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WVU officials urge ‘personal accountability’ with fall semester approaching

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU officials are hoping for a smooth fall semester, but they said Thursday it will take cooperation and more of those associated with the campus community getting vaccinated to make it happen.

Dr. Clay Marsh

Several WVU officials participated in a campus conservation event to further explaining COVID-19 related adjustments to the fall semester opening announced earlier this week.

Students, faculty and staff who 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.

WVU 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 re-infected if you’re fully vaccinated that full vaccination is incredibly protective in protecting you from being really severely ill, being hospitalized, going to the ICU or dying,” Marsh said.

For the last month, active coronavirus cases as well as hospitalizations have been on the rise. Nationally, the CDC reports 83% of all new infections are the Delta variant of the virus. West Virginia reports 118 cases of the Delta variant but state officials have said the actual number is likely significantly higher.

Rob Alsop

WVU Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop said that’s a very good reason for more people to be vaccinated.

“The Delta variant is on the rise and we need to be smart to work to protect ourselves and others,” 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.”

WVU Dean of Students Corey Farris said the university is encouraging student organizations to consider meetings virtually or outside when possible due to concerns over the Delta variant.

“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. Those who are not vaccinated 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 buses through at least September 13th per Transportation Security Administration guidance,” Alsop said.

WVU Provost Maryanne Reed

Classrooms will be at 100% 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, WVU Provost Maryanne Reed said.

“We will not be offering the pass/fail option to students that we offered at the beginning of the COVID crisis,” she 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 Aug. 12-20 with masks recommended for larger events. Classes begin Aug. 18.

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Morrisey anticipates trial next spring against opioid manufacturers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is applauding a decision by the state Mass Litigation Panel (MLP) to schedule the state’s lawsuit against three drug manufacturers, including a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, for trial.

Patrick Morrisey

The panel granted Morrisey’s request for an expedited trial this week. It’s scheduled to begin April 4, 2022 before the MLP in Charleston.

“We can now proceed with cases where we think we can utilize our authority, get it to court quickly, and try to have a resolution on accountability from these drugmakers,” Morrisey told MetroNews Thursday.

The case alleges Johnson & Johnson, its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva and Endo all misrepresented their opioids when they convinced doctors, pain clinics and other health care facilities to prescribe them for pain.

“The companies knew that these products were addictive and that people in West Virginia would get hooked on them and we believe when we get into court we’ll be able to show that,” Morrisey said.

Attorney Rusty Webb, who also represents the state, said getting a trial date puts the proper focus on the case against Johnson & Johnson after the state refused to take part in the national settlement involving the company.

Rusty Webb

“They either have to deal with us individually as a state and then counties and cities or they have to deal with us as a group for a global West Virginia settlement,” Webb said.

Webb admitted all of the lawsuits against the opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies can be difficult to follow but what’s important is getting the cases scheduled for trials.

“This will now put the focus back on West Virginia and Johnson & Johnson and the other manufacturers,” he said.

Harrison County and Clarksburg have a trial scheduled to begin Nov. 1 against opioid distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. Cabell County and Huntington are awaiting a judge’s decision on a case against those three companies that ended last week after 40 days of trial.

Morrisey said Thursday his office will continue to listen to the defendants in the case against the manufacturers concerning a possible settlement but going to trial is more likely.

“We know the previous settlement offer was absolutely unacceptable, that was part of the national settlement that West Virginia’s rejecting,” Morrisey said. “We’re always open to what people have to say but we’re gearing up, getting ready for April 4th.”

Morrisey will travel next week to New York to argue against a bankruptcy court settlement involving Purdue Pharma. Morrisey said the distribution language is unfair to West Virginia in that case.

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Three Guys Before The Game – Camping Time (Episode 302)

Preseason training camp has begun for the West Virginia University football team.  The Mountaineers practice for the first time on Friday.

On this episode, Hoppy, Brad and Tony look ahead to the coming season and present their latest thoughts on conference movement. 

Hoppy explains how this is actually coach Neal Brown’s true first season with the Mountaineers, and explains how gold digging is similar to reporting on conference changes. 

The “Guys” return next week with their first training camp report. 

