State News

WV MetroNews

The Voice of West Virginia

Guard, other workers helping process unemployment claims

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia National Guard and workers with the state Division of Rehabilitation Services are joining state workers with WorkForce West Virginia and the state Department of Commerce in processing the thousands of claims from unemployed state residents because of the coronavirus.

Department of Commerce spokesman Andy Malinoski said Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch and the governor’s office have come up with a plan to handle the more than 90,000 new claims filed during the past two weeks.

File

Andy Malinoski

“WorkForce West Virginia and Commerce Department employees have been reassigned to process claims. National Guard employees are being trained to process claims this week and Rehabilitation Service employees will be on board in the next week or so to assist in this effort as well,” Malinoski said.

Crews are workings 12-hours a day, six days a week on the claims.

MORE How to file for unemployment in West Virginia

The best time to file claims online is early in the morning and late in the evening, according to Malinoski.

“If they stagger the times that they’re trying to file those claims those are lower traffic times and the website can adapt and be a little more responsive then,” he said. “It’s also very important that people keep attempting to file until they receive a confirmation that the initial claim is filed.”

WorkForce West Virginia is asking is residents to give the agency three to four days to process their claims before making an inquiry.

Malinoski said the sheer volume of claims has been overwhelming but progress is being made.

“I just everyone understands that our employees are as committed as ever to process those claims so West Virginians can receive the benefits due to them and they’re working diligently to do that every day,” he said.

CARES Act

The agency is also fielding a lot of calls from residents about the additional unemployment benefits provided in the CARES Act approved by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump. WorkForce Acting Commissioner Scott Adkins said the state is currently awaiting guidelines from the federal government on how the benefits are to be distributed.

MORE FAQ about the CARE Act 

“There’s been a lot of confusion over how to apply for CARES Act benefits, so we’re telling people to be patient with us while we wait for the funding to become available,” Adkins said. “Folks can be assured that as soon as we get guidelines from the United States Department of Labor we will make an announcement and provide instructions on how to apply.”

Workers who don’t usually qualify for unemployment benefits will qualify under the CARES Act.

“Enhanced unemployment benefits provided through the CARES Act will be available to workers who normally don’t qualify for regular state unemployment benefits. Benefits include an additional $600 per week in addition to state unemployment benefits, and an additional 13 weeks of payments once someone has exhausted their benefits,” the agency said in a Thursday news release.

“All we can ask people to do is be patient,” Adkins said. “It will take a week or two for you to get benefits, but everything will be paid retroactively. You’ll be made whole.”

The post Guard, other workers helping process unemployment claims appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

30 Kanawha judicial employees test negative for COVID-19

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — 30 employees at the Kanawha County Judicial Annex have tested negative for COVID-19, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department announced.

The rapid testing was done after seven other judicial annex employees and one employee’s spouse was infected with the disease.

“This is a much-needed breath of relief, in an area where we thought we had higher transmission,” Dr. Sherri Young, the chief health officer and executive director for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department (KCHD) said.

The rapid test kits obtained by the KCHD look for antibodies during a test and are used for investigations and clusters, Young said. According to her, tests are completed within 10 minutes and a patient knows the results on site.

She continued to express frustration with the general commercial testing being done with other cases in the county. Young said patients should treat it like they are positive when waiting on commercial lab results.

Dr. Sherri Young

“There have been two instances where somebody has been notified of a positive from an outside source like Lab Corps 12 days after they have been tested,” she said.

“By the time 12 days have gone by, if the patient hasn’t been isolating or in contact with other people, it puts other people into danger.”

The positive cases in Kanawha County continue to rise each day. During the Kanawha County Commission meeting Thursday evening, Dr. Young indicated the county is now up to 50 positive cases.

Young projects the peak in the county to hit in one to three weeks and to maintain that rate for another two to weeks.

“It’s varied in how much it goes up. It may go up a few each day but this is a significant amount in the short period of time we’ve been working on this,” Young said.

