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Local health officers agree vaccination pace has slowed, so they’re trying to serve small groups

Local health officials in West Virginia agree there’s a decline in demand for covid-19 vaccine, so they’re going out into communities to make vaccinations accessible and to build trust.

Dr. Sherri Young

“At first we could not keep up with demand. We’re doing a little better by going out to smaller places,” said Dr. Sherri Young, health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

“While we’re not getting the thousands and thousands we were, we’re still  getting thousands per week.”

State statistics show that 683,395 West Virginians have received at least one dose of covid-19 vaccine.

The state indicates 513,848 have been fully vaccinated.

But the pace of vaccination appears to have slowed.

The highest number of total vaccinations recently was last Friday with 4,455.

The largest number before that was 9,647 on April 8.

Before that, the state administered 10,874 vaccinations on April 2.

West Virginia administered 14,342 doses on March 31.

And the state administered 16,819 doses on March 26.

Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice and his health advisers say most of the people who were especially motivated to receive vaccinations have now had opportunities to do so.

That leaves some people who are skeptical, some who may be receptive but who haven’t gotten around to vaccination yet, as well as others who may not have consistent access to transportation.

“It is going to slow down. It is going to be a bigger challenge,” Justice said Wednesday, urging people to help organize small groups that might be open to vaccination.

“Contact us. Please contact us and we’ll come. We’ll come and do the congregation. We’ll come and do whoever if you’ll please, please contact us.”

Terrence Reidy

That approach will work, but it is likely to be more methodical than some of the mass vaccination clinics of the past couple of months, said Dr. Terrence Reidy, the Jefferson County health officer.

“Going to small groups, even if you only get ten people at a time, you’ve helped those ten people,” Reidy said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

He agreed that some people are against being vaccinated or have wanted to wait. Reidy said some others are not comfortable with large vaccination events.

“Those who clearly wanted it and anxiously wanted – the low-hanging fruit, if you would – have received their doses,” Reidy said.

.@DrSherriYoung2 and Dr. Terrence Reidy, Jefferson County Health Officer, join @HoppyKercheval to discuss the challenge of getting more people vaccinated. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/vhoQy6MXB1

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 20, 2021

Lloyd White

The slowdown is happening across the entire state, Marion County Health Administrator Lloyd White said this week on “Talk of the Town” on WAJR Radio.

White said local health officials have already started making plans to reach communities that might have lower access to vaccination clinics. “One of the barriers to healthcare is transportation,” White said.

He said the availability of the vaccine has clearly improved, but the challenge now is to reach more people.

“I think it’s a good thing from the standpoint that anybody who wants the vaccine ought to be able to get it,” White said. “However, the downside of that is, do we have folks who just say I don’t want the vaccine?

“The challenge for us moving forward is, how do we educate folks of the value of the vaccine?”

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Hunter wounded in Mason County incident

CHARLESTON. W.Va. — Investigators with the West Virginia Natural Resources Police are looking for a shooter in a Tuesday morning hunting incident in Mason County.

The victim, a man in his 20’s, was wounded by a 12 gauge shotgun blast while turkey hunting. He never encountered the shooter who apparently left the area. The incident happened about 7:40 a.m. Tuesday.

According to Natural Resources Police the victim walked out of the woods and called 9-1-1. He was transported by ambulance to a landing zone and flown by HealthNet to St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington. His condition at this hour is unknown.

NR Police, State Police, and the Mason County Sheriff’s Department continue to look for the suspected shooter.

The incident comes on the second day of the five-week spring gobbler hunting season in West Virginia.

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AEP companies file rate case with West Virginia PSC

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A rate hike request made by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power to the state Public Service Commission this week sought to adjust rates to collect operating expenses the company has already incurred. Company spokesman Phil Moye said the request is almost an annual filing with the PSC and reflects an adjustment for what has already been spent on coal and natural gas to generate power.  The company’s annual vegetation control plan is also part of the filing.

