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Labor leader Rich Trumka dies
Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

WVU gears up for a return to ‘normal’

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU officials are hoping for smooth fall semester, but it will take cooperation and people getting vaccinated.

Students, faculty and staff that are fully vaccinated and have verified their status do not have to follow protocols including surveillance testing, mandatory testing and quarantine following out-of-state travel or possible coronavirus exposure.

Vice President & Executive Dean for Health Sciences Dr. Clay Marsh said fully vaccinated people have more freedom in addition to a high level of protection from the virus.

“Even though people might be able to get reinfected if you’re fully vaccinated,” Dr. Marsh said,” That full vaccination is incredibly protective in protecting you from being really severely ill, being hospitalized, going to the ICU or dying.”

For the last month, active coronavirus cases as well as hospitalizations have been on the rise. Nationally, the CDC reports 83-percent of all new infections are the Delta variant of the virus. West Virginia reports 118 cases of the Delta variant.

“The Delta variant is on the rise and we need to be smart to work to protect ourselves and others,” Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop said,” This is not a mandate, but it is a plea for personal accountability and responsibility as we work together to navigate COVID-19.”

Dean of Students Corey Farris encourages student organizations to consider meetings virtually or outside when possible due to concerns over the Delta variant. Additionally, WVU Up All Night will return fully on August 14.

“Consider instead of using a small classroom, but maybe using a much larger classroom which allows you to spread out a whole lot,” Farris said.

Students participating in club sports are asked to conduct those activities outdoors when possible. Unvaccinated participants will have to wear masks and follow quarantine policies after team out-of-state travel or exposure.

All staff, faculty, students and visitors will be required to wear masks at all time on public transportation.

“Masks will be required for everybody on the PRT, WVU transportation and busses through at least September 13 per Transportation Security Administration guidance,” Alsop said.

Classrooms will be at 100-percent capacity and masks are recommended, plexiglass will be available for those who request it and hand sanitizer will be in ample supply. Students will also follow the regular academic schedule.

“We will not be offering the pass/fail option to students that we offered at the beginning of the COVID crisis,” Reed said,” Faculty and instructors are encouraged to return to their regular attendance policies that they had in place before COVID.”

Welcome Week activities will run from August 12 through August 20 and masks are recommended for larger events.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Monongalia County Commission declares State of Emergency in response to July 29 storms

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monongalia County Commission has officially declared a State of Emergency for the county due to excessive rainstorms.

During Commission’s regular meeting Wednesday, the declaration was approved unanimously after Monongalia County Emergency Management Director Jimmy Smith gave an update on the amount of damage that has been accounted for by officials. In the intense rainstorm that brought close to six inches of rain in less than three hours, damage was confirmed to be seen in several homes and businesses in the Morgantown Area and more are expected to report damage.

“As of this morning we’ve received one hundred and twenty-three preliminary damage assessment reports, and those are just from individuals and businesses,” said Smith updating Commission on some of the damage that has been reported.

In declaring the State of Emergency, Monongalia County residents who took damage as a result of the July 29 storms, will be eligible for more FEMA funds that are designated for such weather events. The decision to take the rout of the emergency declaration, was made after Monongalia County Commission looked to potentially use designated funds for the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority to help those who in some cases, took catastrophic damage.

“And I just want it known that as she (Executive at the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority) found out, that they don’t do rehabilitation anymore,” said Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom. “And that’s where I thought that money was going from the grant, I thought that was one of the avenues, so with this this will really open some doors,” he said.

For Monongalia County residents, any kind of support will be accepted as people residing in multiple parts of the county told their experiences involving the extreme rainstorms that took place on July 29 and the damage that came with it. While speaking in front of Commission during the public portion of the meeting, residents described flooding that took away decades of hard work and memories in less than three hours.

“I have insurance but not flood insurance and my house may be totally lost,” said Westover resident Diana Moore. “We don’t know for sure yet but the foundation might have moved on the other side, I got to get it checked,” she said.

With the State of Emergency officially in effect in Monongalia County, residents who experience damage as a result of the July 29 storms are being asked to fill any FEMA Emergency Assessment Forms. In doing so, a resident will officially be tallied among the hundreds who have already gave their reports to the the Monongalia County Emergency Management Center, who will then send the forms to FEMA, where they’ll assess the financial compensation for the damage. Local emergency officials are encouraging anyone whose experienced damage to fill a report so a complete list can be sent to state and national officials.

“We will also be submitting our first hundred reports for damage assessment down to the state today, with the declaration” said Smith regarding what’s to come next. “We have set a deadline of next Wednesday that we’ve asked all individuals to have those reports provided to our office,” he said.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

New air ambulance added in the region

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – HealthNet Aeromedical Services and WVU Medicine have added a new helicopter to serve the emergency medical needs of people across the state.