Three Guys Before The Game is brought to you by Burdette Camping Center  WV Game Changer  and Komax Business Systems Don’t forget to check out Three Guys merchandise.

Never miss an episode, subscribe below.

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Heavy equipment operators union pushes for infrastructure bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. –Leaders with the union representing heavy equipment operators are among the biggest advocates of getting an infrastructure deal done in Washington D.C.

“Growth comes to the economy when there is construction. We’re excited when you see a crane in the air or a cone on the road. We know it’s a little bit of a delay, but it means there’s construction and growth and that’s good for our members,” said Justin Williams, Attorney with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 132.

The local is based in Charleston, bur represents heavy equipment operators all over the Mountain State. The union is in constant contact with West Virginia’s Congressional Delegation to get an infrastructure bill approved which promises good jobs for their workers.

Williams noted the clean energy jobs have been big for their members in West Virginia.  He noted every windmill erected in the Mountain State has used union labor. However, to the union it doesn’t matter what kind of construction is happening.

“We’re not giving up on any jobs. If we can build it, we’re in to build it. Whether it’s a windmill, a pipeline, or highway work we want to build it all. These are great opportunities and good jobs for our members,” he explained.

Congress continued to make progress on the deal and Williams was confident something would eventually come out of the ongoing talks. He wasn’t worried about a complete breakdown and failure in the negotiations.

“We know it has to be bi-partisan because people want it. It doesn’t matter who is supporting it, everybody wants new roads and to fix roads and to get rid of the potholes,” he said.

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Retired coal association chief Bill Raney is named commissioner to regulate energy

Gov. Jim Justice has named the recently retired president of the West Virginia Coal Association to be one of three commissioners making regulatory decisions about energy.

Bill Raney

Bill Raney’s appointment to the state Public Service Commission went forward Monday, according to filings with the West Virginia Secretary of State.

He would fill a seat vacated by Brooks McCabe, a former state senator whose term expired June 30. Commissioners may begin to serve as soon as they are sworn in but would still be subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

Raney, who declined comment today, would serve alongside current PSC Chairwoman Charlotte Lane, who is a former state lawmaker and former appointee to the U.S. International Trade Commission, and Renee Larrick, former business manager for the law firm run by her husband, former state Lottery Commissioner Allen Larrick.

Commissioners serve six-year staggered terms, but the new appointment would mean all have been named by Justice, whose family has significant coal holdings. The Justice administration said the governor did not plan to comment today but would offer comments during a state briefing on Friday.

As a longtime face of the coal industry, Raney was known for his loyalty to coal and widely admired for his friendly disposition. But this role would mean a change in perspective to a regulator of essential utility services such as energy, telecommunications and water with a focus on what’s best for the ratepayers.

Charlie Burd

Charlie Burd, executive director of the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia, said he believes Raney can take on that new perspective.

“Above all, we’re going to know Bill to be very fair with utilities and pipelines and those things that are important to consumers with regards to abundant low-cost energy for their homes whether that be electric or natural gas,” Burd said.

“I think in his new role we absolutely look forward to working with bill as he, the Public Service Commission and our association seek low-cost energy options for all West Virginia citizens.”

Derrick Williamson

Derrick Williamson, acting executive director of the West Virginia Energy Users Group, stated that he “appreciates Mr. Raney’s willingness to serve and is optimistic that Commissioner Raney will be appreciative of the continuing challenges facing West Virginia business and industry as it relates to ever increasing electric rates.”

Raney led the West Virginia Coal Association for 28 years as president and chief executive. Raney earlier served as the vice president of the West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association until he joined the West Virginia Coal Association in 1992. The two organizations merged in 2000.

He announced his retirement at the end of last year.

Raney’s coal industry career started in 1970 when he worked as a surface mine inspector in the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Reclamation. He was later promoted to assistant chief.

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Labor leader Rich Trumka dies

WASHINGTON, D.C. — One of the nation’s most powerful labor leaders in modern times has died.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka died Thursday.

Rich Trumka

Trumka, 72, had served as the leader of the powerful labor federation for nearly a decade. Reports indicated he suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack.

Before taking the leadership role at the AFL-CIO, Trumka served as International President of the United Mine Workers of America from 1982 to 1995. Trumka served as Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO from 1995 until his election as its president in 2009.

