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Another round of testing to begin at Princeton nursing home Wednesday

PRINCETON, W.Va. — Another round of mass testing is set to start Wednesday at a Mercer County nursing home that has been the site of an outbreak of COVID-19.

Princeton Health Care Center Administrator Stefanie Compton announced the testing on the center’s website Tuesday. The Princeton Rescue Squad will assist the center and officials hope the testing can be completed by Friday.

Cochran said the results will be used to develop the home’s plan to readmit some residents who have been hospitalized or taken temporarily to other facilities because of the situation at Princeton Health.

“We have to be able to meet the needs of our residents. Many of our staff members remain unable to work due to illness. Therefore, we continue to be unable to accept admissions/readmissions at this time,” Cochran wrote. “Our team is in the process of developing a plan in order to be able to safely begin to accept readmissions of our residents that are currently out in other health care settings. Readmissions will be given priority before ever considering new admissions. We miss our residents as much as they miss us and we want them to return home safely.”

The state Department of Health and Human Resources told MetroNews Tuesday that 33 staff and 33 residents have tested positive for the virus. Nineteen people connected to the Princeton Health Care Center were hospitalized as of Monday. Three deaths have been linked to the home.

Cochran said staff members cannot return to work until they are cleared through the home’s infection control team following CDC guidelines.

“Our team is working hard to care for our residents that remain at our facility. We are also trying to care for our staff members who are tired, scared, sad and some that have also become ill. We all want to be here taking care of our PHCC family members. However, any staff members that are currently fighting Covid are not permitted to work and have been given the directive to stay home and follow the guidelines as outlined by us and health officials,” Cochran said.

The center employs 183 people.

State DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said Monday that 16 residents of the home were taken to the hospital Sunday night. Cochran explained Tuesday the need surfaced after some on-site testing.

“The outcome of some of those tests prompted the immediate need for additional testing that is only available in an acute care (hospital) setting,” she said.

Cochran asked the community to pray for all who are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a veteran in the healthcare field, I can assure you that Covid-19 is like nothing we have ever seen or experienced,” Cochran said. “I originally said it changes by the hour and what I should have said is that, it changes by the minute!”

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Cochran reconsiders position leading West Virginia Schools of the Deaf and the Blind

ROMNEY, W.Va. — Webster County School Superintendent Scott Cochran has reconsidered his decision to accept the position of Superintendent for the West Virginia Schools of the Deaf and the Blind (WVSDB).

The West Virginia Department of Education announced the decision on Tuesday, stating that Cochran’s decision is based was based on his ability to remain close and available to his family.

Cochran was selected by the state Board of Education following interviews Friday in Charleston.

Scott Cochran

“Mr. Cochran has spent his professional career focused on the academic, social-emotional, and overall needs of West Virginia’s children,” said West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) President Miller Hall. “While the Board is disappointed, we fully understand why he made this difficult decision.”

“I’d like to thank the State Board for this opportunity,” Cochran said. “I will continue my journey in Webster County to provide rewarding opportunities for all students, while being present and available for my family which is the driving force of my life.”

Pat Homberg, West Virginia Department of Education Liaison to the WVSDB, has agreed to remain in the position until further decisions are made. The WVBE will address the vacancy at its August meeting, per a news release.

Cochran has been the superintendent in Webster County for the last six years. He graduated from Glenville State and holds a master’s degree from WVU. Cochran earned a certification in Special Education from Ohio Valley College.

He was scheduled to start at the WVSDB on August 12.

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Self-response deadline for 2020 US Census moved up

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —  The self-response deadline for the 2020 US Census in West Virginia has been moved to September 30.

The West Virginia Complete Count Commission set up by Gov. Jim Justice met once again on Tuesday and Census officials stated that the field operations and self-response deadline was moved from its October 31 date.

Census officials continue to go door-to-door in all 55 counties in West Virginia as the state’s response rate sits at 54.6 percent, the 48th overall response rate among states.

Complete Count Commission member Andy Malinoski of the state Department of Commerce said West Virginia is making progress.

Andy Malinoski

“June 15 there were six counties that had exceeded their 2010 number. Today (Tuesday) there are nine. June 15, 15 counties were within five percent of their total overall response rate from 2010 and today (Tuesday) there are 18,” he said during the teleconference meeting.

Jefferson County is the top county in Census response at 70.4 percent while Wood is at 68.8 and Berkeley is 67.5.

