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Justice says mandatory mask wearing “may be coming” next week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice, describing himself as “terribly concerned,” said Thursday he’s seriously considering mandating masks to be worn in public buildings in West Virginia where social distancing cannot be achieved.

Gov. Jim Justice

Justice said he’ll make the decision early next week after seeing where the state’s COVID-19 numbers go over the weekend.

“I wanted to give you notice of something that may be coming,” Justice said.

He said the possible mandate wouldn’t include outdoor activities or the privacy of one’s home.

“West Virginia we do not want to end up being Florida or Texas or Arizona where they can’t stop this thing,” Justice said.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported Thursday morning there have now been 3,006 positive COVID-19 cases  in the Mountain Sate since early March with 585 cases listed as active as of Thursday. The daily positive test rate is 1.81 percent. The state reported 74 new cases Wednesday, a one day high, but Justice said Thursday that was mainly because of additional testing.

West Virginia has seen an increase in cases since the vacation season began but positive test rates remain below other states. Justice said the state can’t let up its guard.

“My gut tells me that if we don’t watch out in West Virginia we’re going to get in real trouble.”

Justice said he understands the opposition to a possible mask mandate.

“I get the opposition I really do, but it is my job to protect you,” Justice said.

The governor was asked why not make the mask move before the holiday weekend, he said he wants to continue to review the numbers and give state residents time to prepare for a possible mandate.

“We will visit this next week but I wanted to give you notice that right now I am terribly concerned about what’s coming. And this situation, we’re not going to be able to stop it and it is going to come to West Virginia,” Justice said.

Justice’s next media briefing is expected Monday at the state capitol.

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West Virginia State names Pride as next president, becoming first woman in role

INSTITUTE, W.Va. — The West Virginia State University has named Dr. Nicole Pride as the institution’s next president.

Nicole Pride

Pride, who has been serving as the vice provost for academic strategy and operations at North Carolina A&T State University, becomes WVSU’s 12th president. She is also the first woman to be in that role in WVSU’s 129-year history.

The board of governors voted to offer her the position unanimously in a Thursday special session meeting, shortly before the university made it official.

“I am excited to join West Virginia State University. It is an institution with such a rich history, and I look forward to working with all the members of the State family to continue to advance its land-grant mission,” said Pride in a released statement.

“The opportunities for the University in the years ahead to continue to meet the economic development and prosperity needs of the state and region are immense and I am honored to be selected to lead this growth.”

Pride was one of three finalists for the position to replace former WVSU President Anthony Jenkins who is now the president at Coppin State University in Baltimore. Dr. R Charles Byers, the interim president of WVSU, did not apply for the job on a permanent basis.

Dr. Nicole Pride has been selected by the Board of Governors to serve as the 12th President of West Virginia State University and is the first female president in our University’s history. We are excited to enter this new era of leadership at WVSU! https://t.co/KkbsG7l0e0 pic.twitter.com/HyjsgVEDO9

— WV State University (@WVStateU) July 2, 2020

According to West Virginia State University (WVSU), Pride began her career in the corporate and non-profit sectors, and left the industry to begin her service in higher education at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where she served as principal liaison and senior adviser to the chancellor, a member of the chancellor’s executive cabinet, and provided strategic and operational support for internal and external constituencies.

Pride also served as the university’s chief of staff and chief communications officer, responsible for communications, marketing, branding, media and public relations, and crisis communications.

Pride also held a faculty appointment at North Carolina A&T State University. Prior to joining the university, Pride served as vice president for development and communications for Child Care Services Association in Chapel Hill, N.C.

She is an Orange, New Jersey native and mother to grown sons, Turner Jr. and Todd, and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

This is a developing story and will be updated

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Yeager Airport resuming four flights in the next week including Myrtle Beach

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Yeager Airport is resuming four flights in its rotation within the next week as the airline industry continues to improve from the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

After multiple days in April of around a dozen passengers flying per day, Yeager Airport officials said they have 86 people booked for Spirit Airlines’ first flight resumption from Charleston to Myrtle Beach on Thursday afternoon.