WVU President Gordon Gee, President and CEO of WVU Medicine Albert Wright, HealthNet Aeromedical Services President and CEO Clinton Burley and Dr. Chris Goode, chair of the WVU School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine cut the ribbon to officially add the aircraft to the fleet.

President and CEO of HealthNet Aeromedical Services, Milton Burley said the upgraded aircraft will be an important addition to their fleet.

“It’s an Airbus EC145e model. The investment of WVU Medicine in this aircraft exceeds $7.4 million ,” Burley said,” It is a huge investment in a very important life saving tool.”

HealthNet Aeromedical Services operates nine bases in the state, one in Kentucky in order to provide timely service.

Dr. Chris Goode, chair of the WVU School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine said the partnership they have allows them cover the entire state effectively.

“Whether you’re at Snowshoe riding a mountain bike, whether you’re in Dolly Sods taking a hike or whether you’re just driving down one of the interstates we know between this network and partnership with EMS agencies and partnership with HealthNet that we can get you the care you need, when you need it,” Dr. Goode said.

According to Burley, the new helicopter was specially selected because of it’s ability to handle the wide variety of weather conditions and terrain pilots face on a daily basis.

“We invest in these large twin-engine helicopters that are instrument flight rated to fly in and above the clouds,” Burley said,” So, when someone needs access to care from rural areas we can get the right asset and the medical crew right there to where they are.”

WVU Medicine President and CEO Albert Wright said taking care of the patient is the mission, but the flight crew has to be able to navigate to the scene and safely land.

“We want to give that flight crew and pilots the ultimate safety and capability in whatever weather conditions you have to come through,” Wright said.

HealthNet Aeromedical Services is celebrating 35 years of transporting patients in emergency situations this year. President and CEO Clinton Burley said the concept has evolved over they years and has proven to save lives and improve health outcomes.

“The combination of an expert medical crew and the speed of a helicopter combined to save lives is important in flat lands, but it’s doubly important in a state with the terrain we have here.”

The new aircraft joins HealthNet Aeromedical Services’ current Airbus-exclusive fleet, consisting of two additional EC-145s, five EC-135s, and three EC-130s.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Governor and team continue to work for a Mylan solution

MORGANTOWN – Production at the former Mylan pharmaceutical plant in Morgantown has ceased, but efforts to save the plant and 1,400 jobs have not, according to Gov. Jim Justice.

During the live coronavirus briefing Wednesday, Justice said multiple efforts are ongoing to find a company to operate the facility.

“We’re not ready to quit,” Justice said. “We’re not ready to lay down our pens. We continue to work like crazy to try to help.”

The plant, operating under the drug company Viatris, officially closed last Saturday. Viatris first announced the closing last December as part of cost-cutting plans.

Justice expressed disappointment Wednesday that efforts to to get federal help to keep the plant open have thus far been fruitless.

“I think it’s pitiful, pitiful, absolutely pitiful that our federal government at this time, with something as critical as pharmaceuticals are to our citizens, is just deciding to sit on the sideline and let this catastrophe happen.”

He said multiple state and federal elected officials have written letters to the Biden-Harris administration and to Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly about using the plant as part of the nation’s efforts to battle the pandemic.

For 56 years the plant produced everything from supplements to a variety of medications. The demand for those products will still be met, but likely from an off-shore location creating security and supply chain concerns.

“You’ve got a situation where a plant was producing pharmaceuticals that were the best, of the best, of the best, of the best,” Justice said. “Now we’re going to farm that out to India where the dependability is marginal at best.”

Justice said he has been working with First District Congressman David McKinley on a dedicated bill that would specifically target keeping plant in operation. Justice said McKinley is facing opposition among his peers and has considered including the proposal with other legislation.

Justice encourages people to contact the congressman to express support for the effort.

“They’re trying to tag it along to other bills and maybe that’s the only way to do it,” Justice said. “He needs your help, we need your help, we need everybody’s help.”

The plant is officially in the process of being dismantled, but Justice said his team continue conversations with possible suitors.

“There’s the potential of other things going on that I can’t disclose to you. There are conversations going on right now that could solve this riddle,” he said.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Local officials watch hospital utilization as surge continues

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The continuing spike in coronavirus activity has hospital officials again looking at contingency plans to prepare for the possibility of a surge in virus cases.

At WVU Medicine, President and CEO Albert Wright said they are watching the situation closely and consulting with other hospital systems to anticipate what level the surge will reach.

“We’re taking a watch and see approach,” Wright said,” I have read that more folks are getting the vaccine around the country and that’s our best defense at this point.”