25 of the 55 counties sit below 50 percent response rate with McDowell County in last at 23.5 percent. Pocahontas County has a 24.6 percent response rate and Mingo has a 27.7 percent rate as of Tuesday afternoon.

VIEW: Census response dashboard

Malinoski said there had been a successful text campaign over the weekend in low response areas that resulted in the state’s response rate rising 0.3 percent in just a couple of days. 414,000 texts were sent to those areas.

Census response rates per congressional districts were revealed on Tuesday and included 59 percent for District 1, 58.6 for District 2 and 46.3 percent for District 3.

“West Virginia is making progress. We still have a lot of work to do especially in those low response counties. Please share with your friends, neighbors, your constituents the idea of responding,” Malinoski said.

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Brennan: I have not heard from Bransfield in months about his amends

WHEELING, W.Va. — Mark Brennan, the Bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said he has not heard from disgraced former Bishop Michael Bransfield in months since the diocese proposed Bransfield a “plan of amends” for his actions.

The diocese laid out the plan in November following an investigation that concluded Bransfield sexually harassed young priests he oversaw and committed financial improprieties during his time leading the Catholic Church in West Virginia from 2005 to 2018.

The investigation into Bransfield by the diocese concluded last summer. Brennan said he has not heard from Bransfield since the plan of amends was released.

Bishop Mark Brennan

“I have not heard from him in many months and I would not expect to,” Brennan said on Tuesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline.’ “Whatever he is doing, he is doing and is in a dark hole. We do not know exactly what he is up to, we have not been in communication.”

Brennan said the Pope’s ambassador to the church in the United States has not heard from Bransfield either. Pope Francis and the Holy See at the Vatican required amends by Bransfield following the investigation into his wrongdoing.

The proposed plan included for him to make public apologies to those he harassed and pay $792,638 restitution if he accepted his actions of financial improprieties and sexual harassment and abuse of adults and former students.

In reports detailed in The Washington Post, Bransfield misused millions of dollars of the church’s money such taking millions from church-owned Wheeling Hospital for the bishop’s fund, lavish spending on vacations and millions spent on the bishop’s mansion in Wheeling while the diocese looked the other way with abuse allegations. 

The plan also included financial restitution such as a lower pension benefit of $736 a month, which is a significant drop from over $6,000 a month. Bransfield also would receive reduced health care benefits, give up a car that the diocese gave him upon retirement, and reimburse hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal benefits that were not declared for taxes.

Former Bishop Michael Bransfield

If Bransfield, 76, ever accepts the plan, he also would give up the right to be buried within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston upon his death.

“The Holy See in Rome imposed upon Bishop Bransfield the obligation to make amends for some of his wrongdoing. I wasn’t sent in to demand that, they demanded that. What they asked me to do was work with him and let me tell you, that was not easy to do,” Brennan said.

In meetings leading up to the plan of amends coming up, Brennan said Bransfield would not come up with his own plan and did not admit to his actions. Brennan previously told MetroNews that Bransfield told him he did not know who he needed to apologize to.

On Monday, the diocese announced two third-party reporting systems for people to use about concerns and allegations of abuse and harassment in the diocese.

“The phrase ‘If you see something, say something.’ If you are concerned about something you have to be able to speak up and do it without fear of incrimination and retaliation. That is what the EthicsPoint platform is all about,” Brennan said.

.@DWC1850 Bishop Mark Brennan talks with @HoppyKercheval about the two new third-party reporting systems at the Diocese for concerns and allegations of abuse and harassment, and Michael Bransfield. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) August 4, 2020

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Wilson awaiting signature validation process to see if he’s on November ballot

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Supporters of Del. Marshal Wilson’s gubernatorial bid rushed signature-filled petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office Monday evening in hopes of beating the midnight filing deadline to be on the November General Election ballot.

Wilson, I-Berkeley, sounded confident Tuesday.

Marshall Wilson

“Based on my estimation I think we have more of the required minimum number,” he told MetroNews.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, Wilson needs 7,139 validated signatures and approximately 7,300 were turned in at 11:30 p.m. Monday. The signatures will now be sent to the counties where the voters say they live to be checked by county clerks for their validity.

Wilson said he focused his efforts more on getting as many signatures as possible instead of checking addresses up front which could have slowed down the process.