The flights come as a number of COVID-19 cases reported around the state have been linked to Myrtle Beach travel. According to Bill Crouch, the Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, there were 115 cases of COVID-19 across 23 counties associated with travel to Myrtle Beach as of Wednesday.

The first Spirit flight is scheduled for a 2:45 departure on Thursday and will be weekly along with a 3:00 flight on Sundays.

“This flight was going to start about the middle of April. Because of everything that happened with COVID-19, it just got pushed back until demand started to increase a bit,” Chris Williams, Public Affairs Manager at Yeager Airport (CRW) said.

Williams said because of the demand, three other flights are being resumed including a second, non-stop flight to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

“We are very happy to see frequency returning to CRW,” said Yeager Airport Director, Nick Keller in a statement. “Additional frequency means better connections and flight times for our customers. We hope to see even more flights between CRW and ATL come back in August.”

On July 6, United Airlines is resuming a flight from CRW to Chicago and on July 7 American Airlines will be resuming service from CRW to Philadelphia. Williams said none of these routes are new.

“Flights started to pick back up a little bit,” Williams said.

“We added one or two more flights and as of right now, the airlines are still scheduled to add more flights back in the rotation at Yeager Airport on Friday. They wouldn’t do that if the demand was not there.”

Williams said the airport support services crew has continued to work around the clock on cleaning the airport four times a day. Employees are wearing masks at the airport.

CRW officials are asking passengers to review COVID-19 airline guidelines when booking. Spirit Airlines requires appropriate face coverings during travel except for children aged two and under as well as children who cannot maintain a face covering.

United Airlines is practicing social distancing on flights, saying around 85 percent of its flights are less than half full and it is adjusting seat selection to avoid seating customers next to each other.

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Mask mandate taking effect ahead of Independence Day at Myrtle Beach

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Beginning on Friday, people will be required to wear masks or other face coverings in retail stores and food establishments in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a popular vacation destination for many West Virginians.

At a time when new COVID-19 case numbers in Horry County were rising, members of the Myrtle Beach City Council, while wearing masks, voted to approve the public mask mandate on Thursday ahead of the busy Independence Day Holiday Weekend.

A draft of the executive order which included exemptions was posted HERE.

Under the executive order, a “face covering” was defined as a uniform piece of cloth, fabric, or other material that securely covers a person’s nose and mouth and remains affixed in place without the use of one’s hands.

Face coverings included, but were not limited to, bandanas, medical masks, cloth masks, scarves, and gaiters as long as they were worn in way that securely covered a person’s nose and mouth.

Fines were possible for those who did not comply with the order.

The Executive Order was scheduled to take effect on Thursday at 11:59 p.m. and remain in effect for 67 days which would be after Labor Day, until it was rescinded or until a declared city emergency expired.

A separate mandate approved earlier this week took effect at 12 p.m. Thursday in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and other cities in South Carolina have passed similar measures.

As of earlier this week, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control was including Horry County of its list of counties with “high incidence” of COVID-19.

Jackie Hatley, Myrtle Beach council member and mayor pro tem, noted Myrtle Beach was only one community in Horry County.

“I don’t want people to be scared,” Hatley said. “I want us to take the reality of it. Everybody — wear face coverings, wash your hands, do what you need to do — but I don’t want everybody to be scared to go out of the house either.”

John Krajc, a fellow council member, agreed.

“Horry County is not Myrtle Beach. I just want to make sure that people aren’t scared to come here. As long as we’re practicing the proper procedures, Myrtle Beach is still a great place to live and visit,” Krajc said.

Myrtle Beach officials also announced Thursday that the July 4th fireworks show was being postponed until Dec. 31.

“We need to do all we can at the moment to encourage social distancing,” city officials said.

As of Wednesday, health officials in at least 23 West Virginia counties had linked more than 110 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 to recent travel to Myrtle Beach.