The judicial annex remains closed until Monday and Young said officials will meet this weekend to determine the next steps. An extended closure seems likely with Young pushing for more annex employees to be tested.

Any employer needing to be tested for the virus is directed to call the department and schedule an appointment at 304-348-1088.

KCHD announced that eight first responders were also tested, all of which were negative.

The post 30 Kanawha judicial employees test negative for COVID-19 appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Thinking about a mask? Marsh suggests a scarf or bandanna isn’t a bad idea

Should the average person wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic?

Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s newly-appointed coronavirus czar, discussed that question during a news briefing today.

“The finding that is now starting to get people interested in wearing masks is the idea that not only coughing but also with speaking and even throat clearing there can be a small amount of droplets that are produced that might be infectious,” Marsh said.

The best method to avoid that kind of infection is staying at least six feet away from all but close family units, Marsh said.

But those who have to go out for groceries or other necessities might consider wearing facial covering, he agreed.

“The benefit of wearing something over your face is less for you, to prevent yourself from getting sick,” Marsh said, “but to reduce the droplet spread in case somebody’s sick and doesn’t realize it yet.”

He suggested that could be a scarf or a bandanna.

“If you wear something over your face,” he said, “don’t buy a medical-grade mask because we won’t those for our first responders.”

Marsh’s comments were prompted by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who suggested residents should wear masks when out in public. He was referring not to surgical masks, but instead to homemade face coverings or bandannas when out performing essential tasks such as food shopping.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this week that the federal coronavirus task force is seriously considering guidance that people should wear masks to help slow the spread of the virus.

“Because if, in fact, a person who may or may not be infected wants to prevent infecting someone else, one of the best ways to do that is with a mask. So perhaps that’s the way to go,” Fauci said

Meanwhile, Marsh said modeling shows the social distancing efforts in West Virginia are paying off so far.

West Virginia’s infection rate continues to be about 4 percent, he said. That figure is derived from dividing positive tests by the overall number of tests.

“Although following these trends can be useful, the future will be written by what we keep doing — not by what we’ve done to date,” Marsh said.

The post Thinking about a mask? Marsh suggests a scarf or bandanna isn’t a bad idea appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Pandemic forces Powerball to eliminate guaranteed starting jackpot amount and minimum increases

URBANDALE, Iowa — With ticket sales down because of the coronavirus, the organization that operates the multi-state Powerball lottery game announced Thursday changes in how the game’s jackpot will be calculated.

The Powerball Product Group said guaranteed starting jackpot amounts and minimum jackpot increases will be eliminated following this Saturday night’s drawing.

Powerball, which sells tickets in 45 states including West Virginia, currently has a $40 million minimum jackpot which increases by at least $10 million between drawings if no one hits the jackpot. Powerball Product Group said the new jackpot amounts will be based on ticket sales and interest rates only.

“These changes are necessary to ensure that ticket sales can support the Powerball jackpot and other lower-tier cash prizes,” said Gregg Mineo, Powerball Product Group chairman in a news release. “Our number one priority is making sure that the Powerball game can continue to assist lotteries in raising proceeds for their beneficiaries.”

In a decision announced last week, Powerball originally planned to reduce its minimum jackpot to $20 million because of the coronavirus but the product group said the decision had to be revisited with the evolving pandemic.

“Since last week, more states and cities have asked their residents to stay at home, which has affected normal consumer behaviors and Powerball game sales,” Mineo said. “In response to the public health crisis, interest rates have declined. As a result, additional game sales are necessary to fund comparable jackpot amounts.”

The jackpot for Saturday night’s drawing is $180 million.

The reduction of tickets sold will eventually hurt the West Virginia state budget. Proceeds from Powerball are collected by the West Virginia Lottery and divided into several state budget accounts.

Powerball sales in February for West Virginia totaled $1.8 million, a 43% reduction from January.