“Really what you’re seeing in the filing is what we call  ‘deferred cost,’ it’s money that’s already been spent, but it’s not yet reflected to be recovered through rates,” Moye explained.

Although the vegetation plan is also part of the annual filing, Moye said that part is not one where they are seeking any additional money. There, the company is asking the PSC to sign off on the plan to clear rights of way which is already in place and has been for several years.

“We’re not asking for an increase there, it’s just part of the filing. We requested to continue with our cycle based trimming program in a way which would allow for the clearing of our rights of way every four years,” he explained.

The total cost of the fuel expense is $73 Million for natural gas and coal. It’s money the company already spent in the past year. Some of those expenses have been sensitive with the financial pressures created by the pandemic.

The broken down cost for customers would be around $8 a month for a household using 1,000 kw hours a month. Moye said the average house which runs on full electricity uses about 1,600 kw hours a month and their cost of the rate increase as proposed would be around $16 a month.

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After ruling that Officer Sicknick died of natural cause, homicide charge less likely for West Virginia man

A medical examiner has concluded that Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick suffered a stroke and died of natural causes the day after being injured while confronting rioters at the breach of the U.S. Capitol.

The medical conclusion does not necessarily meant that the stressful, strenuous events of Jan. 6 didn’t contribute to Sicknick’s death. But observers agree the conclusion makes it less likely that federal prosecutors would bring homicide charges.

George Tanios

A West Virginia sandwich shop operator is accused in the assault of Sicknick and two other officers, but the charges have not sought to hold George Tanios of Morgantown accountable for Sicknick’s death.

Tanios is accused of cooperating with Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania to use the extremely strong pepper spray against officers while other rioters at the Capitol tried to push past  a bicycle rack barrier.

Medical Examiner Francisco Diaz told The Washington Post that an autopsy of Sicknick found no evidence the officer experienced an allergic reaction to chemical irritants. Diaz said that would have caused Sicknick’s throat to rapidly constrict.

In an interview with the Post, Francisco J. Diaz, the medical examiner, said the autopsy found no evidence the 42-year-old officer suffered an allergic reaction to chemical irritants, which Diaz said would have caused Sicknick’s throat to quickly seize. Diaz also said there was no evidence of internal or external injuries.

Diaz told the newspaper that Sicknick experienced two strokes at the base of the brain stem caused by a clot in an artery that supplies blood to that area of the body. The medical examiner noted Sicknick was among the officers who engaged the mob and said “all that transpired played a role in his condition.”

.@PHScoop talks with @HoppyKercheval about the cause of death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and the impact of charges against George Tanios of Morgantown and Julian Khater of State College PA. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/5Kned9WQsB

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 20, 2021

Tanios was arrested March 15. A federal agent wrote in an affidavit that he observed surveillance footage that showed Tanios and Khater “working together to assault law enforcement officers with an unknown chemical substance by spraying officers directly in the face and eyes.”

The agent said the two men appeared to time their spraying to coincide with other rioters’ efforts to remove bike rack barriers meant to prevent the crowd from moving closer to the Capitol.

Officials have said Sicknick was sprayed with the chemical about 2:20 p.m. Jan. 6. He collapsed at the Capitol that night about 10 p.m. and was taken to a hospital. The officer died at the hospital about 9:30 p.m. the following night, Jan. 7.

In a hearing last month in West Virginia, a U.S. magistrate judge denied bond for Tanios, citing the serious and historic circumstances surrounding the allegations. That decision meant Tanios would remain jailed until trial.

In another hearing last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Thomas Hogan said he is still willing to consider bond for Tanios and Khater.

Hogan asked that motions for bond be filed for Tanios and Khater within a week, by April 20. He then asked for response by prosecutors by April 26.

A bond hearing was set for 9:30 a.m. April 27.

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DHHR adds COVID-19 case numbers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources has added 315 additional COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths.

Information released by the agency Tuesday shows total deaths since the pandemic began at 2,789.

