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MetroNews This Morning 9-24-21

Three are dead in a Fayette County plane crash from the weekend. A high profile murder trial gets started today in Berkeley Springs. A member of the legislature sings the praise of monoclonal antibodies for treating Covid after his own experience. Governor Justice worries about those who refuse to take the vaccination. An interim president is in place at W.Va. State University and Toyota celebrates 25 years in Putnam County. IN Sports, it was a tough one for Mountaineer fans to take, but up next is Texas Tech. Those stories and more coming your way on today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetrooNews This Morning 9-27-21” on Spreaker.

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New report finds business travel down as COVID crisis lingers on

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Business travel is down nearly $144 million in revenue nationwide compared to 2019, according to a new report released by the American Hotel & Lodging Association and Kalibri Labs.

Richie Heath

While leisure travel in West Virginia remains significant and stable, the hotel industry in the state is still projected to end lower in business travel for 2021.

Richie Heath, executive director of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, told MetroNews travelers are canceling, reducing and postponing trips amid rising COVID-19 cases.

“I think with the ups and downs of the virus and the various peaks, you see with that what comes a lot of cancellations, sometimes in terms of business events,” he said.

Business travel includes corporate, group, government and other commercial categories.

Hotels are expected to end 2021 down nearly 500,000 jobs nationally compared to 2019. Heath said hotels support jobs in the community, benefits tourism and allows people visiting to contribute to the local economy.

“Typically they’re not just spending money at the hotel. If someone is in town for business for several days, they’re going to be spending money at local restaurants, possibly shops and putting money into the community,” he said.

Heath said many in-person conferences and events are returning, but some have remained virtual.

There’s also a number of out-of-state businesses that are still on travel restrictions, Health said.

“As a result of that, you’ve got companies, businesses, individuals, etc that typically might be traveling to West Virginia on business that still don’t have the authorization to do so because of private protocols that they have,” he said.

Leisure travel is rebounding because most trips are more spur of the moment, Health said.

“A lot of times leisure travel is certainly less planned in advance including same day bookings,” he said. “But it’s hard for your hotel businesses to be able to plan around that.”

The report predicts business travel revenue is not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

The West Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association represents food service, lodging, convention and visitors bureaus and travel industries in the state.

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Does This Stress Make Me Look Fat?

This may be a bad time to bring this up but… we have put on a few extra pounds during the pandemic.  Not everybody, of course, but data from the annual report from the Trust for America’s Health show weight gain was common across the country.

The Trust citied a survey conducted by the Harris Poll last February that “found that 42 percent of adults in the United States reported undesired weight gain since the start of the pandemic.  The average reported weight gain was 29 pounds.”

We had a weight problem in this country before the pandemic, and more on that later, but when the virus hit, our lifestyles changed.  Gyms, rec centers, and schools closed.  Team sports activities were canceled.

More people worked from home where the couch and snacks were readily available.  People stopped going out to events and that contributed to increased sedentary behavior.

The pandemic put additional stress, especially on low income Americans, on the ability to eat healthy.  “Food insecurity reached unprecedented levels due to COVID-19,” the Trust reported.  “At the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment surged, household food insecurity tripled, (and) food banks across the country reported large spikes in demand.”

Unfortunately, these unwanted pounds added on to our already bulging waistlines.

“In 2020, adult obesity* rates toped 35 percent in 16 states, up from 12 states in 2019.  Yes, West Virginia is among those states, and we’re near the top (or maybe that is the bottom) of the list.

According to the Trust, 39.1 percent of West Virginians are obese, ranking us second behind Mississippi with an obesity rate of 39.7 percent.  Coloradans are the healthiest, but even there one in four adults is overweight.

Doctor warnings about weight gain are real. The Trust reports obesity increases the risk of a range of diseases for adults—diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, liver and kidney disease, pregnancy complications, depression—and notably complications and serious illness from Covid.

The Trust cited a study from the Journal of the American Heart Association that “estimated that 30 percent of the adult Covid-19 hospitalizations through November 2020 were attributable to obesity, and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure were together attributable for 64 percent of hospitalizations.”

In other words, individuals with weight-related issues were more susceptible to serious illness from the virus.

