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The Voice of West Virginia

State Board of Education cancels meeting after school systems allow in-person courses

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Board of Education was scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss county school systems without in-person instruction, but that meeting has been canceled.

Board President Miller Hall canceled the meeting after education leaders in Marion, Taylor and Gilmer counties agreed to have some face-to-face lessons.

Each school system planned to resume remote instruction for all students because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, but state school leaders pressured possible actions against the local schools unless schedules changed.

“I am very pleased we have turned a corner in our state,” Hall said Monday. “We know more about this virus than we did when schools moved to remote learning in March 2020, and when we are diligent to follow the key mitigations such as mask-wearing, we know our children are safe in our schools.”

Two leading education unions — the West Virginia Education Association and the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers — are suing to slow to return to the classroom as educators and staff continue receiving coronavirus vaccine doses.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster will take up the lawsuit on Tuesday.

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Anti-abortion group launches campaign thanking Manchin over filibuster

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — During the 2018 midterm elections, Susan B. Anthony List wanted U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to lose his reelection bid.

Three years later — with Manchin now in the middle of his second full term — the national anti-abortion group is thanking Manchin for opposing getting rid of the filibuster. The organization on Monday launched a $200,000 campaign supporting Manchin, which will include radio and digital advertisements as well as phone calls.

Manchin has stated he opposes eliminating the filibuster, in which 60 senators have to vote for ending debate and moving to a final vote. The senator told MetroNews last week lawmakers should focus on cooperating with members from other parties rather than allowing a simple majority to pass bills.

Democrats control the split Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker in 50-50 votes.

“Joe Manchin is, perhaps, the most decisive person in Washington right now,” said Mallory Quigley, Susan B. Anthony List’s vice president of communications. “He’s playing a very important role.”

Quigley, during an appearance on “MetroNews Talkline,” said the anti-abortion movement made progress under former President Donald Trump; the Republican-led Senate confirmed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

Quigley noted while her organization has not agreed with Manchin in the past, it is important for West Virginians to know there is some common ground.

“The situation in Washington is very dire right now,” she said, “just in terms of the dramatic change that could happen without his leadership.”

A spokesperson for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., told The Washington Post she opposes eliminating the filibuster.

Following comments from Manchin and Sinema, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a statement saying the filibuster is important in protecting the power of lawmakers as well as shaping legislation.

“The legislative filibuster was a key part of the foundation beneath the Senate’s last 50-50 power-sharing agreement in 2001,” he said Monday. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent.”

Susan B. Anthony List in 2018 also backed Amendment One, which stated there is nothing in the state Constitution securing or protecting abortions or related funding. The organization dedicated $500,000 to support the amendment and oppose Manchin.

 

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McKneely sets commitment date, Biggs and Bryan reopen recruitment

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Two of the state’s top high school athletes have updated their respective recruitments.

Spring Valley’s Bryce Biggs & Wheeling Park’s Caleb Bryan reopen recruitment

Spring Valley senior lineman Bryce Biggs has reopened his recruiting process. In October, Biggs committed to Marshall University. However, Biggs announced on his twitter site Monday that he is no longer committed to the Herd.

MY RECRUITMENT IS NOW OPEN‼ Thank you. pic.twitter.com/QjKd0nOGcE

— Bryce Biggs (@biggs_bryce) January 25, 2021

Biggs held 16 Division I offers at the time of his commitment to Marshall. Charles Huff has replaced Doc Holliday as the head coach of the Herd.

Spring Valley’s Bryce Biggs (65) blocks out Parkersburg’s Will Coffman (Photo by Marcus Constantino)

Wheeling Park lineman Caleb Bryan has also decommitted from Marshall.

I have de-committed from Marshall University. MY RECRUITMENT IS BACK OPEN‼ pic.twitter.com/GBu5xShhh2

— Caleb Bryan (@CalebBryan52) January 25, 2021

 

Poca’s McKneely sets commitment date

The top West Virginia native in the Class of 2022 has set a date for his verbal commitment. Poca junior Isaac McKneely has announced he will commit on Saturday at 2 p.m.

I will be announcing my college decision on Saturday, January 30th at 2pm EST.

— Isaac McKneely (@IsaacMcKneely) January 25, 2021

McKneely averaged 22 points a game in his sophomore season. He has released a ‘Top 8 list’ in his recruitment with some of the biggest programs in the nation: Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Purdue, Virginia and West Virginia.

Poca’s Isaac McKneely (Photo by Chuck Roberts)

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WV Teacher of the Year turning pandemic challenges into opportunities

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia 2021 Teacher of the Year Erin Anderson says some people have told her they feel sorry for her because she’s received a top honor during a pandemic but she says she believes it’s the perfect time to represent teachers.

