The Voice of West Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Georgia defensive lineman Brayden Dudley has become the ninth verbal commitment to WVU’s recruiting Class of 2021. Dudley received an offer from the Mountaineers on January 28.
Dudley possesses twenty FBS offers, including ‘Power 5’ offers from Iowa State and Michigan State. Other offers included Air Force, Appalachian State, Army, Bowling Green, Connecticut, East Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Kent State, Liberty, Lousiana-Lafayette, UCF, USF, Troy, Tulane and Western Kentucky. Dudley also had a handful of FCS offers.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder hails from Buford, Ga. and plays for Mill Creek High School in Hoschton, Ga. Dudley played in 12 games in his junior season, collecting 33 tackles, 5 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries and 3 fumble recoveries. Mill Creek went 9-4 in 2019, advancing to the state quarterfinals in Class 6A.
I am officially 100% COMMITTED to West Virginia University @WVUfootball @NealBrown_WVU @CoachLesley_WVU @MC_Recruiting @RecruitGeorgia @MCFootballCoach @MCHawksOfSteel @coachjlovelady @JedHodges2 #iMpaCt @DASHGwinnett @IamJordanDudley pic.twitter.com/a2DBwR3mWx
— Brayden Dudley (@dudley_brayden) May 28, 2020
West Virginia’s previous commitments for 2021
|Treylan Davis||Jackson, Ohio||6-5, 230||TE||3-star|
|Jaylen Anderson||Perry, Ohio||6-1, 210||RB||4-star|
|Hammond Russell||Dublin, Ohio||6-3, 235||DE||3-star|
|Will “Goose” Crowder||Birmingham, Ala.||6-3, 192||QB||3-star|
|Wyatt Milum||Huntington, W.Va.||6-6, 280||OL||4-star|
|Saint McLeod||Philadelphia, Pa.||5-11, 190||Safety||3-star|
|Andrew Wilson-Lamp||Massilon, Ohio||6-3, 175||WR||3-star|
|Viktor Wikstrom||Stockholm, Sweden||6-3, 235||TE||3-star|
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety is no more.
Beginning Thursday, the agency became the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security, and the name change came with an altered mission.
Secretary Jeff Sandy said the most significant change involves the West Virginia National Guard; the body now reports directly to the governor instead of acting within the department.
“The remaining agencies with Homeland Security deal with the safety and security of our citizens, from our jails to our Fire Marshal’s Office, State Police, and the new Division of Emergency Management, which was previously the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management,” Sandy said.
The alteration is the result of Senate Bill 586, which the state Legislature passed earlier this year at Gov. Jim Justice’s request.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office will no longer report to the State Fire Commission, which previously hired the fire marshal. The governor will be responsible for making that appointment from a list submitted by the state Fire Commission.
The change also involves a new Office of Administrative Hearings, which will be responsible for overseeing initial grievance proceedings except for the West Virginia State police and most appeals from the fire marshal and state Fire Commission.
Legislation to go into effect in June will move the state Parole Board to the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Future plans involve a program providing training to local and county emergency managers based on the FBI National Academy.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A third round of free and open COVID-19 testing begins Friday morning in five West Virginia counties.
The two-day event will take place in Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan, Kanawha and Mineral counties. The testing, which is open to all residents including those who don’t have coronavirus symptoms, targets minority and vulnerable communities.
The first round of testing events held two weeks ago produced nearly three dozen positive cases in Berkeley and Jefferson counties but none in Mercer County. Testing also took place in Raleigh County. Last weekend testing sites in Monongalia, Kanawha, Cabell and Marion counties resulted 3,065 total tests.
Monongalia County reported the highest number of tests at 1,013 and no positive results. In Cabell County, 640 people were tested and two results were positive.
Kanawha County officials said 837 people were tested and two positive results were reported.
Marion County Health Officer Lloyd White said during two days of testing at Windmill Park in Fairmont they tested 575 people.
“We have two positives, those came back on Saturday,” White said. “From Saturday to now we have no additional positives from the testing.”
Because both positive tests were attributed to community spread, contact tracers are working to notify others. White said contact tracing can be a long process.
“If you can’t make contact with them via phone or email we’ll actually go to the house and pay them a visit,” White said. “And that’s what we did with one of those.”
White said Marion County has a total of 51 cases, evidence that social distancing and other guidelines are working effectively.
“We can do better. We can’t let our guard down,” White said. “If we do this thing could skyrocket in a heatbeat, so continue to do what’s right will get us to where we want to be sooner rather than later.”