The four new deaths include that of a 71-year old male from Raleigh County, an 88-year old male from Raleigh County, a 72-year old female from Kanawha County, and a 61-year old female from Jackson County.

“Our hearts go out to these West Virginians and their families,” state DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said. “Let’s continue taking every precaution we can to slow the spread of this disease.”

Active cases are now at 7,270, hospitalizations at 252 with 81 patients being treated in ICU.

The DHHR reported 513,848 residents have now been fully vaccinated. The agency reported only 341 people were vaccinated Monday.

DHHR reports as of April 20, 2021, there have been 2,623,160 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 149,462 total cases and 2,789 total deaths. https://t.co/QNPzEIO4tg pic.twitter.com/iZCnG3AQzL

— WV Department of Health & Human Resources • 😷 (@WV_DHHR) April 20, 2021

Overall confirmed cases include: Barbour (1,352), Berkeley (11,667), Boone (1,886), Braxton (872), Brooke (2,124), Cabell (8,631), Calhoun (271), Clay (459), Doddridge (551), Fayette (3,284), Gilmer (738), Grant (1,239), Greenbrier (2,628), Hampshire (1,716), Hancock (2,714), Hardy (1,443), Harrison (5,449), Jackson (1,921), Jefferson (4,361), Kanawha (14,145), Lewis (1,138), Lincoln (1,399), Logan (3,007), Marion (4,169), Marshall (3,287), Mason (1,937), McDowell (1,490), Mercer (4,580), Mineral (2,775), Mingo (2,434), Monongalia (8,964), Monroe (1,077), Morgan (1,090), Nicholas (1,519), Ohio (4,050), Pendleton (690), Pleasants (833), Pocahontas (647), Preston (2,814), Putnam (4,833), Raleigh (6,181), Randolph (2,497), Ritchie (663), Roane (581), Summers (769), Taylor (1,199), Tucker (523), Tyler (673), Upshur (1,824), Wayne (2,821), Webster (456), Wetzel (1,213), Wirt (381), Wood (7,580), Wyoming (1,917).

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Crash claims life in Nicholas County

CURTIN, W.Va. — A Webster County woman was killed in a weekend traffic accident in Nicholas County.

According to Nicholas County sheriff’s deputies, Amanda Bragg, 40, of Camden-0n-Gauley, lost control of her vehicle heading west on state Route 55 early Saturday morning near Curtin. The vehicle went over a guardrail and flipped several times before landing in the Gauley River.

Deputies said Bragg’s body was submerged in the water. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The sheriff’s department is continue its investigation.

 

 

 

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Appropriation from governor’s contingency fund will save Cedar Lakes

RIPLEY, W.Va. — What was considered a shaky future for the Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Jackson County looks a lot more certain after an infusion of cash from the Justice Administration. The Governor’s office was able to come up with an appropriation of $1.7 Million from his civil contingency fund to replace funding lost during the last two fiscal years due to the pandemic.

Crescent Gallagher

“The facility experienced a 30-percent revenue decrease in fiscal year ’20 and an 80-percent revenue decrease in fiscal year ’21 just because we were not able to host events, classes, or camps at the facility itself,” said Department of Agriculture Spokesman Crescent Gallagher.

State Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt told lawmakers during the Legislative Session the losses were mounting and without help from somewhere it was looking more and more likely the longtime facility might have to be closed. Temporary staff was laid off and those still on the payroll were directed toward long deferred maintenance projects.

Since July 2016, the WVDA has addressed $578,968 in maintenance needs originally deferred by the West Virginia Department of Education, as well as started renovation of the Assembly Hall with an estimated cost of $1,422,466. These renovations have been supported by additional appropriations from the Legislature.

Gallagher said with the Governor’s funding to replace the losses, the facility outside of Ripley is enjoying a much brighter future. It’s expected to survive the pandemic and be operational for many years to come with even better service to customers after the improvements were made and more are being planned.