 

“Richard and I were partners in leadership at the UMWA for many years, but we were more than that. He was my brother, he was my friend, he was my confidant.” https://t.co/Z7nOXOimvr

— United Mine Workers (@MineWorkers) August 5, 2021

“This is just a real shock and a real tragedy,” West Virginia AFL-CIO President Josh Sword told MetroNews Thursday. “This is a tragic loss for the labor movement, not only for this country but for the entire world.”

Josh Sword

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin called the news of Trumka’s death heart-breaking.

“Rich’s story is the American story – he was the son and grandson of Italian and Polish immigrants and began his career mining coal. He never forgot where he came from. He dedicated the rest of his career to fighting for America’s working men and women,” Manchin said. “He was a fierce advocate for working people and a truly decent man. Most importantly, he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. Gayle and I will keep Barbara, Rich Jr. and the many people who loved Rich in our prayers as they mourn this tragic loss.”

A native of Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, Trumka went to work in the coal mines in 1968. He graduated from Penn State in 1971 and received a law degree from Villanova in 1974. He served as a staff attorney for the UMWA from 1974 to 1979. He was elected to the District 4 Board of Directors in 1979 and was elected International President in 1982.

My statement on the death of my dear friend Richard Trumka: pic.twitter.com/CJHKGwPaM9

— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) August 5, 2021

He led the UMWA through some of their most famous strikes and labor disputes including the strike against Pittston Coal Company in 1989 and a nationwide strike against the Bituminous Coal Operators Association in 1993 which included Consolidation Coal and Peabody Coal companies.

Sword said he was just on the phone with Trumka and other labor leaders a few days ago in connection with their support of the PRO Act. He said Trumka planned a few days with his family.

Trumka speaking at a 2013 UMWA rally.

“He had a heart attack, wherever they were, and he didn’t make it,” Sword said.

Trumka was sworn into office as president of the UMWA at the Charleston Civic Center two days before Christmas in 1982. It was a turbulent time for the union and previous President Sam Church didn’t concede the election until the day of the inauguration.

The New York Times reported as his first act Trumka convened a special meeting of the union’s executive board to deal with the union’s financial crises. The UMWA at the time had been hemorrhaging cash with 42,000 of its 160,000 members laid off and not paying dues as active members. Also at the time the amount of coal produced by union workers had dropped from 70% to 40% in a decade’s time.

The Times reported Trumka played on the symbolism of the ceremony.

“Mr. Trumka said, it was the first mine workers’ inauguration ever held in the coal fields. He pledged that ”now the hard work begins” to rebuild the miners’ faltering union into ”the greatest labor organization ever conceived by men.”

Also inaugurated that day was the union’s new Vice-President, Cecil Roberts of Cabin Creek, West Virginia. Now President of the UMWA, Roberts released the following statement on Trumka’s passing Thursday.

Cecil Roberts

“The global labor movement has lost a giant. Richard Trumka was more than the leader of the American Labor Movement, he was an unequaled voice for the workers around the world.

“Born the son of a coal miner in Nemacolin, PA, Richard learned the critical necessity for unions at an early age. His rise from coal miner to President of the UMWA to Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO and then to President of the AFL-CIO was an inspiration to us all. I had the honor of nominating Richard as Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO when he was first elected, and nominated him for that office and for the presidency, every election after that.

“Richard and I were partners in leadership at the UMWA for many years, but we were more than that. He was my brother, he was my friend, he was my confidant.

“The hearts and prayers of the entire UMWA family are with his wife, his children and his grandchildren. We will miss him terribly, but we know that he has joined Mother Jones, John L. Lewis, William Green, Phil Murray, and all other UMWA leaders who have gone before him.

“Rest in peace Brother. I will miss you.”

Sword said Trumka’s ability to keep the labor movement as a whole on the same for so long is remarkable.

“It’s almost impossible but he was able to do it. I think part of the reason he was able to do it because of the passion he had for workers,” Sword said.

Trumka at the March 2015 rally on the steps of the state capitol.

One of Trumka’s last appearances in West Virginia came in March 2015 at a union rally on the steps of the state capitol as the new Republican-controlled legislature was considering right to work legislation.

