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Fair cancellation announcement comes just days ahead of scheduled start of Marshall County Fair

MARSHALL COUNTY, W.Va. — The countdown was on for the 2020 Marshall County Fair, the 72nd annual event that was supposed to start this Sunday in Moundsville, before Governor Jim Justice again called off all fairs and festivals in West Virginia, a step back for pandemic reopenings.

Governor Justice’s announcement came Monday as COVID-19 cases climbed statewide.

On Tuesday, Beth Bertram, president of the Marshall County Fair, was working to cancel scheduled fair entertainers and vendors ahead of what was supposed to be a full week of events in Moundsville running from July 19 to July 25.

“I wasn’t surprised really with everything being shut down. I wish it had happened a little sooner. It would have saved us a little bit of a problem, but we’ll work through it,” Bertram said of the announcement.

“That’s just 2020.”

Cancellations were also announced Monday for the Cabell County Fair, with exceptions for livestock, 4-H and FFA events, along with the West Virginia Honey Festival and Harvest Moon Festival in Wood County and Bluefield’s Lemonade Days and Lemonade Festival.

Other upcoming fairs and festivals were called off weeks ago, including the State Fair of West Virginia which is usually held each August in Greenbrier County.

Before Governor Justice’s Monday announcement, fairs and festivals were permitted beginning on July 1 under state guidelines established to limit coronavirus spread.

Bertram said they had planned to hold the Marshall County Fair utilizing those guidelines.

“We were working hard. We had worked with the (Marshall County) Health Department. They had given us guidance on what we needed to do,” she said.

“Anytime you have a group of people together, there’s risk and we were very hopeful that everything would work out. We were following what we had been told to do.”

Like many other county fairs in West Virginia, the Marshall County Fair typically includes truck pulls, pageants, livestock shows, carnival rides and stage entertainment.

Bertram said the losses for the Marshall County Fair because of the late cancellation could be substantial.

“We haven’t figured that out yet. We’ll lose a good amount, I think, because of things we had committed, things we had purchased ahead of time to have ready for next week. We haven’t figured out exactly how much yet,” Bertram said.

“Sometimes you just have to look for the best and do the best you can with it and this is the way it is, so we might as well deal with it.”

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DHHR: COVID numbers show improvement a week after Justice’s mask order

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia decreased for the first time in a week Tuesday in information released on the state Department of Health and Human Resources coronavirus dashboard.

The state is now reporting 1,330 active cases down three from Monday evening. It’s the first reduction in active cases in the past week. There were 564 active cases statewide on July 1.

The DHHR said there have been 4,316 COVID-19 cases in the state since the pandemic began, an addition of three cases from the Monday evening release. There remain 97 COVID-19 related deaths.

According to the DHHR, the daily positive test rate Tuesday morning decreased to 1.91 percent, the lowest since July 1, which was 1.92 percent. The overall positive test rate after nearly 212,000 tests is 2.04 percent.

Gov. Jim Justice issued a mandatory mask order a week ago for public buildings where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Hospitalizations have increased. The DHHR said 63 people are now in the hospital for COVID-19, 22 are being treated in ICU.

Justice signed two executive orders Monday. He has closed bars in Monongalia County for 10 days. A second order limits public social gatherings to 25 people. The order does not include churches, weddings or events associated with essential businesses.

.@WV_DHHR reports as of 10:00 a.m., on July 14, 2020, there have been 211,915 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 4,316 total cases and 97 deaths. #SaferAtHomeWV

— WV DHHR (@WV_DHHR) July 14, 2020

Overall confirmed cases per county include:

(Case confirmed by lab test/Probable case): Barbour (20/0), Berkeley (518/19), Boone (34/0), Braxton (5/0), Brooke (27/1), Cabell (192/7), Calhoun (4/0), Clay (12/0), Fayette (84/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (21/1), Greenbrier (71/0), Hampshire (42/0), Hancock (41/3), Hardy (46/1), Harrison (122/0), Jackson (148/0), Jefferson (253/5), Kanawha (420/12), Lewis (21/1), Lincoln (9/0), Logan (39/0), Marion (106/3), Marshall (65/1), Mason (25/0), McDowell (8/0), Mercer (63/0), Mineral (66/2), Mingo (29/2), Monongalia (557/14), Monroe (14/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (19/1), Ohio (147/0), Pendleton (15/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (37/1), Preston (81/21), Putnam (90/1), Raleigh (80/3), Randolph (188/2), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (12/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (22/1), Tucker (7/0), Tyler (10/0), Upshur (31/2), Wayne (127/1), Webster (1/0), Wetzel (37/0), Wirt (6/0), Wood (179/9), Wyoming (7/0).