This is not a commentary about “fat shaming.”  I was blessed with good genes, but even so, I have been trying, without success, to lose 10 pounds for as long as I can remember. My exercise is sporadic, and my and it is the first thing that goes when I get busy or tired. My eating habits range from pretty good to awful.

I know many of us are in the same boat, and that boat is getting heavier all the time.

*(According to the Trust, “Obesity means that an individual’s body fat and body-fat distribution exceed the level considered healthy.”)




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Miller finds value in committee assignments

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As the U.S. Congress continues discussions on domestic policy proposals, Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., has a front-row seat to the legislative action.

Miller joined the House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee at the start of this congressional session, and has spent part of the month considering parts of President Joe Biden’s “build back better” agenda. She additionally began serving on the House Budget Committee this month, which took up the $3.5 trillion proposal over the weekend.

Miller told MetroNews ahead of last year’s election joining the Ways & Means Committee was one goal when beginning her second congressional term. The committee, which is Congress’ oldest, is the House’s chief tax-writing committee and reviews policies impacting revenue, trade, Social Security and Medicare. Miller additionally serves on the committee’s Trade and Worker & Family Support subcommittees.

“Everything that touches West Virginia that is so vital,” Miller said in a recent interview.

U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va. (U.S. Congress)

Miller said her focus as a member of the Ways & Means Committee is related to trade and building relationships between West Virginia officials and other countries; she played a role in forming a memorandum of understanding earlier this year between West Virginia and Vietnam on natural resources and energy.

“I’m trying to make relationships that help bolster West Virginia, help our economy,” she said.

Miller began serving on the House Budget Committee last Monday. According to Miller, Ranking Member Jason Smith, R-Mo., asked her to join the committee, which focuses on the budgeting process and reviewing measures that could affect the federal budget.

“We’re at a pivotal time in our history, and we have been spending hand over fist,” she said. “When do you stop? What kind of bills should go through or shouldn’t go through? And it’s all in the numbers right now.”

The two committees have been busy in September; the Ways & Means Committee held a markup of its portion of a sweeping domestic policy proposal, which includes investments in clean energy, Medicare expansion and funding for community colleges and career training programs. The proposal also includes increasing the corporate tax rate to 26.5% from 21%, which was set in the 2017 tax law.

The Budget Committee advanced the multi-trillion dollar plan on Saturday.

Miller opposes the sweeping proposal because of its scope and the proposed $3.5 trillion cost.

“If you did to your family budget what we’re doing to our country right now, you would be in serious trouble very quickly,” she said.

“We had to spend larger during the pandemic, and now it’s time to get back to work and move forward.”

House Republicans, including Miller, opposed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief measure earlier this year. She did support the March 2020 coronavirus relief bill addressing the pandemic.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, on Sunday told colleagues that the Biden administration and congressional leaders are reviewing the $3.5 trillion proposal. Moderate Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have shared concerns about the plan’s cost.

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3 dead in Fayette County plane crash

LANSING, W.Va. — State police say three people were killed in a plane crash Sunday morning in Fayette County.

A single-engine Beechcraft C-23 crashed after departing the New River Gorge Airport in Fayetteville at around 11.m. The wreck was located behind a barn on Opossum Creek Road in the Lansing area.

Nick Fletcher, 38, Michael Taphouse, 36, and Wesley Farley, 39, were killed in the crash.

All three were from the Chesapeake, Va. area.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

More information is expected to be release in the coming days.


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Cage focused on rekindling the West Virginia State spirit in president role

INSTITUTE, W.Va. — Ericke Cage, whom has been in a top leadership role at West Virginia State University since the July 30 resignation of president Nicole Pride, is taking on the president role himself.

Cage was named interim president in a recent meeting by the university’s Board Of Governors. He had been serving as the university’s chief operating officer managing the day to day operations of the university since Pride’s resignation. Cage came to Institute in mid-July, being named vice president and chief of staff, serving as aide and adviser to Pride.

Ericke Cage

Pride submitted her letter of resignation to the board on July 30 after less than one year on the job. She had been under fire after several members of her cabinet signed a letter of no confidence and submitted it to the BOG earlier that month.