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Reworked Independence Day celebration planned in Ripley

RIPLEY, W.Va. — The 4th of July will again be marked in Ripley with what’s billed as “America’s Largest Small-Town Independence Day Celebration” even in the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Carolyn Rader

“This year, crazy as it is, is the 150th anniversary,” said Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader.

In many ways, 2020’s events won’t be like those of past years.

“It’s going to be so different and I just keep saying over and over, ‘Oh my gosh, please be patient with us,’ because we’ve never done this before.”

To start, Ripley’s activities have been scaled back from six days to two.

On Saturday, the traditional Independence Day Parade will step off at 12 p.m. on South Church Street near Ripley High School with fewer participants, down by about 50 units from 2019.

In this time of COVID-19, social distancing will be used with designated family viewing areas spaced out every six feet along the parade route in the 17,000 available feet of public viewing space.

The marking off of those spaces took two days, Rader said.

“If there is an ‘x’ on your spot, don’t stand there. You’re too close,” she advised. “We’ve left plenty of room for families with several chairs where they can sit and watch the parade.”

Safety stations have also been stocked with hand sanitizer, gloves and masks.

Mask usage was recommended, but not required.

Concerts were converted to drive-in shows with designated parking routes.

The new location was the plaza parking lot along Academy Drive.

“Whether it’s real hot, they can have air conditioning. If it’s raining, they can jump in their cars. So, really, it’s the best of both worlds,” Rader said.

On Friday night, two shows are planned with U.S. Kids from Cleveland, Oh. at 6 p.m. and Rick K and the Allnighters at 8 p.m.

The lineup for Saturday included Rimshot at 4 p.m., Ultra Sound at 6 p.m. and then Adam D. Tucker’s Vegas Tim McGraw Tribute at 8 p.m. followed by fireworks.

“We’ve got signs up all over town that say, ‘Please respect others and stay safe,’ as gentle reminders that we can show people how we can, hopefully, make it work and be safe about it,” Mayor Rader said.

Fairs and festivals operating under state guidelines written to try to limit coronavirus spread were allowed again in West Virginia beginning at the start of July.

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AAA predicting fewer longer road trips for the 4th

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The price for a gallon of gas in West Virginia continues to inch up in West Virginia after a deep dive during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The average price of a gallon of gas across Northern West Virginia is eight cents higher this week at $2.25 per gallon, according to AAA East Central’s Gas Price Report.

Jim Garrity

“We’ve kinda gotten used to these cheaper gas prices,” Jim Garrity, AAA public and legislative affairs manager said. “We’re starting to see them sort of go in the upward direction because we’re seeing demand increase.”

Garrity said even with the increase, we’re paying about 50-cents less a gallon than we were at this time last year.

The July 4th holiday can be a busy one for longer trips but maybe not this year, according to Garrity.

“I think for the average West Virginian, you could take however crowded this time of the year last year and just subtract about 15 percent of the cars and that’s what you could expect,” Garrity said.

Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states reported increases ranging from 4 to 9 cents. West Virginia up 9 cents, North Carolina up 8 cents and Pennsylvania up 7 cents had the biggest increases in the region on this week’s top 10 largest weekly increases list. All other states saw prices fluctuate between four and eight cents, except for New York up 2 cents.

Most states in the region saw smaller increases at the pump likely due to the large increase in gasoline stockpiles, which added 1.3 million barrels, according to Energy Information Administration data.

This week’s average prices: Northern WV Average $2.255
Average price during the week of June 22, 2020 $2.172
Average price during the week of July 1, 2019 $2.632

The following is a list of the average prices in several West Virginia locations:

$2.299 Bridgeport
$2.273 Clarksburg
$2.259 Huntington
$2.293 Martinsburg
$2.298 Morgantown
$2.236 Parkersburg
$2.221 Weirton
$2.163 Wheeling

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11-year-old Carson Higginbotham dominating junior tours in WV

(Citynet Statewide Sportsline interview with Carson Higginbotham)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Clarksburg native Carson Higginbotham has been playing competitive golf for over half of his lifetime. That is an accomplishment by itself since the sixth grader has been involved in tournament golf since he was five years old.