For well over one year, healthcare workers have had around-the-clock schedules fighting the virus, while managing personal protective equipment supplies, visitation policies and the severity of the virus. According to Wright, this has been the most challenging period for many in the healthcare field.

“Last December and January were probably the hardest time in my career and for those on the frontline it was definitely the hardest time in their career,” Wright said,” They don’t want to see us go through that again.”

Around July 4, hospitalizations had dropped to 52, but since they have made a steady rise to 178, 64 are in the ICU and 25 are on ventilators. Additionally, active cases have been increasing as well signaling hospitalizations could continue to climb.

In January of 2021, hospitalizations reached a pandemic high of more than 800.

More than ten years ago, a study done by the National Academy of Sciences raised concerns about a national shortage of nurses, physicians and healthcare support workers.

The pandemic has made it even harder to hire and keep healthcare workers.

“We’re all struggling for nurses and frontline staff right now, so it would be hard for us to manage a surge,” Wright said,” We’d get it done, we always do, but it would be more challenging than it was at the beginning of the year when we had those high numbers.”

As numbers rise, Wright said they have resumed planning meetings and are again looking at contingencies in case the surge is sustained.

“We’re reopening some of our incident command centers and looking at what happens if we see a tick up, or a rapid tick up,” Wright said,” If we have to convert some of the units we’ve use in the past back to full-time COVID we’ll have to do that.”

Data from the DHHR shows new daily cases have number more than 100 since July 26. After falling below 1,00 active cases of the virus now number 2,585. Cases of the Delta variant have increased to 118.

“I hope we don’t see what we saw in January, I’m optimistic we won’t, but we’ll be ready if we have to be,” Wright said.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Former Mylan plant receives critical infrastructure designation from the Department of Homeland Security

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A potential solution for the closing former Mylan Plant in Morgantown is appearing to show some life.

Not even a week after the pharmaceutical plant that was formerly owned by Viatris, officially closed it’s doors for official business, Monongalia County Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer announced on WAJR’s Talk of the Town Tuesday that the plant was granted a critical infrastructure facility designation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). With this designation, the plant that was considered a non-recoverable loss with 1,400 jobs going down with it, is now getting some level of direction towards coming back to life.

“They (CISA) confirmed that the plant has critical infrastructure designation, so I was very happy with the response,” said Fleischauer regarding the letter

This request by Fleischuer was one of several that were made ahead of the former Mylan Plant’s scheduled shutdown on July 31. As part of the former Mylan Plant’s designation as critical infrastructure, efforts can be made on a government level, to work with either Viatris, or another company to use the facility as part of the designation. This would include the requirement of not selling off pieces of the plant or to keep the plant idle. Keeping in mind the COVID-19 pandemic and the immediate lessons to be learned about outsourcing medical supplies, Fleischauer hopes the facility that was known for over a half a century for making generic pharmaceuticals, can stay that way.

“Well I envisioned that it would be used for pharmaceuticals because that’s what the designation was for,” said Fleishchauer on Talk of the Town. “But I know behind the scenes, there is work going on to try to put something together,” she said.

While nothing is officially confirmed, Fleischauer stated that she believes efforts are being made on a federal level to work with a company to keep the plant open. Using the similar example of a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Bristol, Tennessee, she hopes that a solution can be found within the next few months, giving a potential lifeline for the former Mylan Plant and it’s 1,400 workers, even if it’s just for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There would have to be some kind of an agreement with Viatris, but I know behind the scenes there is work going on to try to put something together using that letter,” she said.

While the ball is rolling in the right direction, there is not official time frame or status of the negotiations for the operations of the former Mylan Plant and it’s emergency designation. According to Fleischauer, with this designation, it will buy extra time for the plant to actually find a company willing to use the facility for more than just a profit-and-scrap operation. Even though the possibilities are still slim to none, the slim margin has increased slightly in keeping jobs in Monongalia County and in North Central West Virginia.

“I don’t think anything is going to happen immediately,” said Fleischauer. “It took a couple of months for them to work something out in Bristol, but I’m happy that this designation happened, and I’m hopeful that it will lead us to a way to save the plant,” she said.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

MUB looks to partner with city, county on Suncrest drainage work

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Following two significant rain events in Morgantown MUB is asking for the city and county commission to share the cost of repairs to portions of the Popenoe Run storm and sanitary sewer systems.

On June 13, rainfall totals of up to six inches in a matter of hours flooded homes and businesses. The rain flooded Patteson Drive leaving some motorists stranded.

The, July 29 a similar significant rain event hit the same area again.

“We had another extremely isolated deluge rain event that dropped anywhere from 4 to over 6 inches of rain in about three hours time,” Hacker said.

According to Hacker, the storm water system performed as it should have. However, the amount of rain was well over the design parameters of the system.