“We don’t have a good number for how many signatures we have and we certainly can’t tell you how many of them are valid but my estimation is that he certainly have more than the minimum number,” he said.

Marshall, who is running as an independent, wants the opportunity to face GOP nominee Gov. Jim Justice, Democratic candidate Ben Salango and others in the Nov. 4 election. He’ll find out in about 10 days whether he has enough validated signatures. Wilson said he has a backup plan if he doesn’t.

He filed a lawsuit in federal court recently claiming his constitutional rights for running for office were violated with Gov. Justice moved the primary election from May to June because of the pandemic and issued a ‘stay at home’ order.

“We’re precluded from having large gatherings and because of all of the information that’s being put out about how people need to lock themselves in their homes and the requirement of the governor to stay home, how was I supposed to go out and knock on doors?”

Wilson asked for both more time to gather signatures and the number of required signatures be reduced but he was turned down by the Secretary of State’s Office.

The number of signatures required is one percent of the total number of voters in the Governor’s race in the Primary Election.

Wilson said he plans on going through the lawsuit even if he gets enough signatures.

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Trump signs Great American Outdoors Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Tuesday put his pen to a bill and enacted the Great American Outdoors Act. The new law promises years of improvement to projects benefiting outdoor recreation in West Virginia and all across America.

“The greatest conservation or environmental legislation in the past 50 years,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin on a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors talking about the act.

Manchin, ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, helped shepherd the act through his committee and the U.S. Senate. He was also instrumental to help convince House leaders to hold the line on various amendments which threatened to derail the measure.

“The House passed it 310 to 107. The Senate passed it 72 to 25. In the most toxic atmosphere this country has ever seen politically, for this to happen it tells you how one thing, the Great Outdoors, brings us all together,” Manchin said.

The measure includes a couple of key provisions. First it will guarantee full funding of the Land-Water Conservation Fund in perpetuity. The LWCF was established more than 50 years ago as a way to direct royalty payments from off-shore oil drilling into conservation and outdoor recreational projects of the country.. However, during those 50 years, it has only received its full, annual allocation twice. Some years, it’s seen no allocation at all.

“It’s been about $900 Million annually, but LWCF has received about $450 million and some years would get nothing. Now, by law, all of that money has to go toward the Land-Water Conservation Fund and almost every county in the country has benefited,” Manchin explained.

Qualified projects could be anything from swimming pools to hiking trails, to boating access to public hunting areas. The main qualification is the project must lend itself to improving the public’s exposure to the Great Outdoors.

A second piece of the Act will direct $9.5 BILLION to long deferred maintenance projects in the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service recreation areas. Manchin said some of the parks have falling into embarrassing disrepair from a lack of funding and that will change under the program.

“Outdoor recreation is the fastest growing economic engine we have in this country and this is going to enhance that even more,” Manchin said.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the outdoor recreation industry in West Virginia generates 22,202
jobs; provides $668.5 million in salaries; and contributes $1.498 billion in economic output each year. Since its creation in 1964, LWCF has provided over $250 million to West Virginia, having benefited 54 of 55

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Health official: Vacations, church gatherings driving up Logan County COVID-19 case numbers

LOGAN COUNTY, W.Va. — Active COVID-19 cases in Logan County were continuing to climb Tuesday, just one of the counties in southern West Virginia dealing with recent spikes in cases.

Steve Browning, administrator for the Logan County Health Department, said, though case numbers were still on the rise, the daily increases in Logan County were beginning to come in at lower amounts following jumps in July attributed to a couple of factors.

Returning vacationers was one, Browning said.

“Then we had a few church outbreaks that were primarily related to a gospel group and then just one on its own that was separate from that. Then it was their contacts that started to become positive,” he explained.

“Those two factors, with the contacts becoming positive, all sort of started to balloon our numbers really quick.”

On Monday, Governor Jim Justice included Logan County on his latest outbreak list along with Mercer County, specifically the Princeton Health Care Center, and Raleigh County.

“Logan County’s population surely is not that significant as far as the total population of this state,” he said.

“It is absolutely ridiculous to have 100 cases in Logan County.”

As of Tuesday morning, the Logan County Health Department was reporting 176 total confirmed positive COVID-19 cases dating back to March. Of those cases, 87 were active. Thirteen people were hospitalized.

Southern West Virginia, Governor Justice said, was seeing the effects of virus migration from the southern U.S.

Browning said the speed of the Logan County spread surprised him.

Going forward, he was reminding residents to avoid crowded places, enclosed locations and close contact with others. When that was not possible, he said people should be wearing masks.

“Hopefully, we can get through this part of it and settle them back down again and return to some much more manageable numbers,” Browning said.

He said it was up to Logan County residents to make that happen.

“If we can do one thing, we can just watch out for our neighbors and our community.”

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COVID death numbers up in West Virginia, positive cases down

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported seven additional COVID-19 deaths in its Tuesday report, increasing the number of deaths in West Virginia since the pandemic began to 124.

According to the DHHR, the virus claimed the lives of a 43-year-old Mingo County man, a 55-year-old Taylor County woman, a 68-year-old woman from Kanawha County, a Preston County man who was 70, a 73-year-old man from Marshall County, a 91-year-old man from Wood County and a 92-year-old man from Grant County.

“Each death reported is a solemn reminder of the seriousness of this disease. We send our deepest sympathy to these families,” DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said Tuesday.

The DHHR COVID-19 dashboard has hospitalizations at 111 with 40 patients in intensive care.

Total number of cases increased by 78 between Monday and Tuesday representing the lowest number of cases added a day since July 12. There have been 7,051 since the pandemic started. The DHHR said 1,865 cases are active while 5,062 people have recovered.

The daily positive test rate is 2.41 percent with the overall positive test rate after more than 298,000 tests is 2.38 percent. The rate of spread is .98.

.@WV_DHHR reports as of 10:00 a.m., on August 4, 2020, there have been 298,290 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 7,051 total cases and 124 deaths. #SaferAtHomeWV

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) August 4, 2020

Overall confirmed cases per county include:

(Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (29/0), Berkeley (637/24), Boone (88/0), Braxton (8/0), Brooke (60/1), Cabell (341/9), Calhoun (6/0), Clay (17/1), Doddridge (4/0), Fayette (131/0), Gilmer (16/0), Grant (80/1), Greenbrier (87/0), Hampshire (74/0), Hancock (100/4), Hardy (53/1), Harrison (198/1), Jackson (158/0), Jefferson (287/5), Kanawha (835/13), Lewis (26/1), Lincoln (68/1), Logan (157/0), Marion (174/4), Marshall (126/3), Mason (50/0), McDowell (45/1), Mercer (167/0), Mineral (112/2), Mingo (142/2), Monongalia (913/16), Monroe (18/1), Morgan (25/1), Nicholas (32/1), Ohio (259/1), Pendleton (40/1), Pleasants (7/1), Pocahontas (40/1), Preston (102/23), Putnam (173/1), Raleigh (191/7), Randolph (203/3), Ritchie (3/0), Roane (14/0), Summers (6/0), Taylor (52/1), Tucker (11/0), Tyler (12/0), Upshur (36/3), Wayne (189/2), Webster (3/0), Wetzel (40/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (228/12), Wyoming (23/0).

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Signature verification to begin after Kanye West’s campaign meets WV ballot deadline

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Rapper Kanye West is a step closer to being an official candidate for president in the November General Election in West Virginia after those representing his campaign turned in more than the required number of signatures Monday to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.

State code requires 7,144 valid signatures, 1 percent of the voters in the presidential primary in the June election. The West campaign turned in more than 15,000 signatures, including more than 3,000 Monday. Most of the signatures were from Kanawha and Monongalia counties.

MORE Kanye West’s candidate certificate HERE

The signatures have to be validated by county clerks which could take up to 10 days to complete.

The West campaign was able to beat a Monday midnight deadline. He’ll run as an independent. The number of states where West has qualified to be on the ballot is somewhat of a moving target. Reports Monday indicated he had qualified in 10 states but had missed deadlines in 10 others.

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MetroNews This Morning 8-4-20

West Virginia’s Covid 19 death toll rises by five. Outbreaks are being reported in several southern West Virginia communities and hospitals in Beckley and Logan are dealing with high numbers of positives both among patients and staff. Charleston’s St. Francis Hospital is being prepped as a “surge hospital”. The storm named Isaias is dumping a lot of rain on the Eastern Coast this morning–and West Virginia’s eastern panhandle will get some of it. Governor Justice explains how CARES Act money will translate to road upgrades. In Sports, the Big XII goes with 9 conference games and one non-conference game at home. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 8-4-20” on Spreaker.

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