The post Pandemic forces Powerball to eliminate guaranteed starting jackpot amount and minimum increases appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Plans for annual North-South football game push forward

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Organizers of the annual North-South football game are pushing forward with plans for this year’s all-star classic June 13 at South Charleston High School’s Black Eagle Stadium. The COVID-19 pandemic has halted sports throughout the state but game director Bob Mullett is optimistic the game will be played as scheduled if schools eventually reopen in May.

“The kids need something to look forward to,” Mullett said. “The parents get excited about this game. We have a great staff of coaches. We need something to rebound with economically and socially.

“We won’t do anything that we think will bring any harm to anyone. We can’t go to camp without the whole thing being cleared. We are holding out a lot of hope that this thing will happen. But I am really positive. We can pull it off.”

Mullett added that he and his staff are looking at contingency plans to delay the game to June 20 if needed. A decision about moving the date could be made in the first week of May.

“Everybody is holding out hope for these seniors’ sake that they can get some closure,” said North head coach Daran Hays. “A lot of their other plans this year have been messed with.”

“I am praying we can get through this crisis we are going through right now so the kids can enjoy themselves,” said South head coach Ray Lee. “Not just for this football game but for all of the seniors that are missing out on so much.”

Joe Brocato/WVMetroNews.com

North Marion head coach Daran Hays will lead the North All-Stars.

Veteran North Marion head coach Daran Hays will guide the North. He will be assisted by fellow Husky coaches Steven Harbert and Gary Lanham. Parkersburg South frontman Nathan Tanner and new Martinsburg head coach Britt Sherman complete the staff.

“I always wanted to play in the game,” Hays said. “I was an alternate and didn’t get the opportunity. But I was an assistant coach a couple years ago. It is kind of a bucket lister for me. Coach (Gerry) White got to do it while he was at North Marion and Coach (Roy) Michael did it when he was at North. It is one thing I can continue. It is quite an honor.”

Hays will coach two of his players in the game. They are quarterback Gunner Murphy and linebacker Trent Hlusko.

The North Bears feature J.R. House Award winner (state’s top quarterback) Brandon Penn (Parkersburg South), MetroNews Player of the Year from Martinsburg Jarod Bowie, 2018 Curt Warner Award winner (state’s top running back) Hunter America (Doddridge County) and 2018 Randy Moss Award winner (state’s top receiver) Malakai Brown.

“I am really excited about our roster,” Hays said. “I think we are pretty loaded. We have a really good array of talent all the way through.”

The South Cardinals will be led by Greenbrier East head coach Ray Lee. He has welcomed Spartan assistants Aaron Baker and Jake Harper to the staff. Riverside’s Alex Daugherty and Liberty Raleigh’s Mark Workman round out the South staff.

Greg Carey/WVMetroNews.com

Greenbrier East football coach Ray Lee prepares to lead the Spartans on to the field before a game at Ripley.

Notable players for the South include 2019 Randy Moss Award winner Drew Hatfield (Mingo Central) and fellow Glenville State commits Liam Fultineer (Mount View) and Logan Spurlock (Capital).

Lee will coach three of his graduating players in the game. Running back/defensive lineman Marion Lawson, receiver/defensive back Kyle King and linebacker Houston Scott will all represent the Spartans.

“Those are some great guys,” Lee said. “They were the leaders on our football team. They are just excellent young men. To coach them one more time is an honor for me.”

Players from both teams are housed at West Virginia State University for a full week of training camp prior to the game. Teams also participate has various social events throughout the week.

“You don’t want to go system overload and give them too much,” Hays said. That is probably the key to this game is finding the healthy balance of how much do you do before it is too much. You definitely don’t want to go in there underprepared.”

“We are going to make it fun,” Lee said. “At the same time, we are going to make sure that we are accomplishing things. I am a keep-it-simple kind of guy. I don’t want to overload them with information because once you start thinking, it takes away your aggressiveness.”

Hays and Lee led their respective teams to the playoffs last fall, finishing with 7-4 records.

A mainstay at Laidley Field and University of Charleston Stadium for several decades, the game moved to South Charleston High School in 2018.