Improvements to the system would help prevent flooding during historic rain events.

“The sanitary sewer system needs to be upgraded and we would do a stream restoration project,” Hacker said,” That would put back a flood bench and create a flood plain and stabilize the stream banks.”

The rules for spending money provided to municipalities through the American Rescue Plan place a priority on water and sewer infrastructure projects. The city of Morgantown will receive more than $11 million while the county will receive more than $20 million.

” We’ve asked for a little more than $2 million to assist with the project- you can imagine something like that is quite expensive,” Hacker said,” The recent events that we’ve had really show the project is needed in the area.”

The Monongalia County commission has agreed to support the project.

The city of Morgantown has pledged to help, but made it clear no allocation decisions will be made until the public input phase about the funds is complete. The city has an online survey period for residents until August 21. Public meetings are planned for August 18 and September 1. A final list of priorities could be released by the middle of September.

The Popenoe Run storm and sanitary sewer system improvement project would be completed by a private contractor. Work to development plans for bidding and permits to complete the work would not begin until the project financing is in place.

” A design phase and a permitting phase that would follow that,” Hacker said, Any kind of stream project requires quite a bit a permitting that can take time to achieve.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Morgantown animal cruelty suspect sentenced

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The suspect accused of choking a Dalmation has been sentenced in Monongalia County Circuit Court.

Judge Phillip Gaujot sentenced Jesse Workman, 23, of Morgantown, to a suspended 1 to 5 year prison sentence and placed him on unsupervised probation for six months. Additionally, Judge Gaujot denied a request from prosecutors asking Workman to pay $110 to the Monongalia County Canine Center.

Workman was arrested in August of 2020 and charged with animal cruelty after police received a video of the choking incident. Investigators say the video was recorded in February of 2020.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

WVRC Radio Chief Dale Miller Retires

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Dale Miller, the long-time president and CEO of West Virginia Radio Corporation (WVRC), announced his retirement Tuesday.

“Everything in life has a beginning, middle and end. The real art is to know when that end is upon us,” Miller, 69, said in an email to the staff.

John Raese, president and CEO of Greer Industries and Chairman of the Board of West Virginia Radio Corporation, said, “Dale has had a long and outstanding career leading WVRC for over 44 years. We will miss his leadership but even more so we will miss him as a friend and colleague in the daily life of our business. We wish Dale the very best in his retirement. It is well deserved.”

Miller, a St. Louis native, began his career with WVRC in 1977. At the time, the company operated WAJR-AM and FM (now WVAQ) in Morgantown. During his tenure, Miller expanded the company to include 30 radio stations in West Virginia and Maryland.

Miller also grew the company’s holdings in related fields.

He launched the MetroNews Radio Network in 1985. The statewide network distributes news and sports programming to 60 radio stations and 91 radio signals. MetroNews also holds radio and television rights for the production and broadcast of state high school sports post-season tournaments. MetroNews has won four national and 33 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards since 2002.

Also in 1985, Miller supervised the construction and operation of Greer Pavilion, a multi-purpose entertainment venue in Westover that hosted top talent concerts including Hall & Oates, Ray Charles, and many others.

The Mountaineer Sports Network was a particular source of pride for Miller. He oversaw the production and radio broadcast of West Virginia University football and basketball games from 1977 until 2013. He personally produced each of the football broadcasts.

Miller formed Pikewood Creative in 2003. The video production company, which specializes in storytelling, has won numerous awards including five Emmys.

Miller is nationally recognized among his peers for excellence and contributions to the broadcasting industry.

He served two terms as a member of the National Association of Broadcasters Board of Directors. He is a past president of the West Virginia Broadcasters Association, and he was awarded the Association’s highest honor in 1993 when he was named Broadcaster of the Year.

WVAQ-FM, the company’s flagship station in Morgantown, has won five Marconi Awards from the National Association of Broadcasters during Miller’s tenure.

Miller built a reputation as a hands-on manager who recruited and developed talent both on the air and behind the scenes. “The relationships I have developed over these 44 years with so many of you are those things I cherish the most in my life,” Miller wrote in his email to the staff.

“We have accomplished so much together and have earned high praise and national awards,” Miller said. “We’ve also had a fabulous time doing it all.”

Miller had an unrelenting work ethic which spilled over into his commitment to the community. A lifelong baseball fan, he operated the Morgantown Post 2 American Legion baseball program for more than 30 years, helping to develop nearly 100 collegiate players.

Last Saturday, the American Legion baseball field at Mylan Park near Morgantown was named Dale Miller Field in his honor.

Miller and his wife Tammy have five children and nine grandchildren. Miller said he plans to spend more time with them in his retirement.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV