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The Voice of West Virginia

Concord University announces changes to fall semester schedule

ATHENS, W.Va. — Concord University is the latest West Virginia institution to announce its plans for the 2020 fall semester.

Concord officials announced classes will begin Aug. 17 as originally scheduled but students will not return to campus after the Thanksgiving break due to COVID-19.

The release from the university said the last two weeks of the semester will be completed online, including exams. Additionally, classes will meet on Labor Day, Sept. 7.

The move-in period will be extended and arranged by appointment only beginning August 5 and continuing through August 16 to ensure the safety of residential students and their families. The Housing Office will contact residential students with further information, a release said.

“We cannot be certain of what the coming months will bring, but Concord University is dedicated to the education of our students, in addition to the health and safety of our campus community. We will make any necessary adjustments to operations in accordance with state and federal health guidelines should the need arise,” said President Kendra Boggess.

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Rallies continue in Mountain State; large gathering scheduled for Sunday at state capitol postponed

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Rallies in West Virginia based on the recent police custody death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd continued Friday but what was expected to be the largest rally yet in the state has been postponed.

The “I Can’t Breathe WV” rally and protest scheduled for the state Capitol for Sunday won’t happen.

The organizers of the event, which anticipated to have a few thousand participants, announced on Friday afternoon it would be pushed back due to the severity of safety concerns brought to the organizer’s attention during a discussion with public officials and law enforcement.

“Our movement is bigger than one event. We must reassure one another that tolerance and love will always overcome hate,” said Casey Jewell, an event organizer. “We hope to have the new date as soon as possible and thank everyone for their support and understanding. Peace and safety are our number one priority in organizing this event and we hope to have your continued support.”

The protests seen around the nation are for protesting the death of Floyd, social injustice and police brutality.

“I strongly encourage people to not show up at the Capitol on Sunday,” said event organizer Aubreyana Shaffer.

“One of our biggest concerns is the safety of our participants. As we reassess our security plans, we will work with public officials and law enforcement. In addition, we will continue to work collaboratively with POC community leaders to ensure our event effectively brings awareness to issues affecting those in our City, State, and Nation.”

A new date for the rally has not yet been finalized. A release said the organizers are working with POC leaders in the community to finalize plans, including those to ensure the safety of those attending and participating. A new date will be announced in the coming weeks.

Residents did take to the streets of Logan Friday afternoon with signs reading “Is My Brother Next?” and “All Lives Can’t Matter Until Black Lives Matter.”

It was a peaceful protest that went from Middleburg Island through downtown and back.

The City of Huntington and Mayor Steve Williams release a statement on Friday afternoon regarding safety during rallies and on the Antifa group.

“The City of Huntington has not received any credible information of Antifa planning an event in Huntington. At this time, it appears this is a rumor meant to instigate fear and panic,” Williams said.

“However, we will continue to monitor closely. The City is prepared to protect the safety, property and First Amendment rights of all of its community members. I am hearing from fellow mayors that similar rumors are being spread in their communities as well. We will not be frightened away from our community values of love, support and inclusion.”

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DHHR confirms two addtional COVID-19 deaths to bring total to 84

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources confirmed two additional COVID-19 related deaths in West Virginia on Friday evening.

In its evening report, the DHHR confirmed the deaths of a 75-year old male from Berkeley County and an 84-year old female from Pendleton County bringing the state total to 84 deaths.

The DHHR added the deaths of three Jefferson County residents of COVID-19 on Friday morning.

“As we extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones, we also encourage all West Virginians to take every precaution to prevent the spread of this disease,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary in a release.

In the report on Friday evening, the DHHR also included test results from 510 individuals tested in Harrison County, 39 in McDowell County and 324 in Ohio County as part of Gov. Jim Justice’s initiative to increase testing opportunities for minorities and other vulnerable population.

The Governor’s Office, DHHR, the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs and the WV National Guard offered free testing in those counties.

Testing in the same counties will continue on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in these locations.