According to state DHHR Secretary Crouch Bill Crouch, 56 percent of the 640 people tested in Cabell County were African American. In Marion County, the percentage was 48 percent, 21 percent in Kanawha County and 8 percent of those tested in Monongalia County were African American.
Free #COVID19 testing available to all residents, incl. asymptomatic individuals, in Berkeley, Jefferson, Kanawha, Mineral & Morgan counties on May 29-30. Under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent/legal guardian. Site info: https://t.co/3ScUrXEmP6@WVHHOMA @WVNationalGuard pic.twitter.com/0X5MR9UZSh
— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) May 28, 2020
Drive-thru testing will take place at the following locations Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Berkeley County: Musselman High School, 126 Excellence Way, Inwood
Jefferson County: Hollywood Casino, 750 Hollywood Drive, Charles Town
Kanawha County: Shawnee Sports Complex, One Salango Way, Dunbar
Mineral County (Friday, May 29): American Legion Piedmont, 10 Green Street, Piedmont
Mineral County (Saturday, May 30): School Complex, 1123 Harley O. Staggers Senior Drive, Keyser
Morgan County: Warm Springs Middle School, 271 Warm Springs Way, Berkeley Springs
Residents must bring identification, such as a driver’s license or proof of address. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
The testing will be conducted by county health departments, the state Bureau of Public Health, the West Virginia National Guard and others.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The annual CAMC Foundation Run for Your Life event to raise money and awareness for colorectal cancer will be virtual through June.
CAMC officials are encouraging anyone to join the 5-mile run and 2.5-mile walk by running or walking anywhere in the state. The event is usually held in downtown Charleston, starting and finishing at Haddad Riverfront Park on a Saturday morning.
Josh Sword, co-chair of 2020 CAMC Foundation Run for Your Life Virtual who is also the president of AFL-CIO appeared on Thursday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ to discuss the event that changed due to COVID-19.
“If we can raise money and raise awareness so that we save at least one life, I think we will save a lot more than that, but if we can save at least one life than all this will be worth it,” he said.
Sword is a colorectal cancer survivor and shared his story on ‘Talkline.’ He said in late 2017 he began to experience symptoms and was diagnosed with cancer in March 2018 at 42-years old.
“I had a CT scan and he called me and I was super fortunate that the scan showed it was localized and did not spread. We had one lymph node that was compromised but it hadn’t spread anywhere,” Sword said.
He said he was emotional by that bit of news and its where he began the journey to being cancer-free today. Sword said he went through dozens of radiation and chemo treatments and surgery to remove the tumor.
Sword goes for scans every six months and encourages all people to do the same and raise awareness for the disease.
“The doctors said there is an alarming trend out there and people, primarily males under the age of 50 that are getting diagnosed with colorectal cancer. They said they are just doing all the research we can to figure out exactly why,” Sword said of his experience.
Registrants will receive the following: T-Shirt, choice of cotton or dry-fit, ultralight and versatile gaiter. To register, visit camcfoundation.org.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 28, 2020
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — President Donald Trump has extended the federal deployment designation of West Virginia National Guard troops on duty as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic until Aug. 15.
Gov. Jim Justice announced the continuation of the Title 32 orders by Trump during his coronavirus media briefing Thursday at the state capitol.
“It rewards the members of the National Guard with lots of extra benefits that they deserve,” Justice said.
There were 657 West Virginia National Guard members on active duty Thursday in connection with the coronavirus. They’ve completed more than 1,200 missions since the pandemic began.
The federal designation was set to end June 24.
State Adjutant General, Major General Jim Hoyer said the designation which will carry the Guard members beyond an important 90-day threshold will allow the troops and their families to continue to fall under federal health care coverage, make them eligible for greater GI Bill benefits and make them eligible for early retirement credit.
Hoyer said the designation also saves the state money in Guard paychecks which is being taken care of in full by the federal government.
“Our burn rate is about $3 million a month in payroll for the Guardsmen on duty–so that’s $3 million a month that the state doesn’t have to put out up front,” Hoyer said.
The payroll portion saves the state about $790,000 a month.
The original deployment end date of June 24 would have left Guard members with 89 days of federal service, one day short of qualifying for federal benefits. Justice said he knew President Trump wasn’t going to let that happen.
“There’s no way in the world our president is going to fall into that scenario,” Justice said.
Justice and U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito advocated for the continuation of the designation. Hoyer said the work of the three “made sure this got over the hump.”
Capito applauded Trump’s decision in a statement released Thursday.
“This is fantastic news. Our National Guard plays a tremendous role in our fight against the coronavirus, and they deserve full support and benefits for the vital work they are performing in our communities right now,” Capito said.