“The South Charleston CVB gives us support financially, the mayor’s office does too and several businesses have stepped up,” Mullet said. “We have a parade now. We have a nice banquet at Little Creek Country Club and we have a reception at the Holiday Inn in South Charleston. They are excited about having us and they backed us financially.”

 

North Bears All-Star roster:

Brandon Penn – Parkersburg South, QB/DB

Malachi Brown – Martinsburg, WR/DB

Jarod Bowie – Martinsburg, RB/WR/DB

Jared Grifftih – Lewis County, K

Dawson Tingler – Petersburg, TE/DE

Corbin Pierson – Jefferson, QB

Nic Kuhn – Lewis County, WR/DB

Elijah Gillette – Weir, WR/DB

Xavier Morris – Wheeling Park, WR/DB

Jeff Tucker – Parkersburg South, H/DE

Devin Heath – Hedgesville, WR/DB

Gunner Murphy – North Marion, QB

Dylan Day – Parkersburg South, WR/DB

Landon McFadden – So. Harrison, UT/DB

Michael Lemley – Oak Glen, WR/DB

Trent Hlusko – North Marion, LB

Brennen Seacrist – Madonna, WR/DB

Jeb Boice – Parkersburg Catholic, RB/LB

Hunter America – Doddridge, RB/DB

Max Camilletti – Brooke, RB/DB

Zach Taylor – Oak Glen, WR/LB

Logan Raber – University, RB/LB

Dom Postlewait – East Fairmont, WR/DB

Seth McIntire – Liberty-Harrison, RB/LB

Jalen Brunny – Park. Catholic, H/DE

Nate Kowalski – Fairmont Senior, OL/DE

Jack Saines – Wheeling Park, OL

Don Woodworth – Keyser, OL/DL

Dom Owens – Fairmont Senior, OL/DL

Jackson Biser – Keyser, TE/LB

Ty Lucas – Martinsburg, OL/DL

Lance Payton – Fairmont Senior, OL

Brock Robey- Robert C. Byrd, OL

Corey Shaffer – Jefferson, OL/DL

Cole James – Doddridge, OL/DL

Michael Watkins – Bridgeport, OL/DL

 

South Cardinals All-Star roster:

Chase Berry – Chapmanville, QB

Gunner Harmon – Wayne, QB

Ethan Varney – Tug Valley, QB/DB

Monroe Mohler – James Monroe, QB/DB

Liam Fultineer – Mt. View, OL

Tanner Jenkins – Wyoming East, OL

Ian McKinney- Shady Spring, OL

Hunter McMicken – Van, OL

Ian Pomeroy – Beckley, OL

Caden Easterling – Riverside, RB

Cameron Foster – Nitro, RB

Marion Lawson – Greenbrier East, RB/DL

Xander Castillo – James Monroe, WR/DB

Drew Hatfield – Mingo Central, WR

Kyle King – Greenbrier East, WR/DB

Alex Mazelon – George Washington, WR

Quentin Moody – ManWR/DB

Matt Stone – Poca, TE/DE

Logan Vance – Clay, WR

Bomani Brooks – Hurricane, DL

Marcell Guy – Independence, OL/DL

Cameron Lovejoy – Buffalo, DL

Andrew Preast – G. Washington, OL/DL

Stone Sartin – Tolsia, DL

Jacob Anthony – Ravenswood, LB

Ben Kee – Herbert Hoover, LB

Houston Scott – Greenbrier East, LB

Gavin Shamblin – Sissonville, FB/LB

Logan Spurlock – Capital, LB

Austin Stephenson – Riverside, LB

Tay Calloway – Capital, RB/DB

Haven Chapman – Shady Spring, DB

Zach Frye – Man, DB

Hayden Hass – Cabell Midland, DB

Isaiah Osborne – Riverside, DB

Erick Bevil – Shady Spring, K/P

The post Plans for annual North-South football game push forward appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Ramsey: CAMC in ‘financial never-never land’ with coronavirus impact

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The president and CEO of Charleston Area Medical Center says his hospital is currently in a “financial never-never land” with the impact of the coronavirus.