In total since the pandemic began, there have been 108,453 total confirmatory laboratory results received for COVID-19 in the state, with 2,119 total cases and 84 deaths.

Cases per county (Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (8/0), Berkeley (326/14), Boone (11/0), Braxton (2/0), Brooke (4/1), Cabell (67/2), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (7/0), Fayette (54/0), Gilmer (10/0), Grant (11/1), Greenbrier (9/0), Hampshire (33/0), Hancock (18/2), Hardy (40/0), Harrison (39/1), Jackson (138/0), Jefferson (198/5), Kanawha (230/3), Lewis (9/0), Lincoln (5/0), Logan (20/0), Marion (51/1), Marshall (30/0), Mason (15/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (13/0), Mineral (48/2), Mingo (6/2), Monongalia (125/13), Monroe (7/1), Morgan (18/1), Nicholas (8/0), Ohio (48/0), Pendleton (11/2), Pleasants (3/1), Pocahontas (20/1), Preston (19/5), Putnam (37/1), Raleigh (16/1), Randolph (132/0), Ritchie (1/0), Roane (9/0), Summers (1/0), Taylor (8/1), Tucker (4/0), Tyler (3/0), Upshur (6/1), Wayne (103/0), Wetzel (9/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (50/3), Wyoming (2/0).

.@WV_DHHR reports as of 5:00 p.m., on June 5, 2020, there have been 108,453 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 2,119 total cases and 84 deaths. #SaferAtHomeWV

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) June 5, 2020

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Alderson Broaddus welcomed into Mountain East Conference

(Zoom press conference with MEC commissioner Reid Amos & ABU AD Carrie Bodkins)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Mountain East Conference quickly returned to full strength Friday as Alderson Broaddus University was unanimously approved for membership into the Division II Conference.

The Battlers will immediately join the MEC, with their teams competing in the 2020-2021 academic year.

“There are some challenges but I definitely think it is something we can accommodate,” said ABU athletic director Carrie Bodkins.

“In the situation we are in nationwide, every conference and every institution is battling different things when it comes to scheduling. I think it is a good time to come in because we can make that work.”

“With their willingness to make that transition immediately at their request, that is something our board of directors elected to accommodate,” said MEC commissioner Reid Amos.

Urbana University announced on April 21 that their school was ceasing operations, leaving the MEC to search for a new member. ABU is now reunited with many of their regional rivals, including Davis & Elkins College, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Glenville State College and Fairmont State University.

The Battlers relaunched their football program in 2013. This move allows the MEC to field a dozen football-playing members. Davis & Elkins does not compete in football but UNC-Pembroke recently joined as an associate member, competing in football.

“Being able to manage our schedule, we can consistently count on having twelve football playing teams,” Amos said.

“It is extremely important that Alderson Broaddus brought football to the table for this decision.”

Alderson Broaddus was a member of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference until the league ceased operations in 2013. The Battlers have since competed in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. In the GMAC, AB faced lengthy conference road trips to locations such as Tennessee and Kentucky.

“Our men’s basketball team would travel Wednesday through Saturday so we were taking four-day trips there,” Bodkins said. “So there is extensive savings. Football will be the same way and we will minimize our overnight trips with football. It impacts us across the board.”

“Geography has taken on increased importance across the country at all levels of collegiate athletics,” Amos said. “It was very timely that Alderson Broaddus expressed the interest that they did. Geography is certainly beneficial to the Mountain East and AB as well.”

ABU sponsors 19 of the MEC’s 23 championship sports. The Battlers feature 27 intercollegiate sports programs.

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Long-awaited Wheeling streetscape project gets $25 million from state to begin

WHEELING, W.Va. — A Wheeling roads project years in the making received significant state support on Friday, paving the way for it to begin

Gov. Jim Justice, alongside state Transportation Secretary Byrd White and state Deputy Highways Commissioner Jimmy Wriston announced a $25 million streetscape project for downtown.

Officials believe the plan, which is to improve the infrastructure from 10th Street to 16th Street along with multiple interchanges and 10 intersections, will revitalize the downtown area.


Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott

“It’s been about 35, 40 years since the downtown streetscape has been redesigned,” Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott said during the virtual press conference.

“This is going to be a once in a generation opportunity to transform the look and feel of downtown Wheeling and we could not be more excited about it.”

Wriston said design work on the project will be done by the end of 2020 and if the state gets through the permit and environmental process on time, construction should begin by the spring of 2021.

However, White noted that the project is not so simple.

“There are utility lines, there’s a 20-inch water line underneath this road that is over 100 years old,” he said. “We’ve got lots of design complications but we will get this done.”

Justice said in the next couple of months in Wheeling, the state will look at the rough spots in that area and “skip pave” that will help motorists and work crews.

Gov. Jim Justice

“We are going to get up there and try to do anything we can do to without throwing a lot of money away to make things better or to get things done in preparation for the design work getting done and the big heavy lifting to start,” Justice said.

Elliott and Brooke County Senator Ryan Weld indicated that it had been over two years since they had met with state officials about possible funding for the project.

In late 2018, the city did not receive federal funding in the form of a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development or BUILD.

Justice, calling it “an incredible day for Wheeling,” detailed parts of the project which will replace streets and sidewalks through Main and Market streets and intersecting roads at 10th, 12th, 14th, and 16th streets.

The project also includes the paving of portions of Chapline and Eoff streets that connect to the W.Va. 2 through ramps.

“It’s going to be better for pedestrians, better for vehicles and better for downtown businesses. We cannot thank you enough for following up with this considerable funding commitment,” Elliott said.

“I think we are all going to be very happy in a few years when this project is done. Downtown Wheeling will never look better.”

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As four new deaths bring W.Va. to 82, more opens including casinos, movie theaters and crowds up to 100

Gov. Jim Justice announced four new coronavirus-related deaths in West Virginia, the highest in weeks, even as more aspects of regular life continue to reopen.

That brings West Virginia’s total deaths attributed to coronavirus to 82.

“I just hate this, that’s all there is to it,” Justice said Friday as he announced the deaths. “I want everybody just so much to not become numb to these numbers. They’re people. They’re West Virginians.”

State officials said they will continue to balance public health with an economic rebound by watching key numbers carefully.

Clay Marsh

“Some people have wondered as we see more cases that are identified in the state of West Virginia — and the governor pointed out the people who have died in the last 24 hours — how do we continue to assess whether or not it’s safe to open up?” said Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus response coordinator.

Marsh said watching specific numbers is the key to answering that question.

On Friday, he said a figure used to determine the rate of spread is looking better in West Virginia.

The R-naught is down to .6865, he said, “which is a really good number. Under 1 it suggests the virus is not spreading and is starting to reduce. Over 1 suggests the virus is spreading and gaining steam.”

As testing increases, particularly through a series of community events, Marsh said West Virginia will almost certainly see an increasing number of positive tests overall.

He said the state officials will judge the number of positives by comparing them to the amount of testing overall.

Through Friday morning, the percent of positive cases for the day was .80.

The cumulative percent positive over weeks and weeks was 1.96 percent.

“So far we’re doing well,” Marsh said, advising continued caution. “Be careful. Wear your masks. Stay distanced.”

More and more is opening up in West Virginia that could affect those numbers.

On Friday, movie theaters and casinos were allowed to open at 50 percent capacity and with social distancing guidelines in place.

That prompted an enormous line of people waiting to get into Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort, as shown in video by local television station WTOV.

This is the scene at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort. There are hundreds of people wrapped around the building. This video was taken at 11:00 a.m. one hour after opening. @WTOV9

— Julianna Furfari (@JuliannaWTOV) June 5, 2020

West Virginia also was lifting its limits on casual gatherings from 25 people to 100. State officials have said this applies to gatherings such as picnics, family reunions or parties.

Asked during a Friday briefing what numbers were used to determine that number, Justice said what really matters is caution on behalf of those who gather, no matter the crowd size.

“I can’t really say why it’s that number,” Justice said. “You know, to be perfectly honest, if you have a gathering of 50 and they do all the wrong stuff you’re going to have just as much exposure as a gathering of 100.

“But as we go forward, we want to still try as best within us to walk a little bit before we take off running. You know we could just lift the number tomorrow and say there is no number. But I really believe capping it at 100 right now still has us with our hands on the reins a little bit.”

On Sunday, a demonstration about civil justice and systemic racism at the state Capitol was expected to draw hundreds of people, although questions arose late Friday about whether it would really go on as planned because of safety concerns. Justice has repeatedly indicated support for the protests but urged participants to wear masks and social distance.

The resumptions of even more activities are up ahead.

On Monday, low-contact youth sports and Little League baseball practices may resume. Additional adult sports facilities, including indoor tennis courts and outdoor basketball courts, also may reopen.

Justice said fairs and festivals may resume on July 1, giving organizers time to start planning.

Guidelines include cleaning and sanitizing common surfaces such as seats and handlebars on amusement rides between each patron, as well as assuring social distancing of at least six feet between those in line.

Justice received another question about whether community Fourth of July parades could go on.

“They absolutely have the green light to go,” the governor said.

Justice began Friday’s briefing as he often does, lamenting more deaths of West Virginians from the coronavirus, although this time the four were more than usual.

“Please, please keep them and their loved ones in your thoughts and prayers,” Justice said.




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Gilbert elaborates on budget cut proposal

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert says there appears to be consensus on campus that cutting salaries would be preferred than layoffs or job cuts connected with the ongoing pandemic.

Marshall University

Jerome Gilbert

Gilbert has as plan for a nearly $15 million budget cut at Marshall. It would begin first with pay reduction for workers who may more than $100,000. Those who make between $50,000-$100,000 would face pay cuts if Marshall’s student enrollment drops significantly this fall.

Gilbert said Friday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” he’s gotten positive feedback on the proposal from a group of workers on campus.

“They came back with a very strong message that they would rather take pay cuts to see any member of the our employee group have to be laid-off or fired,” Gilbert said.

Studies show some colleges and universities could see enrollment drop by 10-15 percent this fall. Gilbert said Marshall wants a plan ready to go in case that happens.

“We feel like we need to take some proactive steps now to prepare ourselves now for a possible budget challenge in the fall,” Gilbert said.

Marshall University president Jerome Gilbert speaks with @HoppyKercheval about the university’s plans for the fall semester. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) June 5, 2020

Meanwhile, work continues on a plan for how campus life will be handled in the fall.

“We plan to be face-to-face instruction. All of our classrooms will be 50 percent or less capacity,” Gilbert said.

Marshall will use what’s called hybrid delivery where half of the class will attend one class session and they’ll switch places the next class.

“That’s what we hope to do with the majority of our classes,” Gilbert said.

Marshall will have periodic testing for students, faculty and staff. The school will require students to wear masks when inside campus buildings. Gilbert said a decision hasn’t been made about outdoor campus use of masks. He said there will be plastic shields in the classrooms for instructors.

Marshall has already announced its fall semester schedule which will begin Aug. 24. Students will be on campus until Thanksgiving break and then not return until Jan. 19, 2021 for the second semester.

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State tourism industry looking for the rebound

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Those businesses in West Virginia which cater to tourism are beginning to see the restart of their life blood.


West Virginia Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby

As Gov. Jim Justice has loosened restrictions on those businesses which can restart amid the pandemic, slowly the tourism industry is coming back. But it has a long way to go, according to state Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby.

Ruby said what was not expected and was a pleasant surprise, was the increased business from in-state residents.

“We’re seeing West Virginians getting out and exploring their own state. There are so many people who have had to cancel their summer vacations or postpone them until they fall and they’ve decided to take a West Virginia ‘stay-cation.'” Ruby told MetroNews Friday.

Figures from the West Virginia State Parks back up Ruby’s assessment. State Park bookings during the month of May and so far in  June are up by 50 percent over the same time a year ago. Initially only West Virginia residents were welcomed in the State Parks, but that has now been lifted and out of state residents can also come to the state’s campgrounds, cabins, and lodges beginning next Wednesday. Ruby said privately owned lodging services are seeing a similar bump from West Virginians.