“Cedar Lakes is open to the public, taking events, and planning for the future. We’re hoping to bring all of our customers back that we’ve had in previous years and provide more services to the local community. We think Cedar Lakes is important to the state of West Virginia and especially to the Jackson County area,” Gallagher said.

As more restrictions are lifted officials expect more events will be booked at the facility and they are encouraged by the return of one of the biggest, the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair will return July 2-4 this year.

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Charleston Council updates harm reduction program after bill is signed into law

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After nearly four hours of debate, the Charleston City Council on Monday passed a bill placing new restrictions on harm reduction programs.

Council members passed a bill prohibiting organizations from providing hypodermic needles without certification from the state Bureau for Public Health. The council additionally approved changes requiring organizations to attempt to recover all needles distributed with the goal of receiving 90% of all needles and for the syringes to be marked.

Penalties for violating the law include a misdemeanor charge and a possible fine between $500 and $1,000.

The city council delayed the vote on the bill until the state Legislature’s regular 60-day session concluded; Gov. Jim Justice last week signed Senate Bill 334, which requires programs to receive state licensure and for programs to operate with the goal of a one-to-one exchange. Penalties for violating the law also will increase from $500 to up to $10,000.

Unlike the new state law. which will go into effect on July 9, the city’s bill will be in effect in four days.

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MetroNews This Morning 4-20-21

Charleston City Council adjusts rules for a needle exchange program even as a new state law on the program takes effect. The SBA announces award for $75 Million in school construction projects. Governor Justice issues an order cleaning up a number of outstanding rules related to the pandemic even as the state pushes for more people to get vaccinated against Covid 19. In Sports, WVU is grinding toward the Gold and Blue Scrimmage this weekend and WVU women and Marshall’s men are into the NCAA soccer tourney. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 4-20-21” on Spreaker.

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Losing Momentum on Vaccinations

West Virginia has made admirable progress delivering Covid-19 vaccinations to the state’s residents, but now the number of individuals getting shots has slowed significantly.

The number of daily doses administered dropped to just over 4,000 last week, down from nearly 10,000 earlier this month and a peak of just under 17,000 a day at the end of March.

Governor Jim Justice sounded frustrated during Monday’s pandemic briefing when discussing the slowdown, saying some who refuse the vaccine are “hardheaded.”

“There’s some people out there—and bless their hearts, I love them with all my soul—we all have the right to decide, but I really am a firm believer that we don’t have the right to decide when it could endanger someone else.”

A poll by Kaiser Health News released last month found that 13 percent of all respondents say they will “definitely not” be vaccinated.  “Republicans and evangelical Christians were most likely to say they will not get vaccinated, with almost 30 percent of each group saying they will definitely not get a shot.

The poll found that their most common reason was that the vaccines “are too new and not enough information is known about the long-term effects.”  Additionally, people who live in rural areas are less likely to be vaccinated.

West Virginia is not alone. There has been a general slowdown after an initial rush by individuals to get shots, according to Lori Tremel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

“We’re reaching the point where we’re getting to the hard audiences,” Freeman told CNN.  “The ones that either are unsure or on the fence about the vaccine, don’t have enough information or are just plain outright… not interested in the vaccine for other reasons.”

Still, the country and West Virginia have reached a milestone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that half of all U.S. adults have received at least one shot.  West Virginia is keeping pace.  The CDC figures show 51 percent of vaccine-eligible individuals (16+) in the state have received at least one shot.

West Virginia has done a remarkable job given the extremely complicated logistics of delivering nearly 1.2 million doses so far. The effort has been aided by the demand; West Virginians who wanted shots signed up and lined up to get them.

In some ways, the challenge of getting shots in arms is even more difficult now because the demand has waned.  State Covid-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said the slowdown in shots combined with the rise in virus variants is a concern.

“This is not to scare people, but it is a call to arms,” Marsh said.

Dealing with the pandemic has been a marathon, and it feels as though we are nearing the finish line.  However, these last miles are going to be difficult, especially if a large percentage of individuals in West Virginia and across the country decide they will not be vaccinated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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