“Condescending and abusive dialogue are common in exchanges with Dr. Pride,” the Cabinet members wrote. “Her harassing dialogue and bullying behavior have contributed to a ‘hostile work environment.’ Her executive leadership team has continued to dwindle as a result of a psychologically unsafe and chaotic work environment.”

Cage has been in charge of the day-to-day operations since Pride’s resignation and told MetroNews he is focused on rekindling the West Virginia State (WVSU) spirit.

“We’ve come to a tough time at the university with leadership transition and COVID. It’s about taking a step back and bringing the community together to champion our core values,” Cage said.

Cage said his other immediate focuses are external engagement and making sure WVSU is telling its story to the state. He also said his administration will take a ‘deep dive’ into the university’s operations, policies, and processes. He said leaders there must do everything to optimize the effectiveness of the university.

“This is an incredible community,” Cage said. “A community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni who care deeply for our students and the mission of this university. I am ecstatic and excited to be here in Institute.”

When asked by MetroNews if he would be interested in applying for the permanent role of president, Cage responded, “I’m focused on the work of being an interim president of the university. I haven’t thought about that because there is so much work to do here.”

Board Chairman Chuck Jones told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that the university has no timeline in place to hire a permanent president. He also said there’s no written contract yet between the board and Cage.

Cage’s appointment must still be approved by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

Cage most recently served as the senior advisor to the president and university ombudsman at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia – where he served as principal advisor to the president on matters related to university policymaking, governance, and government relations, according to WVSU.

Prior to joining Norfolk State, Cage served as director of government affairs for Teach for America, and also served as legislative counsel for U.S. Congressman Tom Perriello, in addition to serving as a law clerk for the U.S. Department of Defense, and a legislative fellow for the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Cage told MetroNews he always envisioned himself being a university president and this is a great opportunity.

“As they say when opportunity knocks, it’s important that you’re ready to open that door. I think all of my experiences have prepared me for this moment in time,” Cage said.

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Hardy wants to spread word about COVID infusion treatments

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A member of the West Virginia House of Delegates wants the state to further promote monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19.

John Hardy

Delegate John Hardy, R-Berkeley, has first firsthand experience with the infusion treatment. The fully-vaccinated Hardy was diagnosed with COVID last week. He got the treatment in recent days.

Hardy said not long after he attended interim committee meetings earlier this month at the state capitol he started to feel poorly. He said by Saturday, Sept. 18, he had lost his sense of taste and smell. He tested positive for COVID-19 on that day. He said the next three days were tough.

“I was as sick probably as I have been in my entire life. I had every kind of symptom you could think of. It was like a revolving door of headache, cough, fever—it was just one symptom after another,” Hardy said.

By this past Tuesday, he said he was starting to get ‘heavy in the chest’ and grew concerned. Since he has some underlying health issues, his doctor recommended him for monoclonal antibody treatment at a clinic that just opened up for monoclonal antibody infusion on the campus of WVU Medicine Jefferson Medical Center:

“I received that infusion at around 8:30 on Wednesday and I can tell you about 4 to 5 hours later I began to feel much better,” Hardy said.

He said there six stations for the infusions. Hardy said the treatment took less than three hours.

Hardy said he now wants to spread the news about the infusions.

“I think this probably a treatment option that should be readily available,” Hardy said. “I have been in contact with the governor’s office already to let the governor’s office know what my experience was with it. I’m hoping and praying (the state) and WVU are working to expand those programs.”

State InterAgency Task Force Director Jim Hoyer talked several times last week about the plans to spread those treatments. The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is one of those locations doing the infusions.

Dr. Sherri Young

“We have tried to test as much as we can, which we will continue, vaccinate as much as we can, which we will continue, but because we know this is a disease of mostly unvaccinated individuals and some breakthrough cases we know we need this to keep people out of the hospitals,” Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Director Dr. Sherri Young said.

Hardy said he’s thankful for the infusions are will promote them as much as possible.

“The treatment that I received worked very well for me. I can’t say it would be the same for everyone but I just wanted to tell of my experience,” Hardy said.

Hardy had received both courses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by the end of January.

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Foundation gift finances 2 new fashion design studios at WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Thanks to an anonymous gift of $750,000 to the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, two new fashion design studios are now up and operating.

An official ribbon cutting took place last week on the Evansdale Campus in Morgantown.