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Former employee at Clarksburg veterans hospital to be charged in slaying of patients

Federal officials have unsealed an information that accuses a former employee of the veterans hospital in Clarksburg of giving patients fatal doses of insulin.

The document was unsealed this morning. A hearing will be at 2 p.m. in federal court in Clarksburg for the Northern District of West Virginia.

The former nursing assistant who has been accused of the crimes is Reta Mays. She is being charged with 7 counts of murder and 1 count of assault with intent to murder.

She is accused of killing veterans Robert Edge Sr., Robert Kozul, Archie Edgell, George Shaw, a patient identified only as W.A.H., Felix McDermott and Raymond Golden while also administering insulin to “R.R.P.,” another patient who was not diabetic with intent to kill him.

The information does not address why Mays would have done what she is accused of doing.

Mays Filed Information (Text)

U.S. Attorney for Northern West Virginia Bill Powell had earlier announced a news conference for Tuesday afternoon in Clarksburg “to announce significant developments in an ongoing federal investigation.”

That is still on, and it’s clear that the charges in the veterans hospital slayings are the focus. The news conference is set for 3 p.m. at Jackson Square Parking Pavilion in Clarksburg.

This is the first time Mays has been publicly named.

Authorities for months have described a person of interest, a former nursing assistant who had access to the rooms of the veterans who died at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Clarksburg.

Autopsies on exhumed bodies have pointed to insulin injections that weren’t needed. The veterans died of low blood sugar level, severe hypoglycemia, which would be caused by the insulin shots.

A January report in the Washington Post said a federal grand jury was investigating at least 11 deaths.

There have already been a number of civil lawsuits filed by families in connection with the deaths.

Mays began working at the veterans hospital in June 2015 until she was removed from her job in July 2018.

Federal prosecutors say the hospital did not require nursing assistants to have a certification or be licensed to keep their jobs.

Mays, the information alleges, “was not qualified or authorized to administer medicine, including insulin.”

But she worked the night shift, 7:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. in Ward 3A, which housed fragile patients who were not well enough to be discharged but whose conditions did not require the intensive care unit.

Mays’ job as a nursing assistant required her to measure patients’ vital signs, test blood glucose levels and sit one-on-one with patients who required observation.

Some families of veterans who died under mysterious circumstances later recalled having met someone who matched that description. Looking back, their memories were eerie.

Gina Wilkins, daughter of Navy veteran Russ Posey, one of the patients who died, in an interview last year, recalled conversations with a hospital employee who matched the descriptions of a “person of interest.”

“She just came in and told me it was an honor serving my dad, which I thought was very nice. I didn’t think very much about it at the time,” Wilkins said of the nurse’s assistant who was on the night shift.

“When she came back on shift, she did say ‘Oh, you’re still here,’ which kind of caught me off guard.”

By June 2018, a doctor at the veterans hospital told a supervisor about concerns that a number of patients had suffered crashing blood sugar levels, hypoglycemia, unexpectedly and died. Several of the patients who died were not diabetic, raising particular suspicions.

Hypoglycemia can result in seizures, coma and death.

Some families of the veterans who died have stepped forward over the past year, describing similar circumstances and shock that their loved ones who had gone to the hospital for medical help instead died under mysterious circumstances.

Archie Edgell

In the case of Edgell, the veteran went to the VA hospital in Clarksburg in March, 2018, to begin a transfer to the nearby VA nursing home.

“He wasn’t dying. He wasn’t even close to dying,” Dino Columbo, a lawyer for Edgell’s family said in an interview last year.

Yet he died after three days at the hospital. He had dementia and was diabetic, but there was no order for him to receive insulin, Colombo said.

Months later, investigators with the Veterans Administration’s Office of Inspector General came to the house where Edgell had lived with his son, Steve, and daughter-in-law, Amanda.

Steve said, “They killed him didn’t they?” Colombo recounted.

He had already been identified by the OIG as a suspicious death. After the Edgells gave permission, his body exhumed Dec. 11, 2018, and taken to Dover Air Force Base for an autopsy.

The autopsy identified four injection sites on his thigh and arm where he had been given insulin.

The autopsy concluded, “These findings are strongly suspicious for unprescribed insulin administered during hospitalization.” But the autopsy also said Edgell’s cause of death was “undetermined.”

Norma and Linda Shaw hold a portrait of veteran George Shaw, who died at the VA hospital in Clarksburg.

Another victim, Shaw, went to the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center on March 22, 2018.  He needed treatment for low blood pressure and symptoms of dehydration. But his symptoms plummeted unexpectedly and he died.

“They were going to give him some fluids, build him back up,” his wife, Norma, said in an interview last year. “He was in good spirits. He wanted to come home. He missed his dog.”

But on the morning of March 26, he took a turn for the worse.

By April 10, after being transferred to hospice, he had died.

In July 2018, the FBI reached out to the Shaws.

“They were investigating my husband’s death and investigating some other mysterious deaths at the VA around that same time,” Norma said. “I couldn’t believe what was going on.”

Felix McDermott

McDermott, a Vietnam veteran, was admitted for treatment at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg on April 9, 2018 because he had choked on some food and developed aspiration pneumonia.

At first, his health improved.

Then, on April 9, 2018, his condition plummeted. He couldn’t catch his breath. A fingerstick blood glucose test showed that he had critically low blood sugar.

The situation was so critical that his family was called in.

By 9 a.m., McDermott was dead.

“Really, no answers were given to the family at all. They really were just left in the dark. He took a sudden turn. They didn’t know what to think. They were surprised,” a lawyer for the family, Tony O’Dell, said last year on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

McDermott was buried on April 13, 2018.

“Put yourself in that position where it’s your father,” the lawyer O’Dell said, “and someone may have purposefully killed that person.”

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MetroNews This Morning 7-14-20

Governor Jim Justice slows the reopening in West Virginia amid a growing number of positive Covid 19 cases. The Morgantown area is of particular concern with a case spike which involves a large number of people in their 20’s. Fairs, festivals, and concerts are all cancelled and social gatherings can be no more than 25 people–there are some exceptions. School openings continue to be a fluid situation. We could learn more later today about new developments in an ongoing federal investigation and those seeking to remove the statue of Stonewall Jackson from the Capitol grounds in Charleston make their formal request this afternoon. In sports, despite no game the head coach of the North All-Starts paid a visit to each player over the weekend. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning Podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 7-14-20” on Spreaker.

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Justice closes bars in Monongalia County in hopes of slowing virus spread

Governor Jim Justice closed all the bars in Monongalia County for ten days starting at midnight last night. The move comes after a spike in Covid-19 cases, which the Governor and health officials believe is linked to the bars.

The number of positive cases in Monongalia County now makes up one-fourth of all the cases in the entire state.

“It’s a real hot spot,” Justice said of Monongalia County during his briefing yesterday, with cases among young people growing “at an alarming rate.” Statewide, just 23 percent of positive cases are in the 20-29 age group, but in Monongalia County the percentage is more than twice that.

Under the Governor’s order, restaurants with bars can still serve liquor, but the bars themselves will be closed for patrons with the hope that the infection rate begins to level off.

Health officials across the country, especially in states seeing a rise in cases, have cited taverns as common sources of the spread.

“People almost don’t want to social distance if they go to a bar,” Dr. Amesh Adalja of Johns Hopkins University Health Center told Kaiser Health News. “They’re going to be drinking alcohol, which is a social lubricant.  People will often be loud, and if they have forceful speech, that’s going to create more droplets.”

Combine those conditions with a feeling of imperviousness that often goes with youth and you have the perfect recipe for community spread.

Keep in mind Monongalia is seeing a spike even before thousands of students return to the WVU campus in a few weeks. The University is trying desperately to put in place measures that will reduce virus threat, but so much is out of the school’s control.

What happens after class and on weekends?  The University downplays its party image, but there have been plenty of instances over the years where alcohol-fueled parties get out of control.  In February 2019, Morgantown Police had to use tear gas to break up a riot involving hundreds of students after classes were canceled because of snow.

Meanwhile, there is a problem at the other end of the spectrum.  Justice showed a picture of a church service in Marion County where there was no social distancing, and no one was wearing a mask.   He again called on West Virginians to follow health advisories at church.  “It’s only the smart thing to do,” he said.

The Governor also re-imposed the 25 person limit on crowd size.  It had been raised to 100.  “We’re going the wrong way and we’ve got to get this thing turned around,” he said.

Justice is right, but there is only so much the government and health officials can do and say.  At some point people must take personal responsibility, not only for their own health, but also for the health of others they come in contact with.


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JUCO defensive lineman Nijel McGriff commits to WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Northwest Mississippi Community College defensive lineman Nijel McGriff announced hs verbal commitment to join WVU’s recruiting Class of 2021 Monday evening.

McGriff received a scholarship offer from WVU in mid-March and also holds offers from Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Liberty, Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Maryland, Memphis and UTSA.

— Nijel (CrimeDogg) Mcgriff (@McgriffNijel) July 14, 2020

The 6-foot-2, 285 pounder played in 11 games this past season at NW Mississippi CC. He racked up 27 tackles and a pair of sacks last fall.

McGriff hails from Jacksonville, Fla. and helped Madarin High School to an 11-4 record and the Class 8A state championship in his senior season. He collected 112 total tackles (17 for loss), 11 hurries, and 5.5 sacks in his senior season.

McGriff is the fourth defensive lineman in WVU’s Class of 2021. He joined Edward Vesterinen, Brayden Dudley and Hammond Russell in Neal Brown’s third class.

West Virginia’s previous Class of 2021 verbal commitments

Edward Vesterinen Helsinki, Finland 6-4, 240 DL 3-star
Tomas Rimac Brunswick, Oh. 6-6, 275 OL 3-star
Kaden Prather Germantown, Md. 6-3, 200 WR 4-star
Brayden Dudley Buford, Ga. 6-3, 250 DL
Treylan Davis Jackson, Ohio 6-5, 230 TE 3-star
Jaylen Anderson Perry, Ohio 6-1, 210 RB 4-star
Hammond Russell Dublin, Ohio 6-3, 235 DE 3-star
Will “Goose” Crowder Birmingham, Ala. 6-3, 192 QB 3-star
Wyatt Milum Huntington, W.Va. 6-6, 280 OL 4-star
Saint McLeod Philadelphia, Pa. 5-11, 190 Safety 3-star
Andrew Wilson-Lamp Massilon, Ohio 6-3, 175 WR 3-star
Viktor Wikstrom Stockholm, Sweden 6-3, 235 TE 3-star

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Cabell County fair canceled as coronavirus cases increase

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. — The Cabell County Fair has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Cabell County Fair Board made the decision on Monday because of limitations on large gatherings.

Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order earlier in the day limiting gatherings to 25 people as the number of coronavirus cases in West Virginia continues rising.

Plans regarding the livestock show and agriculture events have yet to be determined.

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Additional benefits available to people who have used other sources

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia workers that have used all of their regular unemployment benefits and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits are now allowed to apply for extended benefits.

WorkForce West Virginia announced Monday the extended benefits provide people with 13 additional weeks of benefits as well as 13 weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits.

People will receive the same weekly benefit amount they received from regular unemployment compensation.

The additional $600 in federal compensation is slated to end July 25.

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Nature’s Mountain Playground – Where You can Social Distance Naturally

Looking for that perfect getaway that offers social distancing?
Look no farther than Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Nature’s Mountain Playground has all the wide open space you need to take a staycation where you feel safe getting outside and enjoying West Virginia. Here are some great ways to make the best of your 2020 summer:

The wild rhododendrons lavish the hillsides in Watoga State Park the first half of July. There is no better place to appreciate the magnificent state flower. The shrub blankets the park road and forest areas. Make a day of it visiting three state parks including A hike along the Beartown State Park board walk through huge rock formations and visit the last significant land battle of the Civil War, Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park where you can climb the lookout tower for an unending view of the Little Levels Valley.

The Highland Scenic Highway is the Monongahela National Forest’s most treasured features. This 43 mile National Scenic Byway offers stunning views of the cascading Allegheny Highlands which peak at an elevation of 4,500 feet. You’ll enjoy stunning views, gorgeous forests, and globally unique attractions. The Cranberry Mountain Nature Center, Cranberry Glades and plenty of hiking trails make this trip a must this summer and fall.

Autumn in the Allegheny’s is the perfect time for to visit Nature’s Mountain Playground. Take a drive around this 900 square mile expanse and you see the splendor of fall at Snowshoe Mountain, Cass Scenic Railroad and throughout the Monongahela National Forest. The brilliant oranges, fiery red and yellow of the sugar maples and the golden bronze of beech nestled against the evergreens create a patchwork quilt forest. We recommend visiting September 20th through October 10th for the best fall foliage in the higher elevations of the Allegheny Mountains, but call for updates as fall season arrives.

Call the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for and Adventure Guide and Fall in the Allegheny’s brochure, and more information on all these getaway ideas. 800-336-7009





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Department of Education announces Teacher of the Year Finalists

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Education on Monday announced the five finalists for this year’s West Virginia Teacher of the Year Award.

Each finalist is their respective county’s teacher of the year:

— Erin Anderson, Tennerton Elementary School in Buckhannon.
— Michael Knepper, Mussleman High School in Inwood.
— Jessica Markwood, Moorefield High School in Moorefield.
— Meghan Salter, Martha Elementary School in Barboursville.
— Lisa Smith, Blennerhassett Elementary School in Blennerhassett.

This year’s award recipient will be announced in the fall during a virtual program.

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