Manchin also said he’s pleased with the decision and hopes Trump would support a bill that would continue transitional healthcare benefits for Guard members.
“We cannot leave our National Guard servicemembers without healthcare after they bravely served during this global health crisis,” Manchin said in a Thursday statement. “We must ensure those on the front lines caring for our fellow West Virginians and Americans who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are taken care of during and after their service.”
Hoyer said there are plans in place to keep 160 Guard members on duty under a state designation after Aug. 15.
“They’ll be needed at least we believe through the end of the calendar year and then it will all depend after that as to where we are with things going forward,” Hoyer said.
He said he anticipates the Guard will pay a role in any large-scale vaccination efforts following the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The federal designation for the West Virginia National Guard is the first since 2005 when 1,000 Guard troops helped in efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina.
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Even with more than 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus at a West Virginia prison, Gov. Jim Justice says he is pleased with West Virginia’s coronavirus numbers right now.
“West Virginia, keep on doing it. You’re doing great. Proud of you,” Justice said to conclude a Thursday briefing.
But state officials also acknowledged keeping a close eye on West Virginia’s numbers as the state continues to ease restrictions that were meant to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The R-naught value for West Virginia, which describes transmission rate, has been at 1.
That’s a tipping point.
When the R-naught is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly. When R-naught is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading.
And West Virginia’s daily percent positives bumped to 7.05 at midweek.
Justice said he felt comfortable when a cumulative rate for positive tests — rather than a daily rate — held below 3 percent. It’s still below that, but the number stretches back to March.
The governor attributed growth of both indicators to the surge of confirmed cases at Huttonsville.
“I think the issue, primarily, is Huttonsville, Huttonsville, Huttonsville right now,” Justice said.
By the time of a daily briefing led by the governor at midday Thursday, 105 cases of coronavirus had been identified among the inmates at Huttonsville Correctional Center in Randolph County, which has a capacity of about 1,000.
Justice noted that the standard for testing at West Virginia corrections facilities has been for inmates or staff displaying symptoms of coronavirus.
That led to very few tests.
Aside from Huttonsville, 43 inmates at West Virginia’s other 10 prisons had been tested through Wednesday.
In the 10 regional jails, there have been 93 total tests.
There are 4,770 inmates in West Virginia prisons, 4,545 inmates in jails, 425 in community corrections facilities and 224 in juvenile services facilities.
“We kept testing everyone in our jail facilities that had any symptoms whatsoever, and we were pitching a perfect game,” Justice said. “I mean, we didn’t have any positives or anything else.”
But when an inmate at Huttonsville tested positive last week, Justice ordered testing for the entire unit.
And when that turned up additional positives, the governor ordered testing for the entire prison.
“You’ve got to remember now, we had the positives about a week ago and then, very prudently, what we did was we tested a block, then we had more positives and what I did was say ‘test the whole prison,'” Justice said today.
He added, “It wasn’t like we weren’t testing anyone whatsoever in our prison community. We were testing people with symptoms or any kind of level of sickness, and we had zero.”
With the numbers mounting at Huttonsville, Justice has now pledged to test staff and inmates in the entire corrections system.
A coalition of groups has, for weeks, been urging greater attention in the confined spaces of West Virginia’s prisons and jails.
In an April 27 letter, the groups wrote, “Given the very high risk for this population and for the thousands of West Virginians connected to it in one way or another, we are writing to request that the state make universal testing available to all people detained or employed in these facilities as testing supplies become more available.
“Since studies indicate that many people who have and can spread the virus are asymptomatic, this is the surest way to identify cases of infection and to allow authorities to take appropriate measures in the interest of all West Virginians.”
On April 28, when the topic of inmate testing came up at a daily briefing, general counsel Brian Abraham described the then-current precautions as adequate.
Part of the context was a federal court hearing over West Virginia’s precautions for inmates during the pandemic.
“We are currently testing them,” he said, referring to inmates. “We’ve demonstrated in court in recent weeks that we have proper procedures and plans in place to deal with the prisoners, given the limited testing that’s out there available.”
At that point, Abraham said, there had been 89 tests of inmates, all negative.
“I believe the bureau thinks that there would be no reason to test our entire population, including those who are asymptomatic, when we’re not doing that in the general population public yet, given the limited testing that’s available out there. Until we start testing everybody in the public why would we single out our jail population and test everybody whether they exhibit any symptoms or not?”
On May 9, state Corrections Commissioner Betsy Jividen responded to the groups with a letter describing precautions in the corrections system but also saying testing capacity was not yet adequate for a broad approach.
“As you know, testing capacity has proved a vexing issue not just within West Virginia but nationwide,” Jividen wrote.
“As a result, universal testing is neither available nor mandated for incarcerated results obtained at a specific point in time.”
Several times during Thursday’s briefing, Justice said testing capacity was not adequate a few weeks ago to accommodate all West Virginia’s corrections system. But the governor said there is enough now.
Jason Huffman, the state director for Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian-leaning organization, said testing in the corrections system needs to be a priority now ” to ensure a jail sentence does not turn into a death sentence for folks who lack the freedom to protect themselves.
“Sadly, the threat to inmates, DOC personnel, and surrounding communities has come to fruition,” stated Huffman, whose group was among the coalition.
“Without increased testing and continued smart-on-crime reforms, we can expect the situation to get even worse and COVID continue to spread like wildfire through correctional facilities, as we have seen in other states.”
Justice today said there will be expanded testing in communities surrounding Huttonsville Corrections Center “just to double, triple sure that we don’t have a situation to where we’re leaking out in the community and have additional positives in the community.”
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Every county in West Virginia showed an increase in unemployment in April because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to county-by-county jobless numbers released by WorkForce West Virginia.
Nearly 10,000 Kanawha County residents filed new unemployment claims taking the state’s most populous county’s rate from 5.5 percent in March to 17.8 percent in April. WorkForce West Virginia said there were 14,420 Kanawha County residents unemployed when the numbers were calculated in mid-April.
MORE see interactive map here of county joblessness
Mingo County had the highest jobless rate for the month at 24.7 percent.. Right behind Mingo County in order were Calhoun, Logan, Nicholas, and Hancock counties. All five had an unemployment rates above 20 percent.
The figures, while startling, were to be expected as the state’s economy shutdown in March. Employees were laid off or furloughed by the thousands.
“It’s devastating and it’s directly related to the governmental shutdown due to the Covid virus,” said Mingo County Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith told MetroNews Thursday.
Job losses came in every sector of the county’s workforce, but Smith said the impact to mining in the region was probably the biggest big factor.
“There have been several mines and operations that have been closed down during to the virus and it’s a rippling effect,” he said.
Mining is a significant portion of the Mingo County economy, but the other growing part of the area’s economy is tourism. Tourism took a hit as well when the Hatfield McCoy Trails closed down. Smith said what happened when the trails reopened gives him faith a rebound is coming.
“When the trails opened back up for Memorial Day weekend, the crowds were astronomical. That is a double-edged sword though as you’re trying to battle and control the curve of the virus.”
The state’s lowest unemployment rate for April was Pendleton County at 8.7 percent. Hampshire County’s jobless rate, according to Workforce West Virginia, was 9.9 percent. Those are the only counties in West Virginia with an unemployment rate under 10 percent.
The state’s unemployment rate for the month was 15.8 percent but most experts believe that number now to be the 20 to 22 percent range. More than 200,000 residents have filed for unemployment since mid-March.
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“We had a good harvest this year thanks to a great youth turkey season,” said Mike Peters, wild turkey biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “The youth turkey season expanded to two days this year and it appears our young hunters took advantage of the additional opportunity.”
|Spring harvest of wild turkeys in West Virginia, 2016-2020:|
|Dist. I Subtotal||2,092||2,582||3,418||2,762||2,749|
|Dist. II Subtotal||933||1,032||1,079||1,067||1,012|
|Dist. III Subtotal||1,617||1,731||1,809||1,662||1,521|
|Dist. IV Subtotal||1,982||1,859||1,517||1,521||1,617|
|Dist. V Subtotal||1,810||2,092||1,812||1,840||2,131|
|Dist. VI Subtotal||1,927||2,249||2,652||2,363||2,284|
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A vote on a proposal to lower the state’s buck limit has been pulled from the agenda of Sunday’s Natural Resources Commission meeting.
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Steve McDaniel said he made the decision after receiving an overwhelming number of public comments about the proposal.
“We’ve decided to extend the public comment period for an additional 30 days. We feel everybody should be given the opportunity to state their opinion on something as important as lowering the buck limit,” McDaniel said Thursday.
Due to current restrictions because of the Covid 19 pandemic, Sunday’s meeting is limited to no more than 25 people in the room. The public will have to watch the meeting on the DNR’s Facebook page or on the Department of Commerce’s YouTube Channel. Normally the public comment is a big portion of any Natural Resources Commission meeting. According to McDaniel they receive typically around 35 comments, but this week when the deadline to comment was extended he received more than 600.
“We have 250,000 hunters across the state and from surrounding states. We had no idea we’d get this kind of response. We don’t want to shut off people from voicing their opinion,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said the Governor’s office also favored extending the public comment period another 30 days and will place the vote on lowering the buck limit from three to two on the agenda for the next Natural Resources Commission meeting which will be August 4th.
Still on the agenda Sunday is a presentation by Southwick Associates about a survey of West Virginia sportsmen which explored restructuring the state’s hunting and fishing license system.
“The Southwick Study is somewhat related to the buck limit which has been under consideration for a while, but the Southwick Study is actually much broader than that. It was an effort to look at a complete restructure of our license system in a conceptual kind of way,” said Paul Johansen, Wildlife Section Chief for the West Virginia DNR.
Johansen stressed there are no proposals to increase the cost of license or fees, but they are looking at ways to potentially repackage license offerings to sportsmen to increase revenue and make the process more convenient for sportsmen.
Also up for approval on the agenda Sunday are this fall’s big game bag limit and season date recommendations from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources staff. Commissioners are also due to review small game regulations, changes in fish regulations, and a new set of amphibian regulations which won’t be given final approval until the August meeting.
“The second quarterly meeting focuses primarily on our big game regulations for this fall. It will include all deer, bear, wild turkey, and wild boar regulations,” Johansen said.
The meeting gets started at 1 p.m Sunday.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — An elite performance on one of the biggest stages in amateur track and field elevated Ripley’s Tori Starcher into the national spotlight just over a year ago.
Starcher was well-known in West Virginia running circles as a multiple state championship winner in cross country and track following her sophomore season. A record-breaking run in the mile at the 2019 Penn Relays in Philadelphia reenforced her reputation beyond the mountain state. Competing at the meet for the second time, Starcher finished in a time of 4:38.19, setting a new mark in the prestigious event.
“We were really prepared,” Starcher said. “We had a plan so I wasn’t going to be on my feet all day. It is a really cool atmosphere. To be able to race there in front of a large crowd in the stadium was really exciting. It is definitely a race I won’t forget.”
Starcher didn’t know she had established a new meet record until a post-race interview minutes after the event.
“It really wasn’t on my mind. I just wanted to go out there and go for the win. In my interview after the race, he was telling me all that had happened and that I broke the meet record. And I had no idea who held it or what the record was. It was Mary Cain, who is a super prestigious runner and has accomplished so much.”
A month later, Starcher won three individual events (800m, 1600m and 3200m) and ran anchor leg on the Ripley 4x400m team, leading the Vikings to their second consecutive Class AAA state championship.
Photo by David Pennock/Pennock Photos
Starcher’s senior season was halted by injury during the fall cross country schedule. A stress fracture left her unable to make a run at a second Class AAA individual title and brought her season to an end.
“It was pretty sudden. It hadn’t really been hurting that long. I was sent to the doctor and it was a pretty large stress fracture in my tibia. He said it was all along (the tibia) so if I were to continue to run, it might turn into a snap or a break. That obviously wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
“I spent four weeks at first on crutches and a boot. That turned into eight weeks. That’s when I realized this was probably going to be the end of the season.”
In October, Starcher verbally committed to run at the University of Notre Dame. Five weeks later, she reconsidered and accepted a scholarship offer at Stanford University.
“I wasn’t making the decision myself. I was letting a lot of outside factors determine it for me. It took a little bit of courage. I was almost about to sign the papers and I wanted to go a different route. I had a lot of support from my friends and family after that.”
Starcher says a recruiting trip to California was significant in her decision to join the Cardinal.
“They sent you with the team and you got to go on a ‘day in the life’ with them for a few days. I liked the team culture there and the bonds that they have are super fun. Everyone was so inclusive, kind and nice. It felt like you were already best friends with a lot of them.”
Healthy and ready to compete this spring, Starcher hoped to lead the Vikings’ track and field team to a third consecutive state title. Their season never got started due to the pandemic.
“Our team has really competed well the last four years. It was definitely a big bummer. It happened so suddenly it was almost like you couldn’t process it.”
Starcher joins a Stanford program that finished third in the 2019 NCAA cross country championships and tenth in the 2019 NCAA outdoor track and field championships.
“Hopefully I can contribute points to the team during cross country (as a freshman). And in track season, maybe I can help contribute to the DMR (distance medley relay) or a relay or an open event. I am just really excited to hopefully stay healthy and help out the team however I can.
“I have been able to travel all across the country to race. I have been able to meet so many people and so many friends throughout my four years running in high school. And it has given me an opportunity to go to such a prestigious college. I am really grateful for it.”
(Taylor Kennedy contributed to this report)
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