Higginbotham has quickly built a resume as one of the top junior golfers in West Virginia. He has competed in five Callaway Junior Tour events this summer, winning them all with an average of margin of victory of almost eight strokes. Higginbotham also won ‘U.S. Kids Golf’ tour events at Sunbury, Ohio, Sugarwood C.C. and Edgewood C.C. in June.

On Wednesday, Higginbotham won the 12-and-under division at the WVGA Junior Amateur Championship at Glade Springs Resort.

“The course was very, very nice,” Higginbotham said. “And the pins were very tough over the two days.”

Higginbotham finished the 36-hole event at 5-over-par, 10 shots better than his closest competitor. When a scoring opportunity presents itself, Carson has some extra motivation to roll in a putt.

“I was trying to make a lot of birdies. My mom gives me twenty dollars for every birdie. So I was trying to take a bunch of her money.”

Higginbotham has impressive distance off the tee for a player of his age. He consistently averages 200-220 yards with his drive. But that is not necessarily the focus of his game.

“My strength is my short game. I can get it up and down if I miss the green.

“I focus on just hitting greens and making putts.”

Higginbotham will shoot for his sixth Callaway Junior Tour victory of the season Thursday at Pipestem Resort.

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MetroNews This Morning 7-2-20

A clerical error causes a Constitutional violation by the Justice Administration. Governor Justice wants to use part of the pandemic money for road work–a plan which is drawing fire. Covid 19 concerns abound with the 4th of July weekend about to happen. Debate and actions continue in West Virginia and around the nation on statutes which honor the Confederacy. In Sports, Wheeling native Michael Grove reports for spring training with the Dodgers. Those stories and more in today’s edition of MetroNews This Morning.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 7-2-20” on Spreaker.

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Four-year starter Brian King had a knack for the big play

(‘3 Guys Before the Game’ podcast with Brian King)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Take a look at the West Virginia career defensive leaders and you will find Brian King at the top of the list in pass breakups by a wide margin. He leads the way with 54 and owns the single-season record with 21 in his senior season of 2003.

“That’s just because I couldn’t catch,” King said. “If I caught a couple of those, I would have had some pick-sixes like my boy Pacman (Jones).”

All joking aside, King’s hands secured one of the biggest victories of the Rich Rodriguez era at WVU in 2002. King intercepted a Bryan Randall pass in the end zone with twelve seconds remaining as the Mountaineers upset No. 12 Virginia Tech 21-18 at Lane Stadium. The Hokies drove into the red zone and were well within field goal range to potentially tie the game.

“Later in my career, I could get away with things that I never would have thought to do early in my career. It was to leave a little cushion for the receiver, let the quarterback think there is a window there when there’s not. Most notably, that interception to end the Virginia Tech game, that’s exactly what I did. I fell back a little bit on the receiver I was covering, and let him think he could squeeze it in there. I stepped in front, took a knee and what a special memory that was.”

King arrived in Morgantown in the fall of 1999 as most true freshmen do, not physically ready to handle the demands of top-level Division I football.

“I was the definition of a guy who needed to redshirt. I needed to lift weights. I needed to get stronger. On top of that, I am a very cerebral-type player. It took that first year to watch and learn what it meant to be a Division I college football player. I can’t tell you all the little tricks and tips I picked up just from watching the starters doing one-on-one’s in practice.”

King didn’t have to wait very long to take a spot the Mountaineer secondary. He stepped right into the starting lineup in the 2000 season, collecting 42 tackles and ten pass breakups. He would go on to play in 44 games at various positions throughout the defensive backfield.

“I feel blessed to have gone to West Virginia and played so early. A guy coming out of high school who wasn’t super-highly recruited, it was just a blessing to go to West Virginia the way things worked out. To be able to start as a freshman in 2000, it was a tremendous opportunity.”

King’s career spanned the end of the Don Nehlen era and the launch of the Rich Rodriguez seven-year run. In 2002 and 2003, the Mountaineers went 17-9.

“I am really proud of those years because that pretty much laid the foundation of the team’s success between the 2004 and 2007 seasons long after I was gone.”

King was lightly recruited out of Damascus High School in Maryland despite a highly productive career as a receiver and defensive back. King’s father, Steve, took an active role in Brian’s recruiting process.

“It was my dad in the stands, filming all the games. When it came to the highlight tapes and addresses to all the schools I thought I might have a chance to play at, it was my dad firing out all that film to those schools. He was trying to see if we could get some interest.

“It was uncomfortable for me midway through high school because my dad believed in me before I believed in myself. It was to the point where I felt uncomfortable at times. Now that I am a father myself with two young boys, I see that love now that my dad had back then and the belief he had in me that I could play big-time college football.”

Steve King passed away just over a year ago, making it difficult for Brian to relive many of his glory days at WVU because of everything his father meant to make those moments happen.

“My dad is the reason I ended up in Morgantown. I lost my dad thirteen months ago and I think that I struggled with the idea of just stirring up all those old feelings from 1998-2003 and my senior year at West Virginia. So many memorable and positive experiences and they all revolve around my dad being right there.

“They were the best five years in my families’ life. And my wife jokes and says, ‘Hey, wait a minute’. In terms of football and where I kind of feel like I established myself, it was that.”

After wrapping up his playing days at WVU, King returned to the D.C. metroplex where he works in commercial real estate.

“I recently purchased a four-unit building in Washington D.C. I am dipping my toes into what it feels like to be an investor. And I am enjoying that very much.”

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The Delusional Defunders

New York City is the latest municipality to join the “defund the police” movement. This week Mayor Bill de Blasio and city council agreed to a spending plan that reallocates approximately $1 billion from the police department to other spending.  That is one-sixth of the entire police budget.

Even that is not enough for Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who accused de Blasio of playing a shell game with the finances to minimize the impact on the police department.  “Defunding the police means defunding the police,” she said.

The budget reduction may placate other defunders, but it comes at a bad time for those who still believe that the police are vital for protecting citizens from crime. The New York Times reports that in June the city had more gun violence than any month since 1996.

New York Councilman I. Daneek Miller, opposed the defund budget. “Black folks want to be safe like everyone else, we just want to be respected.”

The Times also reported that, “Nationally homicide rates are already rising in 64 large American cities for the first three months of 2020.”  Last weekend in Chicago, 63 people were shot, 16 of them fatally.  Three of the victims were children.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is black, says defunding ignores the practicalities. “In our police department, about 90 percent of the budget is personnel,” she told New York Times Magazine.  “When you talk about defunding, you’re talking about getting rid of police officers.”

Because of seniority rules, that means younger officers, who are more often people of color, would be the first to go.  “You’re eliminating middle-class incomes for black and brown folks.  Nobody talks about that in the discussion to defund the police,” she said.

Defunders sometimes use the dismantling of the Camden, New Jersey police department in their argument, but they tell only half the story. Yes, Camden did abolish its police department in 2013. It was ineffective and riddled with corruption; meanwhile crime was rampant.

However, the city then replaced the incompetent agency with a new county police force that was better trained in how to de-escalate. The city threw out the restrictive police union contract and forced officers to reapply.  The move has not been a panacea, but crime is down significantly.

Reasonable voices in the defund movement have a point about the need for more social service workers who can be summoned when necessary rather than always calling the police.  Brookings Institute reports police data show “nine out of ten calls for service are for nonviolent offenders.”

The National Institutes of Health reports in a 2016 study that 63 percent of senior law enforcement officers surveyed say the amount of time their department spends on calls involving mental illness has increased during their tenure.

Calls for mental illness, homelessness and drug overdoses are what is sometimes called the “gray zone,” cases where the police often do not have the expertise or the resources to deal with a problem, but they are the ones who must respond.

People who really want reform of the police in their communities should drop the “defund the police” slogan. It may slip easily off the tongue during a demonstration or fit the agenda of those who prefer chaos to order, but when taken literally—and how else can we take it—it is a pathetic response to a serious problem.

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