“West Virginia is a state of social distancing. We did it before it was cool. You don’t have to look very hard to find a wide open space or a crowd free location where you can get out, relax and enjoy the great outdoors,” she said.

While the rebound is on, it’s been a brutal blow to many of those businesses which are built on guests. Ruby admitted some may not be able to survive, but added the majority of those businesses are finding a way.

“Our tourism businesses in West Virginia and all of our small businesses are very resilient. They want to come back. They’re really working hard to take advantage of the federal programs and to find ways to make this work,” she said.

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West Virginia escapes list of 154 JCPenney closures

West Virginia has escaped a national round of JCPenney closures.

A blog for the company describes the closure of 154 stores across the country, but no West Virginia stores are listed.

JCPenney has stores in West Virginia at locations such as Morgantown, Charleston, Barboursville, Mt. Hope, Vienna, Triadelphia, Bridgeport and Bluefield.

The JCPenney chain filed for bankruptcy protection during the coronavirus pandemic. The list of stores to be closed was disclosed in a bankruptcy filing this week.

The closures include nine in California, nine in Ohio, eight in Indiana, eight in Florida, seven in Georgia, seven in New York, seven in Texas, six in Kentucky, six in Oklahoma, six in South Carolina and six in Tennessee.

“While closing stores is always an extremely difficult decision, our store optimization strategy is vital to ensuring we emerge from both Chapter 11 and the COVID-19 pandemic as a stronger retailer with greater financial flexibility to allow us to continue serving our loyal customers for decades to come,” J.C. Penney CEO Jill Soltau said in a statement.

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COVID-19 deaths jump to 82 in West Virginia following report from Jefferson County

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Three Jefferson County residents have died of COVID-19, bringing the virus-related deaths in West Virginia to 82.

The new numbers were released Friday morning by the state Department of Health and Human Resources. The state hasn’t reported multiple deaths in a single day for several days.

The DHHR said the victims included an 82-year-old woman, 88-year-old man and a 52-year-old man. There have now been four COVID-19 deaths in Jefferson County.

“We mourn with these families as they grieve the loss of their loved ones,” state DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said.

.@WV_DHHR reports as of 10:00 a.m., on June 5, 2020, there have been 108,002 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 2,113 total cases and 82 deaths. #SaferAtHomeWV

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) June 5, 2020

Deaths have increased over the past 24 hours but actual percentage of confirmed cases has continued to decrease.

The DHHR said there have now been 108,002 total tests completed with 2,113 confirmed cases for an overall positive test rate of 1.96 percent. The daily confirmed test rate was .80 percent as of Friday morning.

The state said coronavirus hospitalizations in West Virginia have dropped to 24 patients with 10 of them being treated in ICU. Three patients are on ventilators.

Confirmed cases per county include:

(Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (8/0), Berkeley (325/14), Boone (11/0), Braxton (2/0), Brooke (4/1), Cabell (67/2), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (6/0), Fayette (54/0), Gilmer (10/0), Grant (11/1), Greenbrier (9/0), Hampshire (31/0), Hancock (18/2), Hardy (40/0), Harrison (39/1), Jackson (138/0), Jefferson (199/5), Kanawha (230/3), Lewis (9/0), Lincoln (5/0), Logan (20/0), Marion (50/1), Marshall (30/0), Mason (15/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (14/0), Mineral (46/2), Mingo (6/2), Monongalia (124/11), Monroe (7/1), Morgan (18/1), Nicholas (9/0), Ohio (48/0), Pendleton (11/2), Pleasants (3/1), Pocahontas (20/1), Preston (19/5), Putnam (37/1), Raleigh (16/1), Randolph (132/0), Ritchie (1/0), Roane (9/0), Summers (1/0), Taylor (8/1), Tucker (4/0), Tyler (3/0), Upshur (6/1), Wayne (103/0), Wetzel (9/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (50/3), Wyoming (3/0).

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