but we want you to be safe.”

The 4th of July falls on Saturday, enticing more people to travel. KCHD has reported a spike in cases in recent days, including 29 cases associated with travel to Myrtle Beach. The number of Myrtle Beach cases includes people who have gotten the virus from people who have traveled there.

While Young does not discourage holiday travel, she said West Virginians must be careful in order to end the pandemic earlier.

“We realize that people need breaks. Unfortunately, we are not taking a break from COVID. Everybody has COVID fatigue, we want this to be over,” Young said.

“But the more we adhere to the guidelines, even if we are somewhere else, the shorter we are going to make this.”

The Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center was the host of the 24th drive-thru testing event done by the KCHD and the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority on Wednesday.

There are currently 60 actives cases in the county and eight probable cases, as of Wednesday afternoon.

Young encourages anyone traveling back from the beach or out-of-state to get tested for the virus. She also said people should quarantine but understands if people cannot due to work.

“What we are seeing is a result of previous travel. What we are going to see over the next several days, and we anticipate because people have come back from those areas, is that there will be more community spread. Those people have returned to work or gone back out into the communities,” Young said.

“In that case, we would encourage them to be tested and the health department is happy to be a part of that.”

At his COVID-19 press briefing on Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice also urged caution with out-of-state travel. As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 115 cases of COVID-19 across 23 counties associated with travel to Myrtle Beach

“As long as our numbers continue the way they are, we are going to have to stay on alert and watch,” Young said.

“The numbers are good but at the same time travel from out-of-state is absolutely concerning.”

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Williams takes over for Kanawha County Schools; looks to re-enter schools safely

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Wednesday marked the first day for Tom Williams leading the state’s largest school district.

Williams was named superintendent of Kanawha County Schools in February, replacing longtime education leader Ron Duerring.

He told 580-AM that his first and only goal on the list right now is getting the school system to re-enter safely this fall with COVID-19.

Dr. Tom Williams

School officials hope to have re-entry plans in place by the end of July but Williams said they must plan for several situations.

“We hope to have something here in the next few weeks that we can present,” Williams said. “But things are changing daily, we are currently seeing a spike in cases so when things like that happen the roles change and we have to make adjustments.”

In late June, the West Virginia Department of Education launched surveys for fall re-entry that will be distributed to the county school systems once results come back on July 17.

Kanawha County Schools also has a re-entry survey in place for community members that can be found on its website.

Williams admitted that even if the school system goes back to five day weeks, things will be different.

“School is not going to look the same this fall as it has in past years. That’s because of the pandemic going on. We are going to have to practice social distancing and things like that,” he said.

Williams said once school is back in session this fall, school leaders will begin to develop other goals including improving graduation rates, and lessen the drop-out rates.

Before his current position, Williams worked as the deputy superintendent for KCS. The 2020-2021 school year will be his 36th in the school system, having served as principal of St. Albans High School for ten years and as a teacher there for seven years.

Williams was born and raised in South Charleston and was educated in the Kanawha County School system.

He will be under a one-year contract with a $150,000 salary, replacing Duerring who had been in charge for 22 years. Williams said he is prepared to take over and lead.

“I have worked very closely with Dr. Duerring in his last few months,” he said. “He was gracious enough to include me in basically everything he did so that was very, very helpful.”

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Three Kentucky men admit to deer poaching in Mingo County

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — Three residents of Kentucky admitted to illegal hunting and killing deer in Mingo County.

Court documents identified the individuals as Jason Lee Casey, 46, and Jason Lee Casey Jr, 19, both of Freeburn, Kentucky. The third individual was Anthony Craig Hurley, 45, of Elkhorn City, Kentucky.

Three pleaded guilty to 13 various game law violations on June 26th. The charges included hunting without a West Virginia license, hunting out of season, and illegal taking of game. Natural Resources Police said the trio would cross the Tug Fork River on ATV’s along an old railroad trestle and hunt on reclaimed strip mine sites in West Virginia.

“Some folks who live along the border with Kentucky in Mingo County noticed this. They were carrying rifles and going back on the old strip jobs nearby. They would be gone all day and come back with deer at various times throughout the fall,” said Captain Terry Ballard of the West Virginia Natural Resources Police.

Mingo County is one of West Virginia’s four archery only deer hunting counties.  Officers in Mingo County began the investigation and during the course of the probe were able to interview the three men. They learned the activity was not just a recent occurrence.

“Though we were only able to deal with what the statue of limitations would let us deal with in the past year, they told us about times in the past seven or eight years they had been doing this on a fairly consistent basis,” Ballard said.

Both fresh and mounted deer heads were located and identified as being illegally killed or possessed and were subsequently confiscated by the Natural Resources police along with the weapons used in the crimes.

Officers with the Kentucky Division of Natural Resources assisted in the investigation and the three face charges in Kentucky as well.

Following court proceedings in Mingo County on June 24, 2020, the three individuals plead guilty to 13 charges related to their wildlife crimes in WV and were assessed a total of $6,821.25 in fines, court costs, and replacement fees.

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Contact tracing underway after COVID-19 outbreak connected to Morgantown bars

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Monongalia County Health Department is reporting patrons of three downtown Morgantown bars are now infected with COVID-19 and contact tracing is underway.

According to a news release from the department, on June 24 large crowds were reported at Baby Squirrels Saloon, Big Times and The Back Door on High Street. Four patrons who were infected with COVID-19 visited Baby Squirrels Saloon that day.

“We do not know where these individuals originally came into contact with COVID-19, but we do know that they spent time in at least three bars, if not more, and two of which they described as being very crowded,” MCHD executive director and county health officer Dr. lee Smith said.

Residents who may have visited these businesses should self-quarantine, monitor symptoms for 14 days and call the health department at 304-598-5100.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, dry cough, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and loss of smell.

Following CDC guidelines, wearing a mask or face covering, social distancing and good hygiene are all recommended to help fend off the virus.

Twenty-eight new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Monongalia County since June 22.

“We’re definitely seeing an uptick in cases, and many of them are community spread and involve younger people,” Smith said.

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