CAMC

David Ramsey

Dave Ramsey, a guest Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline,” said the threat of the surge involving the virus has caused a 30 percent decrease in CAMC’s daily census and a 50 percent decrease in daily medical procedures. Both of which are important revenue sources for CAMC and the four hospitals it operates, Ramsey said.

“The fact that we’re not doing elective procedures to save on PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and then the fact that people are just staying home,” Ramsey said. “They’re not out in activities on a daily basis. They’re not exerting themselves. They’re not driving very much. So a lot of people don’t need our services,”

Ramsey said it takes $3,3 million a day to operate CAMC but right now the hospital is bringing in about $2 million a day. CAMC has asked workers to take some days off and to share work to cut down on hours. The hospital also has a reserve fund which would cover the costs of about 140 days. Ramsey said they hope they don’t have to keep dipping into their reserves.

“That’s why we’re taking these steps now (cutting hours) in order to preserve that reserve as long as we can,” Ramsey said.

.@CAMCHealth President and CEO Dave Ramsey joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss how CAMC is handling COVID-19. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/0XtPWuujND

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 2, 2020

The stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last week includes increases in Medicare reimbursements for hospitals in several areas. Ramsey said that will help but it’s only expected to be about $6 million for his hospital plus the additional money for treating coronavirus patients. CAMC had eight patients in-house as of Thursday afternoon. It has treated 42 coronavirus patients on an outpatient basis. The hospital has had 1763 negative tests with six pending.

CAMC eliminated elective procedures more than two weeks ago in connection with Centers for Disease Control recommendations. Gov. Jim Justice signed an executive order this week mandating the elimination statewide.

Justice said Thursday he’s very aware of the revenue flow problems the hospitals are facing.

“We get all of that but the issue today is the supplies and protective gear for all of those who are out there going without that,” Justice said. “I’m very hopeful we can lift that as soon as we can lift it but today we’ve got to conserve those supplies as much as possible.”

Ramsey said CAMC is ready for a possible surge of coronavirus patients. He said there’s no excuse for the United States struggling with supplies and equipment to battle the virus.

“It’s a tragedy in my opinion that we as a nation have not been able to get the ventilators, get the testing equipment, get the PPE that’s really needed to ensure health care workers’ safety and patients’ safety as well,” Ramsey said.

The post Ramsey: CAMC in ‘financial never-never land’ with coronavirus impact appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Three Guys Before The Game – Clay Marsh Visits (Episode 194)

To use a sports analogy, the state of West Virginia is still very early in the game when it comes to battling the coronavirus.

On this episode the “Guys” spend time with the man overseeing West Virginia’s battle against COVID-19

Dr. Clay Marsh provides invaluable insight into the state’s current situation and looks ahead to what transformations the virus will ultimately bring.

Brad Howe, Tony Caridi and Hoppy Kercheval also answer an assortment of listener questions ranging from sports to movies.

The “Guys” return Monday with a new episode.

Text or leave a voicemail for the show anytime at 304-404-4083.

Support the show by wearing Three Guys merchandise.

Never miss an episode, subscribe below.

The post Three Guys Before The Game – Clay Marsh Visits (Episode 194) appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Why football season is a must for WVU and other major programs

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — By the time this autumn rolls around, football season will be a must for a sports-starved public.

But even they won’t need it as much as the academic institutions who have invested in college football.

“It’s a whole new ballgame if we find ourselves not playing football because it affects everything we do,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said last week. “It affects the largest portion of our TV contract, and it affects the largest source of campus revenue, which is live gate.

“So anything that I say regarding finances, it has to make the assumption that we’re going to be back to playing football in the fall. If that doesn’t happen, then the underpinning of what we’ve known as normal goes away and we’ll have major changes to make.”

