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Woman dies after being struck by vehicle in Logan County

VERNER, W.Va. — A Mingo County woman was struck and killed by a vehicle Wednesday morning in Logan County.

The Logan County Sheriff’s Department said Priscella Cline-Smith, 62, of Verner, was struck along state Route 80 near Paradise Island.

The driver of the vehicle that hit Cline-Smith said she was in the northbound lane near a disabled tractor trailer that had its emergency lights on.

Deputies are continuing their investigation.

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Darris Nichols nets first head coaching opportunity at Radford

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A decade into his coaching career, former WVU point guard Darris Nichols is headed home. Nichols was introduced Wednesday as the new head coach at Radford University. The school is located in Nichols’ hometown of Radford, Va.

“Have I had my eyes on it? Yes, I am not going to lie,” Nichols said.

Before officially agreeing to become the new head coach of the Highlanders, Nichols needed to call home first to let his mother know the news.

“She said, ‘Oh, you are coming home?’ I said yes and she said, ‘What are you doing in town? How long are you in for?’ And I said, ‘However long they will have me. I don’t know’. It is special to be able to come back and see my parents. That is an early Mother’s Day present.

“Home has been where the basketball bounces for a long period of time. This one is different. Regardless where the ball bounces or not, this is home.”

Bob Huggins greets Darris Nichols at the WVU Coliseum.

Nichols played three seasons for John Beilein at WVU and he was Bob Huggins’ first point guard with the Mountaineers. He played on an NIT Championship team (2007), an Elite Eight team (2005) and a pair of Sweet 16 teams (2006 & 2008).

“With John Beilein, he is an unbelievable story teller. Every offense and defense we ran, there was a story behind it. That stuck with me to this day. With Bob Huggins, just how relentless he was on you every day. He is going to push you to the limit and get more out of you than you thought you had.”

Nichols has been an assistant coach with the Florida Gators since 2015. He has also coached at Louisiana Tech, Wofford, Northern Kentucky and WVU. Nichols takes over a Radford program that has posted a record of 81-47 over the last four seasons.

“The things I have learned, especially from my mom and dad, never complain. I don’t complain and I have never heard them complain. My dad has worked two jobs. My mom has worked two jobs. They never complained. So my teams, we are not going to complain.

“I want to be a direct correlation of this community. The two things I think of when I think of the city of Radford and Radford University are edge and humility. Whether it is on or off the court, we have to walk with humility.”

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DePaul transfer Pauly Paulicap commits to West Virginia

West Virginia’s men’s basketball team is set to add another player from the NCAA Transfer Portal — one the Mountaineers will likely expect a lot from defensively.

Pauly Paulicap, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, offered his commitment to West Virginia on Wednesday.

💛💙🏠#Committed



Edit by @jeremyberman32 pic.twitter.com/O2NrQAjnjU

— Pauly Paulicap (@pauly33_) April 21, 2021

Paulicap most recently played one season at DePaul, where he averaged 7.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

Prior to joining the Blue Demons, Paulicap played three seasons at Manhattan. He was the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman after averaging 2.5 blocks and 6.9 rebounds to go with 10 points.

Along with 6-foot-9 Florida International transfer Dimon Carrigan, Paulicap appears to help fill an immediate void for the Mountaineers as a rim protector.

After an injury limited Paulicap to 10 games in his second season with the Jaspers, he returned to play a full 2019-2020 season and averaged a career-best 10.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.

The 225-pound Paulicap shot better than 55 percent from the field as a freshman and most recently at DePaul.

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Justice counts on persuading more West Virginians to get vaccinated

Gov. Jim Justice says he has a new mantra to represent the importance of persuading thousands of West Virginians who seem reluctant to get a covid-19 vaccine.

“Beat 588 bad,” Justice said at a briefing today. “That’s my next goal, and that’s what we’ll do.”

He said the number 588,000 represents 40 percent of West Virginia’s population that is eligible for covid-19 vaccination.

“We must reach these people and encourage them to take the vaccine,” Justice said.

West Virginia has administered at least one dose to 687,045 people, according to the state’s coronavirus response dashboard. The state says 520,206 people have been fully vaccinated.

But state and local officials agree that the pace of vaccination has slowed. 

West Virginia’s population is almost 1.8 million. The governor has described about 400,000 state residents below age 16, which is the current cutoff age for vaccination eligibility.

So today he described a total vaccine-eligible population of 1.47 million people.

If 40 percent don’t want to be vaccinated, that would be 588,000 people.

Justice said he doubts the number of people who are resistant to taking the vaccine is as high as 40 percent, though.

“I hope and pray that it’s not right,” the governor said. “From a math standpoint, if we’ve got 588,000 people who are denying the vaccine no matter what then we’re at the end of the rainbow as far as people willing to take the vaccine that are going to come unless we can change their minds. That’s what we need to continue to work on.

“We’ve got at least a population out there that needs our help to try to get them information to where they can feel comfortable to take the vaccine.”

Justice also tried to clarify a changed state guideline about wearing facial coverings while exercising in a public place.

Earlier this week, the governor eliminated the 91 executive orders he had instituted over the course of the pandemic and replaced some continuing state guidance into one new executive order.

The updated guidance adds an exemption to the statewide indoor face covering requirement “so that, if you are actively engaged in physical activity like indoor sports, you do not need to wear a face covering.”

Responding to a couple of questions, Justice tried to describe how that would work in real life situations.

At gyms, people may have a hard time breathing through facial coverings if they are working out, Justice said. So, he said, people actively engaged in exercise would not be expected to wear a mask.

“As soon as you get through with the hard level of exercise,” he said, “without any question I expect you to have your mask back on.”

The governor, who coaches high school girls basketball, was also asked how the change might affect organized sports. He said athletes who are actively competing wouldn’t be expected to wear facial coverings. But he said coaches, staff and reserves on a team should still wear masks.

“That coach isn’t running up and down the floor. The kids on the bench aren’t running up and down the floor,” he said. “We absolutely expect those players to be able to wear their masks, as the coaches should.”

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Extensive testimony expected in upcoming Kanawha County murder trial

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County prosecutors say it could take at least five days to present evidence against a Clendenin man to a jury in trial that is scheduled to begin Monday.

Joshua Drennen was charged in February 2020.

Joshua Drennen, 28, faces 10 criminal counts including murder, robbery, malicious wounding and carjacking, in connection with a violent crime spree on Charleston’s West Side on Feb. 11, 2020.

During a pretrial hearing Wednesday, Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Michelle Drummond told Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey the state has several days of testimony to present to the jury once the panel is chosen.

“I believe that we anticipate a week,” Drummond said. “Of course a lot depends on cross-examination. We can’t estimate what that will be but our thought for our case is a week.”

Drennen’s attorney John Sullivan told Bailey he expects extensive testimony tied to a mental illness defense that he will present on behalf of Drennen.

“We’re putting on mental illness defense that’s going to take extra testimony and both sides have psychologists that are going to testify,” he said.

Drennen allegedly murdered Barbara Steele, 77, in her West Side home. Drennen then allegedly carjacked a vehicle at the nearby Walgreens parking lot. Police said he then attempted another carjacking before encountering Charleston Patrolman Terrence “Austin” Casto near the Washington Street Go-Mart. Drennen allegedly attacked Casto with a flat iron before Casto shot him.

Bailey did approve a defense motion Wednesday that will separate the guilt phase of the trial from the mercy phase. Sullivan made the motion based on possible testimony from Drennen.

“It is unlikely that he would testify at the trial, the guilt phase of the trial, but if there was a mercy determination made, it’s likely he would testify as to that issue,” Sullivan said.

Drennen, who is currently housed at the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville because of COVID-19 issues at the South Central Regional Jail, will be tested for COVID-19 before the trial begins next week, following an order entered by Bailey.

Bailey also told Sullivan and Drummond to work together on the list of potential jurors to remove those who expressed issues with COVID in a juror questionnaire.

“There were a number of responses from (potential) jurors who had great concerns regarding their health and regarding COVID exposure,” Sullivan said.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday morning. The trial will take place in the Ceremonial Courtroom at the Kanawha County Courthouse in downtown Charleston.

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Justice signs three more bills into law

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice continues to sign bills into law following the 2021 regular legislative session.

On Wednesday, Justice held a virtual signing ceremony that included three bills going into law: SB 634– Requiring training of certain officers for persons with autism spectrum disorder; HB 2263– Update the regulation of pharmacy benefit managers; SB 714– Relating to physician assistant (PA) practice act.

“SB 634 requires law enforcement and correctional officers to be trained on the best ways to interact with those who have autism,” Justice said.

Mark Ellison, the Director of Autism Training at Marshall, said only two states require autism-specific training for officers and this would put the state out in front of the world.

George Manahan, director of Charleston Parkinson’s Support Group spoke about HB 2263. He said West Virginia would be the first state to require drug discounts or rebates negotiated by insurance companies for patients to be passed on to the patient. The bill requires insurance companies and benefits managers to share savings they receive in the form of rebates from drug manufacturers.

“HB 2263 is a first in the nation legislation that will save West Virginians with commercial health insurance,” he said.

Justice said of HB 2263, “With this bill, West Virginia will lead the country in lowering prescription drug prices for many of our residents. I am honored to do my part to sign this bill that we can help thousands of West Virginians afford prescription drugs.”

SB 714 expands the scope of practice of a PA, allowing them more freedom to work with collaborating physicians with care in line with their education, training and experience, Dean Wright, Clinical Coordinator at Marshall said.

“PAs working in collaboration with a physician. The whole development of the PA program and concept relates to the relationship with physicians. We are part of team practice before there was a team practice of medicine,” Wright said.

Wright said there are 140,000 PAs in the county but only 0.7% working in West Virginia. He expects that number to change based on this law.

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Video, updates: Governor’s briefing on covid response at noon

We’ll provide updates here about how West Virginia is dealing with the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

State officials have directed members of the public to a landing page dedicated to information about coronavirus in West Virginia.

Additional information can be found at CDC’s Situation Summary or at DHHR’s COVID-19 information hotline, 1-800-887-4304.

11:55 a.m. 4/21/2021  Justice to address pandemic response at noon

11:55 a.m. 4/19/2021  Justice to address pandemic response at noon.

10:25 a.m. 4/16/2021  Justice to address pandemic response at 10:30 a.m.

10:25 a.m.  4/14/2021  Justice to address pandemic response at 10:30 a.m.

11:54 a.m. 4/12/2021 Justice to address pandemic response at noon 


11:35 a.m.  4/09/2021  Justice to have back to back briefings beginning at noon (income tax/COVID)

10:15 a.m.  4/07/2021  Justice briefing at 10:30 a.m.

10:15 a.m.  4/05/2021  Justice briefing at 10:30 a.m.

10:15 a.m.  4/02/2021   Justice briefing at 10:30 a.m.

10:15 a.m.  3/29/2021  Justice briefing at 10:30 a.m.

8:30 a.m.  3/26/2021  Justice briefing at 9 a.m.

10:30 a.m.  3/24/2021  Justice briefing at 11:00 a.m.

10:15 a.m.  3/22/2021  Justice briefing at 11:00 a.m.

10:20 a.m. 3/19/2021  Justice briefing 10:30 a.m.

10:45 a.m. 3/17/2021  Justice briefing 10:45 a.m.

11:15 a.m.  3/15/2021  Justice briefing at 11:30 a.m.

10:45 a.m. 3/12/2021 Justice briefing at 11:00 a.m.

10:30 a.m. 3/10/2021  Justice briefing set for 11:00 a.m.

10:15 a.m. 3/8/2021  Justice briefing set for 10:30 a.m.

10:55 a.m. 3/5/2021  Justice briefing set for 11:00 a.m.

This briefing was originally scheduled for 10:30 a.m. but now has been shifted to 11

;

10:32 a.m. 2/19/2021 Justice leads briefing at 10:30 a.m. 

6:52 a.m. 2/17/2021 Justice leads briefing at 10:30 a.m. 

9:30 a.m. 2/15/2021 Justice leads briefing at 10:30 

9:03 a.m. 2/12/2021 Justice to lead briefing at noon

9:30 a.m. 2/10/21 Justice to lead briefing at 11 a.m.

11:58 a.m. 2/8/21 Justice to lead briefing at noon 

9:48 a.m.  2/5/21 Justice to lead briefing at 11:30 

11:05 a.m.  2/3/21 Justice to lead briefing at noon 

9:34 a.m. Justice to lead briefing at noon 

10:34 a.m. 1/29/21 Justice to lead briefing at noon

9:39 a.m. 1/27/21 Manchin applauds federal effort to increases vaccine supply

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released a statement about the announcement from the Biden Administration about increasing the weekly supply of COVID-19 vaccinations to states and territories next week. The administration will also increase transparency by giving states a three week forecast of vaccine supplies.

“Today’s announcement by the Biden Administration shows that help is on the way. I thank President Biden for staying true to his word and delivering more vaccine so quickly and will continue to work closely with him to further increase our allocation. West Virginia is leading the country in efficiently and safely distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. Clinics across our state have been operating below capacity because of the vaccine shortage. Now President Biden will ship out at least 10 million doses each week to get more shots in arms as soon as possible. Today’s announcement from the Biden Administration is another step closer to ensuring every West Virginian who wants a vaccine can get one, restoring our economy, and getting back to life as usual. In the last week, I have spoken with President Biden and multiple White House officials who have assured me the number one priority for the Administration is quickly producing and efficiently distributing the vaccine. I’m glad to see them put their money where their mouth is and ramp up vaccine distribution.”

9 a.m. 1/25/21 Justice plans 11 a.m. briefing 

12:07 p.m. 1/21/21 Justice plans noon briefing 

9:56 a.m. 1/19/2021 Justice plans 11 a.m. briefing 

8:51 a.m. 1/13/2021 Justice plans 10 a.m. briefing

here is the livestream https://t.co/i4kQb1qU8N

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) January 13, 2021

8:49 a.m. 1/11/2021 Justice plans noon briefing

here is the livestream https://t.co/Dw7fbZbuev

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) January 11, 2021

11:31 a.m. 1/8/2021 Justice plans noon briefing 

livestream here https://t.co/jN45H6LHG6

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) January 8, 2021

7:54 a.m. 1/6/2021 Justice plans 11 a.m. briefing 

here is the livestream https://t.co/Khcw32yYBv

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) January 6, 2021

6:59 a.m. 1/4/2021 Justice plans 11 a.m. briefing

here is the livestream https://t.co/6YB4IooQpY

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) January 4, 2021

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Manchin says infrastructure bill should be more focused; Capito works on alternative

Senator Joe Manchin says he supports much of the Biden administration’s infrastructure proposal, but he reiterated that he believes it should focus on traditional projects for roads, bridges, air and rail, as well as broadband internet.

“I would hope to see Democrats and Republicans agreeing on infrastructure – infrastructure by itself,” Manchin, D-W.Va., said today on a call with West Virginia reporters.

“It won’t be the $2.3 trillion, that I can tell you.”

Congress has been assessing a broad-ranging, $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal. The measure would address U.S. roads, bridges, airports, broadband, housing and utilities, and invest in job training along with care for elderly and disabled Americans. A major element running through the proposal is dealing with the effects of climate change.

Manchin participated Tuesday in a U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing that included testimony from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Housing & Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge and EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is also a member of that committee. Capito is at the center of Republican discussions of a counterproposal and has contended the Biden plan includes too many aspects unrelated to infrastructure such as funding for home care for the elderly and disabled and electric cars.

Capitol told reporters at the U.S. Capitol this week that the counter proposal would be presented by the end of the week.

“We need to settle on a conceptual sort of idea, and hopefully we’ll do that in the next several days,” Capito told national reporters. “Hopefully, by the end of the week.”

Manchin, in today’s call, said he has been involved with talks with the White House, as well as to his Democratic and Republican Senate colleagues. He alluded to a bipartisan meeting at midday today to discuss what should truly be in the bill.

“We should be doing something in a bipartisan way. I don’t think it will be successful just putting a Republican proposal out there,” Manchin said.

“It’ll be based around infrastructure only. That’d be my advice. That’s a better way to go.”

Some of Manchin’s criticism of the current proposal overlaps with the concerns Capito has described. For example, on the prioritization of electric cars, Manchin alluded to China’s edge in battery production because of its dominance of rare earth metals, an essential component.

Manchin also lamented wind blades made in Brazil and solar panels made in China.

“When are we going to start making something?” Manchin said.

The senator agreed on the need for improvements to roads, bridges, water systems, sewer systems, broadband and more. He focused some of his comments on a desire to complete highway projects such as Appalachian Corridor H, as well as the Coalfields Expressway and the King Coal Highway.

“If we don’t accelerate the permitting of these projects,” he said, “it’ll be 10 years before they get started.”

On MetroNews’ “Talkline” today, Manchin said debate over the infrastructure proposal is healthy.

“We’re in a situation where we have a 50-50 Senate, and it’s a very narrow margin in the House,” Manchin said. “This is all good negotiating. It’s all good to discuss this.”

.@Sen_JoeManchin speaks with @HoppyKercheval about the Derek Chauvin verdict, UMWA coal plan, and infrastructure. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/1DaBg2tSt5

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 21, 2021

 

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Active COVID-19 cases stay above 7TH in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources reports 426 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia.

Those new numbers helped push active cases to 7,293 in Wednesday’s report.

The DHHR was also able to confirm 11 additional COVID-19 deaths including a 71-year old male from Kanawha County, an 81-year old male from Berkeley County, a 67-year old male from Mingo County, a 72-year old female from Morgan County, a 66-year old male from Cabell County, a 90-year old female from Wood County, a 74-year old female from Ohio County, a 90-year old male from Kanawha County, a 64-year old male from Jefferson County, a 79-year old female from Hancock County, and a 67-year old female from Greenbrier County.

Total deaths are now at 2,800.

Hospitalizations in connection with the virus remain in the 250 range. There are now 79 patients in intensive care which is the highest since April 8.

More than 520,000 West Virginia residents have now been fully vaccinated against the virus. The number of vaccine doses administered Tuesday statewide did pick up when compared to recent days, more than 1,700 shots were administered statewide.

DHHR reports as of April 21, 2021, there have been 2,633,918 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 149,888 total cases and 2,800 total deaths. https://t.co/YtBCu4Wjn9 pic.twitter.com/0IAKVNDuHL

— WV Department of Health & Human Resources • 😷 (@WV_DHHR) April 21, 2021

Total confirmed cases per county include: Barbour (1,361), Berkeley (11,711), Boone (1,890), Braxton (873), Brooke (2,126), Cabell (8,649), Calhoun (272), Clay (459), Doddridge (558), Fayette (3,293), Gilmer (739), Grant (1,240), Greenbrier (2,643), Hampshire (1,724), Hancock (2,718), Hardy (1,447), Harrison (5,461), Jackson (1,928), Jefferson (4,373), Kanawha (14,183), Lewis (1,143), Lincoln (1,400), Logan (3,009), Marion (4,184), Marshall (3,294), Mason (1,937), McDowell (1,497), Mercer (4,591), Mineral (2,777), Mingo (2,441), Monongalia (8,977), Monroe (1,079), Morgan (1,092), Nicholas (1,522), Ohio (4,054), Pendleton (692), Pleasants (837), Pocahontas (649), Preston (2,817), Putnam (4,843), Raleigh (6,263), Randolph (2,499), Ritchie (662), Roane (584), Summers (770), Taylor (1,201), Tucker (524), Tyler (676), Upshur (1,825), Wayne (2,824), Webster (456), Wetzel (1,221), Wirt (381), Wood (7,591), Wyoming (1,928).

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Report shows improved air quality in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although there are still improvements to be made, the American Lung Association noted improvements in West Virginia’s environmental air quality in their 22nd State of the Air Report.

“The Charleston-Huntington-Ashland Metro area, the area graded, received a ‘B’ grade for best ever result for ozone smog. Year-round particle pollution was also at its best level, which is good news,” said Molly Pisciottano, Advocacy Director fo Pennsylvania and West Virginia for the American Lung Association.

The Charleston-Huntington-Ashland metro area encompassed 16 counties. Other parts of West Virginia were included in various other metro areas. Overall the air quality in the state was much improved on the whole. However, Pisciottano noted there was still room for improvement since certain days of high concentration constituted a health threat, particularly to those with breathing problems.

“Spikes in particle pollution and ozone pollution can still be dangerous, especially for children or adults living with lung disease like asthma, COPD, and lung cancer,” she explained.

There were some spikes in particle concentration and ozone pollution on hot days through the year identified in the report.

The report concentrated on environmental air quality and largely relied on monitoring by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to Pisciottano areas not rated may have had inoperable monitoring equipment or no monitoring equipment at all. The report blamed problems associated with poor air quality on fossil fuels, industrial activity, and automobile emissions in most cases.

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