The new studios replace outdated facilities. WVU Assistant Professor of Fashion, Dress & Merchandising Katie Jones said the spaces show the level of commitment by the university to developing leaders in the clothing industry.

“More importantly really, shows a commitment to design students and cultivate into leaders of the fashion industry,” Jones said.

The new spaces are divided to allow students to experience the complete process from an idea, to a sketch or concept, an example and ultimately a consumer product that can be produced.

“Two new studios here,” Jones said. “We have an illustration studio where hand-drawing and digital illustration skills will be developed and we have the sewing studio where the actual construction can happen.”

Each part of the process plays an important role in the final product. These new studios allow students to become immersed in all aspects from concept, design to production.

“The connection to the cloth, the connection to the body, because we’re talking about garments that are going onto bodies,” Jones said. “Those connections need to be maintained and those spaces allow both of those things to happen.”

The program also has ties to the community at-large. The Farm to Fashion initiative locates local sources for textiles, ideas and craftsmanship that could benefit from the expertise available from the students and staff of the program.

“We’re trying to be the hub that connects all these areas,” Jones said. “The fiber producers, the designers, the people turning textiles into beautiful, wearable things and the retailers.”

The program could potentially help West Virginia residents that sew, create and have experience in a wide variety of fashion, Jones said.

“They need perhaps a little more insight or need to make some connections to find out what’s here and what could be built upon. So we are willing and able to help people from all sorts of backgrounds and ideas to tap into the expertise of the faculty here,” she said.

The anonymous donor made the gift through the WVU Foundation.

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Photo gallery: Winfield nets third win, 41-20 at Logan

LOGAN, W.Va. — Photo gallery from Winfield’s 41-20 win at Logan.

(Photos courtesy of Boothe Davis/Captured by the Moment Photography)

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Upset bid squandered by untimely errors in WVU’s second narrow road loss of season

NORMAN, Okla. — Sunday’s film review by the WVU coaching staff will reveal perhaps the best overall defensive performance in the Neal Brown era. But missed opportunities on offense and defense kept the Mountaineers from securing a signature upset in a building where Oklahoma loses on average, once every two years.

“That’s hard when you invest like we have,” said WVU head coach Neal Brown. “We had a great week and great prep. Guys were ready to go and I thought we handled everything that has to do with it. We just didn’t get it done. The hope is that you learn from this.”

Lincoln Riley and the Sooners had cleared the 50-point mark in their last three games against the Mountaineers. They mustered just one touchdown and 313 total yards on Saturday.

“We held the No. 3 or 4 team to sixteen points but that is not good enough,” said WVU linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo. “We view ourselves as one of the best defenses in the country and definitely the best defense in the Big 12. Sixteen points are too much. Our offense scored. That is enough to win the game.”

West Virginia’s offense opened the game with a clinical 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took over nine minutes.

“I believed we could do that on the first drive,” said WVU wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton. “We had a good game plan going into the game. We went toe-to-toe with them. We just came up short but I think for the most part we had a good game plan going on.”

After that opening drive however, WVU could only muster a pair of field goals. Crucial penalties, an interception and miscommunication on a snap during their final drive left the Mountaineers out of the end zone in the final three quarters.

“When we go back and look at it, there’s going to be three or four opportunities where we had to go win the game. You never know when those plays are going to be. And we didn’t get it done,” Brown said.

Once again, Brown shuffled Garrett Greene in at the quarterback spot, and to good effect. He completed 3-of-4 passes and scored WVU’s lone touchdown.

“He’s a talented quarterback,” Ford-Wheaton said. “He is a quarterback for a reason. He is not just a running quarterback. He can throw the ball too. We trust him just as much as we trust [Jarret] Doege. When he comes in, we can pass the ball.”

Just one round into the Big 12’s round robin regular season, league favorites Oklahoma and Iowa State seem vulnerable and teams like West Virginia have an opportunity to shift the balance of power in the conference.

“We can compete with anybody, honestly,” Chandler-Semedo said. “That’s a team that was No. 2 in the country in the preseason, Heisman favorite and a No. 1 pick. We have seen what we did. With that type of confidence, we feel like we can play with anybody. The Big 12 is up for grabs.”

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