Take West Virginia, which had overall athletic revenues of $102.6 million in 2018 compared to $91.8 million in expenses. If football was removed from that equation in 2020 on top of the money already lost from the cancellation of the NCAA tournament, there would be dire consequences for WVU’s budget.

“It would be catastrophic,” Mountaineers athletic director Shane Lyons said in a Wednesday night appearance on MetroNews Sportsline. “You’re talking about $38 million that is TV revenue you get from the networks to air games. The conference gets anywhere from $350-400 million to distribute to the 10 schools in the Big 12.

“If the games are not played, and therefore you don’t have the TV revenue, then you’re looking at approximately $30 million. Then from a season ticket standpoint, about $16 million. So you’re looking at over a $50 million hit from a financial standpoint if football isn’t played.”

And that’s just the known money. Logic would dictate that some program donors would also have less money to donate with more important financial matters to tend to, such as ravaged retirement accounts.

Perhaps that explains why Lyons is so inclined to maintain a positive attitude that the COVID-19 epidemic will dissipate by the end of the summer. The decisions he would be forced to make if his budget was sliced in half would be uncomfortable, to say the least.

“I’m optimistic we will play football come September and preseason will start on time in August,” Lyons said on a Wednesday media teleconference. “Our projections, based upon the medical experts, they feel once we get to late summer, the August area, normal life will hopefully be back all across the US. That’s kind of our hope.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be a potential downturn in revenue. The possibility of playing in front of limited or entirely eliminated crowds is still on the table. So is a potential shortened season.

But even that would be a more manageable situation than the doomsday scenario that does not include football.

“What it looks like for the public and ticket sales, that’s still early on to project that,” Lyons said. “Right now there’s a lot of people out of jobs, that’s unfortunate. The pandemic won’t go away over night. There’s a number of factors we’ll have to look at that we don’t have at this point.”

The post Why football season is a must for WVU and other major programs appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Soccer tournament cancellations significant loss for Barboursville, Kanawha Valley

BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. — The hits keep coming to local economies around West Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic with cancellations and closures.

The areas of the Barboursville Soccer Complex and the Shawnee Sports Complex in Dunbar are the latest to feel the impact with the cancellation of the multiple United States Youth Soccer events scheduled for this summer at the respective facilities.

The US Youth Soccer organization made the announcement this week for its events including the Eastern Presidents Cup slated for June 19-23, and the Eastern Regional Tournament scheduled for June 26-July 2.

The events hosted by the complexes in 2019 resulted in hotels booked from Clendenin to Ashland, Kentucky, Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum told MetroNews. He said there will be an economic loss to the area of $15 to $20 million.

Village of Barboursville

Chris Tatum

“I think it’s unfortunate but it’s necessary for the safety and well-being of thousands of people right now. I hate to see the area lose out on those tourism dollars but at the same time with everything going on, it was a wise decision,” Tatum said.

In 2019, just the Eastern Regional Tournament brought around 4,500 athletes on 260 teams from 13 states to the area. The teams in the tournament traveled from a dozen states including Maine, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

The 2021 US Youth Soccer events have already been booked, which includes the Eastern Presidents Cup in West Virginia from June 19-23, 2021. The 2021 regional is slated for New Jersey but Tatum is hopeful the soccer association will consider West Virginia for host sites in 2022.

Barboursville has hosted the regionals in 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2016 but Tatum said having Shawnee open was a gamechanger that has brought more tournaments to the pair of complexes.

Tatum further told MetroNews that there is a silver lining in the situation and it includes more time to complete a $1.8 million investment at the Barboursville complex including synthetic turf, lighting upgrades and other improvements.

He said crews will put the finishing touches on the improvements when the stay-at-home orders are clear and more federal guidelines are lifted. The scheduled improvements have attracted more interest in complex use for other sports and that is how Tatum hopes to make up for part of the loss with US Youth Soccer.

“This virus is not an end-all, be-all,” he said. “It’s a transition point and hopefully one that helps us all grow in some way.