“When you turn the lights on in a dark room that’s full of cockroaches those cockroaches scatter for cover everywhere,” Trumka said, turning around at pointing toward the capitol. “We’re going to turn the lights on them every day and take this state back. God bless you and keep up the fight.”

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Ohio County health official: WV needs to focus on vaccines over masks

WHEELING, W.Va. — A health official from Ohio County says face coverings are just one way to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections and that the focus should be on increasing vaccinations.

On Wednesday, state education leaders left COVID guideline decisions, such as mask wearing, social distancing, in the hands of county schools boards.

Howard Gamble

Howard Gamble, administrator for the Wheeling-Ohio Health Department, said vaccines need to be at the forefront of those discussions and that masks should be secondary.

“The masks is relatively small and I think that’s how we need to view this,” Gamble told MetroNews on Thursday. “If we have more vaccinated, we won’t have to rely on a mask protocol to limit the spread of disease.”

Gamble said statewide decisions are more consistent. He’s concerned about how individual counties will deal with an increase in cases.

“What I may recommend to our schools and our higher education here is going to be very different than what maybe Kanawha or Mercer counties recommend and that is concerning for public health. I would prefer a universal decision that we’re all going to do this and move forward,” he said.

The priority in his county to get more shots in arms for students 12 and older before classes start. Gamble meet with school officials in Ohio County Thursday along with West Liberty, Bethany College and Wheeling University officials to discuss the department’s recommendations regarding testing, vaccinations masking and other guidelines.

“We’re recommending that students K-12 return to school and not have a mask requirement, but we are recommending that all teachers, staff and volunteers that are unvaccinated remain masked while in the schools,” Gamble said.

Currently, 60 percent of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated in Ohio County. Gamble said the goal is to reach 80 percent.

Cases in Ohio County continue to trend upward. About six new cases were reported there from Wednesday to Thursday with another 12-24 cases possible.

Gamble said the virus is still spreading, but it’s no longer impacting long term care facilities.

There are no reported cases of the Delta variant in Ohio County, but Gamble said “more than likely” they do have cases related to that strain, but are just not calculated yet.

On Thursday, the state Department of Health and Human Resources reported 118 Delta cases, 403 new cases and five new deaths. The state surpassed 3,100 active cases, the highest number since June 9.

On the County Alert System, Marshall and Wyoming counties remain in the red.

A total of 13 counties are in orange, the second-highest alert level: Cabell, Fayette, Lewis, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Ohio, Randolph, Raleigh, Upshur, Wayne, Webster and Wetzel.

There are seven counties in gold, 14 in yellow and 19 in green.

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Slay lands unique position as member of Cavaliers’ coaching staff in summer league

— By Taylor Kennedy

Former Beckley-Woodrow Wilson and Marshall basketball standout Tamar Slay will be joining this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers summer league coaching staff.

Prior connections to current Cavaliers’ head coach J.B. Bickerstaff helped Slay land the position.

“We go way back,” Slay said on his relationship with Bickerstaff. “He and his father trained me for the draft before being selected. I played for those guys with the Bobcats. I reached out to him two months ago and asked if he had any opportunities for summer league. He texted me a week ago and said they got something.

Cleveland will play four games between August 8-14 on the campus of UNLV.

“It has been an amazing first two days,” Slay noted. “Working with these guys who recently got drafted and free agents has been fun.”

.@slay9 speaks with @TonyCaridi, @BradHowe07, and @HunterWvu88bgn about joining @cavs summer league coaching staff. WATCH: pic.twitter.com/Bodwm3W55H

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) August 4, 2021

The Cavs have 12 players currently listed on their summer league roster, including the third overall pick in last week’s NBA Draft — USC’s Evan Mobley. Mobley was named the Pac-12’s Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Freshman of the Year.

“He is so long,” Tamar said. “He is legit seven-foot. He can play inside out. He always gets the rebound. He can shoot the ball. The only thing he is lacking is strength, and he is a quiet kid. He needs to insert himself, including vocally. He is going to have a long career and be an all-star.”

Slay was drafted in the second round with the 54th pick during the 2002 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets. He spent three years in the league playing for the Nets and Charlotte Bobcats. He is currently the head basketball coach at United Faith Christian Academy in Charlotte.

Slay will look to combine his playing and coaching knowledge with the Cavs.

“We try to keep it simple,” Slay said. “You don’t want to throw too much at them. You do want to put some stuff in that way they have team chemistry and flow offensively. The coaches are putting out their principles defensively, but it is really simple.”

Prior to the NBA, Slay was a four-year starter for Marshall from 1998-2002. He left the Thundering Herd with 1,792 career points.

“The biggest thing is their IQ”, Slay noted on the biggest transition college kids make heading into the pros. “It is knowing how to read situations. How to play without the ball instead of relying on their talent. The overall size and athleticism is a big jump from college to the pros.”

Slay has been fortunate to learn from top minds at all levels. He played for Dave Barksdale at Woodrow Wilson. He spent his four years in Huntington with Mullens native Greg White. He spent two seasons playing for former Lakers guard Bryon Scott with the Nets. Slay finished his NBA career playing for Bernie Bickerstaff, J.B.’s father.

“I am a mixture of all my coaches,” Slay noted. “I technically played for a new coach every season. I got a whole lot in my pot that I can take from each coach. That helps me out a lot because I learned a lot from all my coaches.”

The Cavaliers’ first summer league game is Sunday at 8 p.m. against the Houston Rockets and will air on ESPN2.

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DHHR: Active COVID cases now above 3,000

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Active COVID-19 cases are back above the 3,000 mark in West Virginia after the state Department of Health and Human Resources added 403 new cases in Thursday’s daily report.

There are now 3,108 active cases, a number that has increased significantly in the past few weeks. Three weeks ago active cases stood at 1,225. The most recent low in active cases, 882, was reached less than a month ago on July 9.

The last time active cases topped 3,000 was June 10.

The DHHR also added five deaths Thursday including a 61-year old male from Harrison County, a 60-year old female from Raleigh County, a 71-year old female from Upshur County, a 79-year old female from Cabell County, and a 74-year old male from Kanawha County.

Hospitalizations are at 196 patients with 69 of those patients being treated in intensive care.

Six percent of those tested for COVID-19 in past 24 hours have tested positive for the virus.

The state recorded 678 COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday.

DHHR reports as of August 5, 2021, there have been 3,150,938 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 168,733 total cases and 2,961 total deaths. https://t.co/vAzAz0fE3F pic.twitter.com/S3XlUdkReW

— WV Department of Health & Human Resources • 😷 (@WV_DHHR) August 5, 2021

Overall confirmed cases per county include: Barbour (1,557), Berkeley (13,200), Boone (2,216), Braxton (1,065), Brooke (2,282), Cabell (9,258), Calhoun (407), Clay (549), Doddridge (654), Fayette (3,728), Gilmer (905), Grant (1,329), Greenbrier (2,940), Hampshire (1,948), Hancock (2,887), Hardy (1,598), Harrison (6,414), Jackson (2,327), Jefferson (4,899), Kanawha (15,816), Lewis (1,404), Lincoln (1,629), Logan (3,372), Marion (4,804), Marshall (3,681), Mason (2,163), McDowell (1,696), Mercer (5,338), Mineral (3,020), Mingo (2,842), Monongalia (9,567), Monroe (1,249), Morgan (1,286), Nicholas (1,975), Ohio (4,432), Pendleton (727), Pleasants (970), Pocahontas (699), Preston (2,990), Putnam (5,519), Raleigh (7,280), Randolph (2,923), Ritchie (782), Roane (681), Summers (875), Taylor (1,338), Tucker (556), Tyler (772), Upshur (2,068), Wayne (3,291), Webster (621), Wetzel (1,451), Wirt (476), Wood (8,124), Wyoming (2,153).

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MetroNews This Morning 8-5-21

Downpours overnight create flooding problems across WV. Students won’t be mandated to mask up in school by the state–but that will be up to their local school board. DHHR reports covid cases continue to surge in WV. Governor Justice blasts the feds for inaction on the Viatris plant closure. A West Virginian killed at Pearl Harbor is finally home 80 years after he was killed and in sports the American Legion Regional Tourney gets started in Morgantown. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 8-5-21” on Spreaker.

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