Anderson, a fifth grade teacher at Tennerton Elementary School in Upshur County, was in Charleston Monday to pick-up the Toyota Rav4 she’ll have use of during the next several months and cash prizes. She was named Teacher of the Year back in September.

Anderson said the honor came at a perfect time, in spite of the pandemic.

“It distracted me from what could have been the stresses of the classroom. I’ve taken my best step forward. I’ve had to stay positive,” she said.

Congratulations to Mrs. Erin Anderson, our 2021 West Virginia Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Anderson, thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do for West Virginia students! 👩‍🏫👏 #WVTOY #WVed pic.twitter.com/5VQK35tYTy

— West Virginia Department of Education (@WVeducation) January 25, 2021

Anderson said she likes to turn challenges into opportunities and the pandemic has created several.

“We’ve had opportunities to meet our (students’) families, where we may not have met them prior. We usually meet them at parent-teacher conference but I feel I really know my families this year,” Anderson said.

This is a time for teachers to shine, Anderson said.

“This is our chance. This is our chance to make our profession appealing and to put teaching in a good light,” she said. “If someone is thinking about going into education we want them to see the best of what it has to offer, rather than the worst. We need to guard what we are saying about our profession I feel.”

She said teachers have met the challenges of the pandemic head on and she’s proud to be able to represent them this year.

“Our teachers are doing amazing work,” Anderson said.

She said teachers know that won’t be able to cover as much ground as they would in a normal year. Anderson said she and other teachers are drilling down on what students need to be successful next school year.

“For me, teaching fifth grade, I’m really focusing on math and then next is science,” she said.

Anderson will do some traveling promoting teacher preparation and new teacher mentor programs. She plans to use her cash gifts on those trips and purchase items for her classroom.

In addition to the use of the Rav4 for a year, Anderson received $5,000 from Horace Mann Insurance, $5,000 from Highmark West Virginia and a $300 classroom grant from the West Virginia Lottery. County winners also received the $300 grant.

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The Game Within The Game (Episode 43)

Come for the NFL line movement analysis and NBA prop plays for Monday night (Jan 25). Stay for the unexpected Larry King story from longtime Las Vegas oddsmaker Dave Sharapan.

Dave joins host Brad Howe for a look back at the NFC and AFC championship games from Sunday. Kick it or go for it? Was it a case of ‘right call, wrong result’ for Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur? The analytics on the decision may surprise you.

The guys also evaluate three potential prop plays for Monday night’s Miami – Brooklyn NBA game and dive into the Big Monday college basketball matchup between Texas Tech and West Virginia.

All of that and more in the latest episode of The Game Within The Game presented by DraftKings.

New users on DraftKings Sportsbookremember  to use code METROGAME for a special sign up bonus offer.

 

 

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Construction underway on Black Rock wind project

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Construction is underway on a new wind farm that will include 23 new turbines on the Grant-Mineral county line.

The Clearway Energy project was announced by Gov. Jim Justice, company officials and others Monday.

Craig Cornelius

Clearway, which already operates the Pinnacle Wind Farm in Mineral County, hopes to have the new Block Rock Wind project in operation by before the end of 2021.

Clearway Energy CEO Craig Cornelius said 115-megawatt wind farm will be a financial boost to the Potomac Highlands and the state.

“An overall capital investment of over $200 million of which we expect $52 million will be spent on payroll and services during the construction process,” Cornelius said.

Two-hundred union jobs will be created during construction. The company plans a job fair later this year for permanent positions. The turbines will produce 5 mega-watts each. Clearway has contracts with two companies in West Virginia to receive the power.

“Once they’re running the power they provide to Toyota and AEP (American Electric Power) is going to make those project customers more cost-efficient and more sustainable and put them in a position to continue to grow their economic activities in the state,” Cornelius said.

Gov. Justice said the state needs to continue to diversify its economy but in the right way.

“We still don’t want to forget, in any way, our coal mine jobs, our natural gas jobs, or our oil jobs and how important they are. But we have embraced our role as an all-encompassing energy state. We want to welcome alternatives, and this wind farm will absolutely amp up our wind production in this great state in a big way and will help us move forward with great jobs,” Justice said.

Ed Gaunch

State Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch says the state is well on its way to diversification.

“This project is another spoke from that hub that we’ve created here,” Gaunch said. “It’s to diversify our energy portfolio and our entire economy in West Virginia.”

Cornelius said Clearway also plans a pilot project training program for those workers who have experience in coal mining or other parts of the energy sector.

“Successful applicants will receive free training, travel costs and stipend during training and those who successfully complete all the training are going to get a job at Black Rock,” he said.

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Former VA doctor sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexually abusing patients

BECKLEY, W.Va. — A former doctor employed by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Beckley has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexual abuse of patients.

U.S. District Judge Frank W. Volk sentenced Jonathan Yates, 52, of Bluefield, Virginia, to 300 months in prison and three years of supervised release Monday afternoon in Beckley.

Volk told Yates he caused the physical pain and embarrassment of multiple veterans and had victims thinking about taking their own lives.

“I was puzzled and sometimes shocked at the lack of remorse, the explanations at some point that didn’t make sense. I am left with the conclusion that he (Yates) has not yet come to grips with the harm or wrongdoing that is present in this case,” Volk said to the courtroom.

Yates pleaded guilty last September to three counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under the color of law by sexually abusing them. Yates admitted to rubbing the genitals of two veterans and digitally penetrating a third person’s rectum without any legitimate medical purpose.

Jonathan Yates

Yates was indicted in May 2020 for sexually molesting six patients from September 2018 to February 2019.

The veterans were seeking treatment for chronic pain through osteopathic manipulative therapy, yet Yates’ actions caused additional pain.

Several veterans addressed the court at sentencing, describing the trauma and mental anguish that Yates had caused them. Yates surrendered his medical licenses as a condition of his plea agreement.

One victim said Monday was a day they were looking forward to but dreading at the same time.

“It’s like waking up from a nightmare only to realize you were never dreaming. You were always awake,” the victim said.

Another victim told the courtroom that Yates would brag to other doctors about his actions. The victim, like the handful of others that spoke, wished the maximum sentence upon Yates.

“I hope you get everything you get in federal prison. I hope every day you wake up, you remember me. You’re a sick devilish man. You’re sick and you’re proud of it,” the victim said as he turned to Yates.

Yates apologized to the courtroom Monday for “any of the pain I have caused to those who have suffered harm.”

“I have spent months soul searching. I have also spent time praying. Praying that each of you who are hurt or afraid would find peace and personal healing,” Yates said.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gregory B. Friel of the Civil Rights Division said in a release, “The sentence today reflects the seriousness of this defendant’s misconduct. In a despicable betrayal of his oath, he used his specialized medical knowledge and expertise to sexually abuse his own patients. He has now been held accountable.

“It is a testament to the bravery of our veterans that so many came forward to bring this defendant to justice.”

U.S. Attorney Michael Stuart for the Southern District of West Virginia called the sentencing significant with 300 months but said it was justice for Yates.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart

“It doesn’t make me happy that someone gets 300 months. But I believe in justice. I think it’s important in this case that a strong statement was laid. 300 months is a strong statement of personal accountability, responsibility that every person has to society.”

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, and the Veterans Affairs Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Samantha Trepel and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg McVey of the Southern District of West Virginia, and Assistant Chief Kilby MacFadden of the Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Morgantown’s Caden Biser welcomes walk-on opportunity at WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Caden Biser received such a warm welcome to Morgantown that he has decided to take advantage of a chance to play at West Virginia University. On December 7, Biser was offered a preferred walk-on opportunity from the Mountaineer coaching staff. Biser accepted that invitation Sunday and will compete for WVU this fall.

“Ever since I was little, I always wanted to play at WVU,” Biser said. “I am already in Morgantown, so why not go to school in Morgantown.

“I have always dreamed about being a Mountaineer and playing in the old gold and blue.”

Biser played his first three seasons of high school football at Keyser High School for his father, Sean. When Sean was named the new Morgantown head coach last spring, Caden made a smooth transition to life as a Mohigan.

“I felt comfortable the first day I was here. The hospitality was amazing. They have treated us like we were family since day one.”

Sean played offensive line for the Mountaineers from 1990-1993 and coached Caden throughout his high school years.

“He has shaped me into the man I am today,” Caden said of his father. “He taught me lessons through life on and off the field on how to face adversity, how to make proper tackles. He has always led me through life.”

Caden excelled in his lone season at Morgantown High School. He won the Howley Award as the state’s top linebacker. Playing in just six games, Biser racked up 51 tackles.

“The hard work I put in during the offseason and in-season, I came in everyday ready to work to get better. That gave me more opportunities to get a chance to play.

“I have seen walk-ons succeed and I want to be one of those walk-ons. I want to strive and work as hard as I can to get to where I need to be to be successful.”

Like his two older brothers Jacob and Jackson, who play at Frostburg State in Maryland, Caden will get the opportunity to prove himself at the college level. He received offers to play at Frostburg, Wheeling, Charleston, Glenville State and Robert Morris. Biser is confident he can catch the eye of the WVU coaches as many walk-ons have through consistent work ethic.

“I am working on my field work and agility. Getting better as an all-around football player will help.

“I can single myself out by working hard and coming in everyday and making myself better, being the hardest worker out there.”

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Three Guys Before The Game – Wildcats and Red Raiders (Episode 264)

Things are going to get busy for the West Virginia University basketball team.

After not playing for two weeks, the Mountaineers will play two games in three days.

WVU hosts Texas Tech in a Big Monday showdown of nationally rated teams Monday night.

On this episode, the “Guys” review Saturday’s record-setting victory over Kansas State and preview the Texas Tech matchup.

Join the crew again Thursday for a preview of Saturday’s SEC/Big 12 matchup with Florida.

Three Guys Before The Game is brought to you by Mardis Gras Casino and Resort, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack and Burdette Camping Center. Look super cool by wearing Three Guys merchandise.

Never miss an episode, subscribe below.

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State officials point to online vaccination appointment rollout and distribution success rate

West Virginia officials are pleased by the rollout of an online vaccination pre-registration system and proud of a 106 percent success rate in administering the vaccine supply available to residents.

“If you’re doing 106.4 percent of what you’ve got you’re doing pretty dadgum good,” Gov. Jim Justice said today. “We’re getting more squeals out of the pig than you can imagine.”

West Virginia has been able to achieve that rate by getting more doses out of each available vial.

West Virginia officials say the state has received 156,300 first doses and distributed 166,358 so far.

“We’re getting more doses out of the vials than what they really anticipated,” Justice said.

Speaking today on MetroNews’ “Talkline, West Virginia coronavirus response coordinator Clay Marsh said state health workers are often able to get six doses out of a five-dose Pfizer vaccine vial. And they’re often able to get 11 doses out of a 10-dose Moderna vial.

WV Covid-19 Czar Dr. @claymarsh speaks with @HoppyKercheval about the latest updates on vaccines and the new website and phone line. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/1GiVkpNQkT

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) January 25, 2021

The only hangup is making sure special syringes are available for the additional doses. West Virginia added a sixth syringe into ancillary kit packs, said James Hoyer, the chief of West Virginia’s multi-agency coronavirus task force,

James Hoyer

“It is not every single vial that you get the extra dose, but we are getting enough it’s making a significant impact,” Hoyer said.

Health officials determined in December that six doses could be achieved from Pfizer vials. Originally, those vials were thought to include enough for five doses.

On Jan. 6, Pfizer persuaded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to change the messaging on its fact sheets to state that each vial contains six doses. The upshot is, Pfizer can fulfill its agreement to provide the nation with 200 million vaccine doses by the end of July with less product.

State officials say West Virginia needs and could administer more vaccines. But it’s unclear when that rate will increase.

Over the past few weeks, state officials have said West Virginia has the capacity to administer about 125,000 doses a week.

But the state has received about 25,000 doses the past few weeks because the national supply has plateaued.

The new director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday said the federal government does not know how much coronavirus vaccine the nation has.

“I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have, and if I can’t tell it to you then I can’t tell it to the governors and I can’t tell it to the state health officials,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told “Fox News Sunday.”

“If they don’t know how much vaccine they’re getting not just this week but next week and the week after they can’t plan. They can’t figure out how many sites to roll out, they can’t figure out how many vaccinators that they need, and they can’t figure out how many appointments to make for the public,” Walensky said.

West Virginia has continued vaccination eligibility for residents 65 and older, while acknowledging there is not enough supply to meet demand.

Justice said today that he would be talking with the new U.S. coronavirus response coordinator, Jeff Zients.

“I’m in contact with ‘em nonstop. I’m screaming my head off,” Justice said.

Hoyer agreed: “That’s our big push now, to get more vaccines.”

State officials were pleased with the debut of an online system to help people pre-register for vaccinations. The system run through a national company called Everbridge was announced last week and debuted at 8 a.m. today.

Bill Crouch

“To roll this out in a week is quite an experience,” said state Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch.

By the time of a midday briefing, Crouch said 40,000 people had already been able to successfully use the system.

The hope is to ease the many reports of eligible residents unable to get through on clogged telephone lines.

“I hate that like crazy you’re calling over and over and can’t get through,” Justice said.

Justice today proudly pointed to a front page New York Times article that focused on West Virginia’s vaccination efforts: “West Virginia speeds ahead on innoculation.”

“Pour it on West Virginia. Keep doing it,” he said.

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