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Yeager Airport extends operating agreements with 3 major airlines

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The three largest airlines housed at Yeager Airport will remain there until at least 2023.

Yeager Airport Director Nick Keller announced to the facility’s board Wednesday during its monthly meeting that the airport has agreed to a 2-year extension of its airline operating agreements with American Airlines, Delta and United that were set to expire June 30 of this year.

Keller told MetroNews the negotiations began in December and the airport wanted to get a headstart on it because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He said the deal provides financial stability for the airport.

Nick Keller

“This guarantees the presence of American, Delta and United. It guarantees the stability of landing fees, terminal rent and other charges that the airlines pay on an annual agreement,” Keller said.

United has been at the airport since 1961, American was the first airline to land in Charleston following the airport opening in 1947 and Delta has been at West Virginia’s largest airport since the 1980s, according to Keller.

He said the defined landing fees and rent on the terminals for the airlines will be determined this spring through working on the fiscal budget. Yeager’s fiscal year ends June 30.

“Just with all the uncertainty going on, everybody thought it would be a lot better to continue what we have going on now because it’s working,” Keller continued on the agreement.

Spirit Airlines is renewing its Charleston to Orlando nonstop flight on February 11, after pausing due to the ongoing pandemic. The flight was in service for one month before shutting down in March.

Keller said American is expected to resume its Washington D.C. on February 11 as well.

Starting February 11th, @SpiritAirlines will resume nonstop service from Yeager Airport (CRW) to @MCO. pic.twitter.com/WFcpwHNXYp

— Yeager Airport (@YeagerAirport) January 19, 2021

Keller said it’s a result of the advanced bookings improving and continuing into the spring months. He said the airport experienced its highest traveler rates of the pandemic around the Christmas season but is currently down 65% compared to January 2020.

Although the continued dip in enplanements, Keller said the airport remains in strong financial shape. He said one of the financial anchors through the pandemic has been military fuel revenue, which has accounted for 25% of the Capital Jet Center budget revenue.

“We have cash on hand. We have been conservative in our budgeting. We are in a strong position,” Keller told MetroNews.

“We’ve continued with a lot of capital improvement projects. I want Yeager Airport to be in a position where we can really expand and continue to be the most important economic driver for the state.”

The airport is set to receive up to $2 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding from the most recent package signed into law in December, Keller said.

The grant, expected to be finalized by the Federal Aviation Administration the first week of February, can be used on operations, personnel cost, maintenance, or cleaning.

The airport received $4.8 million in CARES Act money as part of the first package. Keller said they have drawn down $800,000 in CARES Act money in the current fiscal year.

Keller said the airport has been reserving money to backfill operational losses, resulting in not a single employee layoff during the pandemic.

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Justice announces a House replacement for Derrick Evans, deviating from local GOP picks

Gov. Jim Justice picked a new delegate to fill the seat vacated by Derrick Evans, the lawmaker who went into the U.S. Capitol with a mob, but it’s not someone proposed by the district’s political committee.

Instead, Justice selected Joshua Booth from Kenova to fill the spot. Booth was among a second slate of delegates proposed by the acting chairman of the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee.

There’s already a lawsuit filed over the matter with the state Supreme Court.

Justice announced Booth’s selection today and said he’ll serve well in the role.

“I feel very, very confident that Joshua Booth will do a wonderful job for the people of West Virginia,” Justice said during a briefing today.

During last fall’s General Election, Evans, a Republican, and Ric Griffith, a Democrat, won the two seats representing House District 19. Finishing in third place was Republican Jason Stephens.

Evans then traveled to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 to protest the final act of counting the presidential election for Democrat Joe Biden and surged into the Capitol with a job while livestreaming what he witnessed. He faces multiple federal charges and resigned from the Legislature Jan. 9.

State code says any such vacancy is to be filled by the governor “from a list of three legally qualified persons submitted by the party executive committee.”

The Wayne County Republican Executive Committee on Jan. 14 submitted the names of Mark Ross, Chad Shaffer and Jay Marcum to the governor’s office.

That’s when events took a turn.

According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the chairman of the Wayne County Republican Committee, the Governor’s Office reached out to intervene:

“Subsequent to the Governor’s receipt of three qualified candidates for the vacant seat, Chairman Maynard received a phone call from the counsel for the Governor, Brian Abraham, who advised that the Governor would not be choosing from the list of three qualified candidates submitted on January 14, 2021, because the Acting Chair of the West Virginia State Republican Executive Committee, Roman Stauffer, had not participated in the vote.

“Therefore, acting Chairman Stauffer unilaterally engaged in a second selection process, ultimately creating a new list (hereafter “second list”) of three candidates.”

The second list included two from the first, Mark Ross and Chad Shaffer.

But it subbed in Joshua Booth for Jay Marcum.

Asked about that during the briefing today, Justice acknowledged the two slates.

“All I know from my general counsel and chief of staff is we’ve been in contact with the Attorney General’s staff, and we believe the second letter that was sent to us was the legitimate letter,” Justice said.

The governor added, “This will have to be settled by the lawyers and not by me.”

Stauffer, who compiled the second list, was campaign manager for Justice’s re-election effort last fall. He became the interim chairman for the West Virginia GOP earlier this month following the sudden resignation of Melody Potter on Jan. 11. Stauffer announced this past Friday that he wants to pursue the chairman’s role for the long-term.

The lawsuit on behalf of the Wayne County Republican Committee chairman was filed by attorney John Bryan, who briefly represented Derrick Evans a few weeks ago.

The petition for writ of mandamus was filed with the state Supreme Court even prior to the governor naming his selection to the House seat.

The lawsuit says the Wayne County GOP chairman, Jeff Maynard, “presided over the deliberations and the vote of committee members. West Virginia Code 3-10-5 does not authorize the statewide party executive committee to override or usurp the selection process.

“Nor does the statute authorize the governor the ability to override or usurp the selection process should he not be satisfied with the qualified candidates selected by the committee.”

The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office declined to comment specifically on the dispute because it is the subject of litigation.

But Deak Kersey, general counsel for the Secretary of State, pointed to the section of state code that spells out what to do in instances of vacancies.

“Briefly put, the Governor has the authority to fill a legislative vacancy by appointment from the list provided by the appropriate executive committee,” Kersey responded.

“If the list is not provided by the within the statutory time frame, ‘the Governor shall appoint within five days thereafter a legally qualified person of the same political party with which the person holding the office immediately preceding the vacancy was affiliated at the time the vacancy occurred.'”

 

 

 

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61 years after shattering a prep hoop record, Danny Heater reflects on 135-point game

(Pikewood Creative production from 2018)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — If Danny Heater had authored his 135-point effort in today’s social media era, the Burnsville High School basketball player would have seen his name and highlights go viral all across the globe shortly after leaving the gymnasium. Undoubtedly, the attention would have made Heater uncomfortable.

Tuesday marked the 61-year anniversary of a sterling performance that remains the national standard in high school hoop scoring in a single game. Heater accomplished the feat in the small Braxton County town against Widen High School on January 26, 1960.

Danny Heater talks to @TonyCaridi, @BradHowe07 and @HunterWvu88bgn on the 61st anniversary of his record 135-point performance that still stands as the national high school record today. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/Wv3H5oWVFi

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) January 26, 2021

“I never thought anything about it until one of my granddaughters texted me and wished me ‘Happy Danny Heater Day’. My memory isn’t too good anyways. So I don’t think about it that much,” Heater said on Tuesday’s edition of Citynet Statewide Sportsline.

As the years have gone by, Heater has become more comfortable with his grand achievement. At the time, that certainly wasn’t the case.

“As I get older, I have accepted it. I never wanted to embarrass anybody and I am afraid I did that night. But it is 61 years ago now so I think I am allowed to enjoy it a little bit.”

Burnsville head coach Jack Stalnaker hoped to earn some attention from colleges for Heater. So he divised a plan for Heater to fill up the stat sheet against an opponent they defeated with ease just a few weeks earlier. Heater racked up 55 points in the first half.

“At halftime I told the coach to take me out. I think the state record at the time was maybe 70 points. All my teammates were screaming, ‘Let’s keep him in, let’s break the state record’. By the time I got to 70, I just kept going. People in the stands were yelling how many points I had. It was so surreal. I played the whole game but we put our second and third team in after the first quarter. It was quite a night.”

Oddly enough, Heater’s memorable performance came without his parents in attendance. His mother hardly ever missed a game.

“Of all the games she decided to miss, that was the one. We had played them a couple weeks earlier and I only played about a quarter. So she didn’t think I would play very much. And my dad wasn’t feeling very well so she decided to stay home with him.

“I didn’t go straight home of course. I went to our hangout place. By the time I got home, my mom was jumping up and down. ‘Why didn’t you come tell me?’ She was a sweetheart.”

Heater went 53-for-70 from the floor and 29-for-41 from the free throw line. He also grabbed 32 rebounds and dished out 7 assists. The 3-point shot had not yet become a part of the game.

“My teammates deserved all the credit. They were the ones that passed me the ball every time they got a rebound. If I missed a shot, they made sure I got it again.

“We were pressing the whole game too and I got a lot of points off of layups, stealing the ball and getting it back to me. But it was just like a dream probably the last quarter of the game when everybody was screaming at me. It was like I was having an out-of-body experience.”

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Marshall sets 2021 football schedule

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Marshall has a new head coach and now Charles Huff knows the gauntlet that is laid out before him in the 2021 season. Marshall has announced their season schedule, which includes six home games at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

𝑨 𝑵𝑬𝑾 𝑬𝑹𝑨. 🤘

The 2⃣0⃣2⃣1⃣ schedule is here! 👀 Mark your calendars. 🏈📆 #WeAreMarshall pic.twitter.com/yE8M0QwhfY

— Marshall Football (@HerdFB) January 27, 2021

All of Marshall’s non-conference games will be played on consecutive weeks in September. The Herd will open the season on September 4 at Navy. Marshall’s first home game will be on September 11 against North Carolina-Central. Former Herd running back and Bluefield native Mookie Collier will make his return to Huntington with UNCC.

A home game against East Carolina and a road contest at Appalachian State will round out the non-conference slate. Marshall downed the Mountaineers 17-7 this fall, a win which vaulted the Herd into the AP Top 25.

Conference USA play will open on October 2 at Middle Tennessee State. Marshall will host league champion UAB on November 13. The Blazers defeated the Herd in the league championship game last month.

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Raleigh County man admits to poaching charges in Wyoming County

PINEVILLE, W.Va. — A Raleigh County man is paying a heavy price after his decision more than two years ago to pursue a giant buck in Wyoming County.

Wyoming County Magistrate Jeffrey Barlow recently accepted a plea bargain agreement in which Travis Smith, 30, of Beckley, W.Va. admitted to six game law violations after illegally killing a 10 point buck December 7, 2018.

Natural Resources Police Officers Joshua Toner and Cody Frye investigated the case and charged Smith with a total of 21 counts. Toner was first alerted to the case when he received information from a source about the buck being shot with a rifle in Wyoming County at night. Such a charge typically generates considerable buzz since Wyoming County is one of four counties in West Virginia which are restricted to archery only hunting for deer.

“The informant said he had heard the deer was shot at night with a rifle in Wyoming County and several other people had also heard that same story,” Toner explained.

The claims surfaced when the buck was brought to a Raleigh County taxidermy shop. Toner questioned Smith about the allegations. Smith claimed to have killed the buck legally with a bow and checked it in as an archery kill.  However, Toner said his investigation produced evidence which dispelled Smith’s account of the story.

“He said he killed it legally and he did check it in, but we ended up getting some witnesses who were there when that took place,” Toner explained. “Of course we were also able to get a jacket fragment out of the cape and prove it was a rifle kill.”

The criminal complaint indicated the violation was even more serious. According to court documents, Smith shot the buck using a spotlight at night from a side-by-side UTV. Toner in the complaint also indicated the incident occurred on leased property in Wyoming County where the lease holders had already run Smith off several times.

“He’d been made aware of that deer and the night he killed it was the third night he’d been down there. He had a partner with him and they unloaded their side-by-side, drove up there, found the deer, and shot it with a rifle,” Toner said.

“He was trespassing. This property was part of a hunting lease and he’d been told not to be up there evidently a few times. It was killed on that property he was told not to be on.” he added.

There was more. Natural Resources Police said Smith often had dogs with him at times he was in the area looking for the buck which would  serve as as a ruse to claim he was actually coon hunting during pursuit of the buck. According to the DNR, Smith paid an acquaintance who lived in the area $100 to keep an eye out for that particular deer he had targeted and alert him when it was seen. Investigators said on the night the buck was shot, Smith was nervous since it happened not far from a residential area where the shot may have caused concern. Officers said Smith went to a neighbor’s residence and made a fake 911 call to distract a police officer in the area and make a clean getaway.

Smith’s accomplice was Jeffrey Perdue, 32, of Surveyor, W.Va. He was convicted of several charges tied to the case and fined $540.50. Despite Perdue’s involvement, officers said Smith was the one who orchestrated the scheme and pulled the trigger.

The case was tied up in Wyoming County Magistrate Court for nearly 25 months. Officials say a huge part of the delays dealt with Covid 19 issues and scheduling of witnesses.

Smith entered guilty pleas to one count each of hunting from a motorized vehicle, trespassing, hunting, fishing, or trapping on the lands of another, hunting out of season, illegal possession of wildlife, and an enhanced penalty for the illegal killing of a trophy deer. The last charge was enacted a few years ago to strengthen laws and hopefully act as a deterrent to poaching. The measure significantly increased Smith’s final payout and fine. He was fined and assessed replacement fees of $2,901.50. The total included a $1,500 enhanced penalty for killing the trophy buck. His hunting license will also be suspended for an indefinite period of time.

However, he could have had it much worse. As part of the plea the following charges which had been originally leveled against Smith were dismissed: three counts of spotlighting, three counts of hunting deer a half hour before/after sunrise/sunset, two counts each of hunting from a motorized vehicle, hunting, fishing, or trapping on the lands of another, and trespassing, There were also charges originally filed against Smith for conspiracy to withhold information from an officer, violation of the electronic game checking system, and having an uncased firearm 30 minutes after sunset. All were dismissed in the plea agreement.

The incident occurred in 2018. Since then, the West Virginia Legislature upgraded the enhanced penalties for poaching trophy deer again to an even steeper level. While Smith was assessed a $1,500 enhanced penalty, that same deer killed illegally today would carry an enhanced penalty of $5,000.

The buck’s rack was confiscated and forfeited.

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Justice supports push to increase covid-19 vaccine supply

Gov. Jim Justice is looking ahead to covid-19 vaccinations actions announced by the Biden administration.

“Yesterday, President Joe Biden announced the purchase of 200 million more vaccine doses and offered up an increased distribution to all states next week,” Justice said during a regular briefing today.

“They also announced the Department of Health and Human Services will provide vaccine allocation estimates for the upcoming three weeks as opposed to the one-week lookahead that we previously had.”

West Virginia will receive an additional 3,700 doses of Moderna vaccine next week, Justice said today.

That will provide some help with the demand on West Virginia’s vaccination drive.

State figures show 171,235 first doses administered, at a 95 percent rate through today. Another 46,094 second doses have been administered.

“We’re saving lives, and we need to just keep it going and keep it up,” Justice said. “We keep screaming like crazy for more and more and more doses of vaccine.”

West Virginia opened up an online pre-registration for vaccinations at the beginning of this week. That is resulting in a waiting list — likely a long one — while West Virginia hopes the vaccine supply goes up.

President Biden

The Biden administration announced Tuesday that the weekly supply of vaccine to states will be boosted next week.

“We will both increase the supply in the short term by more than 15% and give our state and local partners more certainty about when the deliveries will arrive,” Biden said in a Tuesday news conference.

And the administration anticipates the agreement to purchase more vaccine supplies will enable the vaccination of 300 million Americans by late summer or early fall.

“We are taking action to increase supply and increase capacity. But even so, it will be months before everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one,” Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House COVID-19 Response Team, said during a briefing today.

Justice emphasized today, as he has many times recently, that West Virginia would be able to administer thousands more doses of vaccine if the state just had that much.

“We just don’t get the vaccines, and that’s our big problem right now,” the governor said.

The governor said West Virginia hoped to demonstrate its efficiency and enormous demand. But so far, he acknowledged, that hasn’t gotten the state special consideration.

“We thought we were going to be rewarded by doing this tremendous job,” he said. “I absolutely believe that in short order, production will move up and we’ll be able to get more and more and more vaccines.”

Justice suggested that the reward ha been assuring health for thousands of state residents who have received vaccinations.

“By doing great work and not leaving them in a warehouse somewhere we’ve saved a bunch, a bunch of lives,” he said.

James Hoyer

James Hoyer, the chief of West Virginia’s multi-agency vaccination task force, addressed the question of whether the state is confident it has enough second doses to accommodate those who received their first.

“We are receiving the appropriate number of doses we need to make sure West Virginians who get the first dose get the second dose,” Hoyer said.

 

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COVID-19 case numbers released by state; DHHR accountant among recent deaths

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources confirmed 25 additional deaths and 797 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the agency’s Wednesday morning report.

The daily positivity test rate dropped to just more than 6%. There were more than 10,000 COVID-19 tests given statewide Tuesday.

The 25 deaths increased the overall number to 1,953. The deaths include an 85-year old male from Doddridge County, a 77-year old female from Wyoming County, an 86-year old female from Mineral County, a 70-year old male from Hardy County, a 91-year old female from Brooke County, a 66-year old male from Ohio County, a 69-year old female from Cabell County, an 83-year old female from Mercer County, an 83-year old female from Wood County, a 78-year old male from Hampshire County, a 70-year old female from Cabell County, a 68-year old female from Mineral County, a 74-year old male from Kanawha County, a 57-year old male from Kanawha County, a 72-year old male from Cabell County, an 81-year old male from Mason County, a 77-year old male from Berkeley County, a 72-year old male from Nicholas County, a 76-year old female from Hardy County, a 56-year old female from Upshur County, a 65-year old male from Raleigh County, an 85-year old male from Logan County, a 74-year old female from Mason County, an 82-year old female from Kanawha County, and an 87-year old male from Kanawha County.

State DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch announced during Gov. Jim Justice’s media briefing Wednesday one of those recent COVID-19 deaths is that of Theron Bittle, a DHHR accountant. He had worked for the agency since 2016 but has been a state government employee for years, Crouch said. Bittle is survived by his wife and two sons.

Hospitalizations continued to drop in Wednesday’s report. There are 550 people in the hospital for COVID-19 in West Virginia. That’s the lowest since 540 were hospitalized on Nov. 27.

Seventeen counties are red on the latest COVID-19 daily alert map. Lewis, Summers and Mercer counties were in the yellow Wednesday with Tucker County being the only county in the green.

More than 171,000 West Virginians have received a first round COVID-19 vaccination. The state says 46,094 residents have been fully vaccinated.

West Virginia had the lowest estimated rate of spread of the virus last week but it has been moving up in the list in recent days. It is now the 23rd lowest Rt rate at .94.

.@WV_DHHR reports as of January 27, 2021, there have been 1,867,235 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 117,775 total cases and 1,953 deaths. https://t.co/xgV7JpKus0 pic.twitter.com/t4JsqLyFUm

— WV Department of Health & Human Resources • 😷 (@WV_DHHR) January 27, 2021

Total confirmed cases per county include: Barbour (1,084), Berkeley (8,702), Boone (1,402), Braxton (739), Brooke (1,878), Cabell (6,899), Calhoun (205), Clay (339), Doddridge (399), Fayette (2,334), Gilmer (560), Grant (965), Greenbrier (2,187), Hampshire (1,343), Hancock (2,438), Hardy (1,179), Harrison (4,351), Jackson (1,570), Jefferson (3,248), Kanawha (10,872), Lewis (812), Lincoln (1,113), Logan (2,322), Marion (3,228), Marshall (2,724), Mason (1,509), McDowell (1,201), Mercer (3,847), Mineral (2,450), Mingo (1,886), Monongalia (6,906), Monroe (872), Morgan (858), Nicholas (1,023), Ohio (3,315), Pendleton (536), Pleasants (761), Pocahontas (548), Preston (2,382), Putnam (3,753), Raleigh (4,022), Randolph (2,155), Ritchie (544), Roane (453), Summers (657), Taylor (980), Tucker (442), Tyler (557), Upshur (1,451), Wayne (2,308), Webster (242), Wetzel (977), Wirt (322), Wood (6,394), Wyoming (1,531).

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Mace making most of her opportunity with Bobcats

This time last year, Madi Mace was a new arrival to the Ohio women’s basketball program. Having graduated from Parkersburg High School in December 2019, Mace became an early enrollee at OU to get an idea of how things operate within a Division I program .

“It was tough, because I remember getting thrown in there in practice and our two leaders and top scorers are so good, I remember thinking I cannot keep up with them,” Mace recalled. “Getting here early really showed me where I was compared to some of the other college kids and those on my team.”

The two leaders Mace referred to remain in that role for the Bobcats this season — senior guard CeCe Hooks and junior guard Erica Johnson, both of whom earned All-Mid American Conference first team honors last season, with Hooks also being chosen the league’s top defender.

For Mace, however, much has changed over the last year. After being redshirted upon her arrival at Ohio, Mace was able to practice with the Bobcats for two months before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“One of my favorite things to look forward to was playing in practice against CeCe, guarding her and having her guard me,” Mace said. “It makes your game so much better.”

Now a redshirt freshman, Mace is a pivotal piece of the rotation for the Bobcats, who enter Wednesday’s matchup at Eastern Michigan winners of three straight and 8-4 overall.

The 5-foot-11 Mace has played in all 12 games, averaging more than 22 minutes of action and seven points per game. Mace has strong shooting percentages (44 percent on field goals, 40 percent on 3-pointers and 77 percent on free throws) and has developed into one of the team’s top rebounders with average of 4.6 boards. Thirty-three of Mace’s 55 rebounds this season have come on the offensive end, making her the Bobcats’ leading offensive rebounder.

“When I got here, I realized I was pretty slow and I just tried to work on my speed and getting to the basket,” Mace said. “I tried to improve my footwork and maneuvering my body better.”

Twelve of Mace’s 29 field goals this season are 3-pointers, while she has made 12 consecutive free throws after missing four of six to start her college career. Mace has scored in double figures four times, including 12 and 13-point efforts in consecutive games earlier this month against Central Michigan and Buffalo.

“Everybody on the team has confidence in me to shoot the ball and they yell at me when I don’t take an open shot,” she said. “They have all the confidence in me and it’s a matter of just doing it, but they definitely want you to succeed.”

Yet with Hooks and Johnson around, Mace isn’t always relied on to score. Hooks is fourth in all of Division I with an average of 25.8 points, while Johnson ranks in the top 25 at 20.8 points. Together, the duo accounts for well over half of the Bobcats’ scoring.

“Whenever I get in, I try to be strong with the ball and limit my turnovers,” Mace said. “I’m looking to pass and get rebounds or help as much as I can. I’m learning a lot and I’m still pretty new.”

Mace, who scored two points in 22 minutes during a loss at West Virginia back on December 21, believes her transition to college has been made easier by being close to home.

With Parkersburg just 45 minutes east of Athens, Ohio, Mace spent a lot of time working on her game in her hometown last spring and summer. Mace has also been able to play home games at OU in front of four family members this season.

“It’s nice being super close to home,” she said. “I can see my family often, get shots up at the park and do laundry, so it works out perfect.”

For a player who won two Class AAA state championships and was a first-team all-state selection each of her three seasons at PHS, the goal is to continue displaying improvement and make the most of the remainder of this season.

“We never know whether we’re going to have a game or not and who gets or doesn’t get COVID,” Mace said. “We’re always on our ESPN app praying we get to play. You have to play every game like it’s your last these days, because it actually might be.”

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Current permit holders submit bids to keep thousands of video lottery machines

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A large majority of the 7,800 10-year permits available for video lottery machines in the state Lottery’s Limited Video Lottery program were snatched up in the first round of rebidding that ended Friday, the state Lottery Commission learned Wednesday.

John Myers

State Lottery Director John Myers told the commission bids were received on 7,110 of the permits available totaling $53.8 million. The Lottery also received 382 reserved permits that are awaiting final approval. All of the bids are currently under review for final approval. The results will be posted on the Lottery website.

There’ll be approximately 1,500 permits remaining when the second round of rebidding takes place from March 12-May 20. Myers predicted continued success in the second round.

“We do know that there were a couple of operators who did not bid in the first round and those are expected (in the second round),” Myers told the commission Wednesday. “We expect this will come out very close to the number (of total permits) that we had in 2011.”

Each permit in the first round required a minimum bid of $7,500. The legislature approved a bill last year that allows current LVL permit holders to keep their machines if they match the minimum bid. Minimum bids for the second round are set at $8,500 per permit.

Lottery Revenues

Total revenues for the Lottery in December were $87.5 million. Limited Video Lottery brought in $34.4 million of that total. Sales of instant game tickets for December came in at $14 million, the fifth highest total in the 35-history of the Lottery.

Because of recent record jackpots, sales for Powerball and MegaMillions are expected to show a significant increase when revenue numbers for January are calculated by the Lottery.

Myers reported there was a $1 million Powerball ticket that was sold in Vienna last week and has been claimed anonymously and there was also a $50,000 winner sold at a store in Morgantown.

Halfway through the fiscal year, overall Lottery revenues are $18.5 million above projections.

Deleting language

The Lottery Commission approved a motion Wednesday to remove a previous residential requirement to be an LVL operator retailer. The state has required four years of tax statements to prove residency. The commission recently learned that such a requirement was struck down in a federal court decision.

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Hospital revenue losses add up as health officials wait to see if COVID patient decline continues

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than $400 million was the latest estimated revenue shortfall in the coronavirus pandemic for hospitals in West Virginia for the time between March 2020 and March 2021, according to the president and CEO of the West Virginia Hospital Association.

“That is a huge number,” Jim Kaufman said two weeks ahead of the start of the 2021 Regular Legislative Session.

Jim Kaufman

“The hospitals have done well and I appreciate all of our staff — doctors, nurses, clinicians, nutrition, housekeeping — stepping up, but the hospitals have struggled financially because of skyrocketing costs and lost revenue.”

The $400 million number took into account previously-approved supplemental funding.

Kaufman said hospital officials would be looking to federal and state officials for additional financial assistance in the coming months.

Scheduling of more non-emergency procedures as COVID patient demand declines will also be key to revenue growth through 2021 as well, Kaufman said.

On Wednesday morning, the state Department of Health and Human Resources reported 550 people were being treated for COVID-19 at hospitals across West Virginia.

In all, 137 of those patients were in intensive care with 63 on ventilators.

Those numbers all reflected continuing downward trends.

“I think it’s still too early on to tell if this is just a blip. I think in another two to four weeks we’ll have a much better sense, but the good news is it’s heading in the right direction,” Kaufman said.

“You may still see hospitals struggling a little bit because of staffing shortages or capacity, but, overall, moving in the right directions.”

Kaufman cited Fairmont Regional Medical Center as one of the sites being used to treat COVID patients with less serious symptoms to take strain off other facilities.

It was early January when virus hospitalizations in West Virginia reached their highest levels in the pandemic thus far, according to DHHR tracking, following a previous spike in the middle of December.

On Jan. 5, 2021, West Virginia virus-related hospitalizations set a record with 818 COVID patients reported statewide.

On Jan. 6, 2021, 219 patients were said to be in intensive care, the largest ICU number from any point.

Separate tracking from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research center based at the University of Washington, puts West Virginia’s pandemic hospitalization peak on Jan. 6.

Early January was also when the number of intensive care patients outnumbered available beds, according to IMHE.

“Even during the peak, which hopefully is behind us, we still had capacity statewide but, because of certain hospitals or what was going on in the community, you saw some hospitals really at capacity,” Kaufman said.

“They were moving patients to other facilities and adjusting other services that they were providing to continue to ensure access.”

The number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in West Virginia rose by 25 on Wednesday to 1,953, in DHHR reporting. IMHE projections indicated, at the current pace, state virus deaths could be at just more than 3,000 by early May.

As always, projections were subject to change.

“We need to continue to do the four things to help really reduce the spread — mask up, social distance, wash our hands and, then when it’s your turn, roll up your sleeve and get the vaccine,” Kaufman said.

“Yes, the (virus hospitalization) numbers are heading in the right direction, but we still need everybody to do their part.”

Hospital employees have been some of the first to receive coronavirus vaccines.

“They’ve been dealing with COVID for ten months and that does take a toll on staff so, even when you can reopen back up, you’ve got to be careful we don’t burn staff out either,” Kaufman said.

The West Virginia Hospital Association is a not-for-profit organization representing 59 hospitals and health systems across the Mountain State.

Throughout the pandemic, the organization has been part of a cooperative effort with state, local and hospital officials to coordinate the maintenance of bed space at larger hospitals while also supporting smaller community hospitals.

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Source: WV MetroNews