“More importantly when it’s back to normal, we are doing what we are known to do.”

The post Soccer tournament cancellations significant loss for Barboursville, Kanawha Valley appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Legislative leaders ask Justice to close schools for the year, Justice says not yet

Legislative leaders from both parties are asking Gov. Jim Justice to keep children out of schools for the rest of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a news briefing a couple of hours later, Justice declined the request, saying that decision doesn’t have to be made yet.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, and House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, today delivered a letter to Justice to request that he initiate the necessary actions to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

“This move is necessary and makes good sense,” the four wrote.

Just yesterday, Justice pushed back the return to school buildings to April 30. The governor said he still has hope students could return, if only for a few weeks.

“I’m not going to shoot in the dark, and I’m not going to do something that denies our kids hope,” Justice said today. “I’m not willing to throw the towel in yet.”

The legislative leaders wrote that families, teachers, service personnel, and the public in general would benefit from receiving certainty about the end of the academic year, and would allow preparations for next year to begin without the cloud of the pandemic hanging over them.

They proposed erring on the side of caution.

“Current public health modeling projections suggest the COVID-19 virus will peak during the first week of May in West Virginia. Based upon these projections, we believe it would be wise to fall on the side of caution and keep students at home for the remainder of the 2020 school year rather than risk sending our children into potentially hazardous and untenable learning environments,” the letter states.



Legis School Cancellation Letter to Gov (Text)

Data analysis of all 50 states by The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which is affiliated with the University of Washington, predicts that West Virginia will reach peak use of resources to cope with the virus in early May.

That model anticipates 16 coronavirus-related deaths per day in West Virginia at peak and 495 total deaths in West Virginia over the course of the outbreak.

The letter from legislative leaders also notes that the May primary election has been rescheduled to avoid potential public health risks of crowds gathering.

“The gathering of numerous children and adults in close proximity in a school setting for extended periods is equally risky, if not more so,” the legislative leaders wrote.

Justice today said the Primary Election is different because a decision needs to be made so far in advance.

“What about if toward the end of April things start looking much better? We have to make a decision today about extending an election,” Justice said. “We don’t have to make a decision today about closing school until the end of the year.”

 

Justice originally ordered schools be shut down from March 16 to 27. Last week, he announced that closure would be extended by another three weeks to April 20.

Then Wednesday, he added about two weeks to the end of the month, saying that would align with federal social distancing guidelines.

West Virginia Department of Education

State Superintendent Clayton Burch

During the news briefing today, state schools Superintendent Clayton Burch said the education system doesn’t take the April 30 date lightly.

“In fact we have risen to the challenge,” Burch said.

Burch said he admires Justice’s optimism to get at least a few weeks of the school year in. “We want to save that time at the end that if you can see your friends, see your teacher,” Burch said.

The legislative leaders wrote that social distancing guidelines from the coronavirus pandemic has re-emphasized the need for West Virginia’s schools to deploy distanced-based learning tools and the ability to teach students via video feed and other technological channels.

“The critical need for reliable, world-class broadband service is a vital element of this educational methodology. We challenge ourselves and call upon all other state and local leaders to facilitate the rapid deployment and/or enhancement of technology infrastructure in the West Virginia public education system with the goal of delivering superior educational content in a distance learning environment,” the letter states.

Speaking Thursday morning on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Burch said educators are getting better with practice at helping students while away from school buildings.

“You’re seeing a transition from distance instruction to distance engagement,” Burch said. “We know that to go four to six weeks of distance learning in an emergency crisis, some counties were more prepared than others.”

Under those conditions, Burch said, it’s unrealistic to think students will be mastering significant new content.

“The skills need to stay sharp, they need to stay engaged,” he said.

State School Superintendent Clayton Burch speaks with @HoppyKercheval about the continued closing of school until April 30. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/TAQU99MlRj

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 2, 2020

The post Legislative leaders ask Justice to close schools for the year, Justice says not yet appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews