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WV Coal Industry Sees Threat in Appalachian Power-Sierra Club Agreement

The largest electric utility in West Virginia has entered into an agreement with an environmental group that coal industry officials fear could lead to the shutdown of two major coal-fired power plants in the state.

Under the agreement between the Sierra Club and Appalachian Power, the utility will conduct “retirement analyses” for the John Amos power plant at Winfield and the Mountaineer power plant near New Haven.

Appalachian Power serves 465,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in the state, and those two power plants provide about 70 percent of the power generated by the utility in West Virginia.

Jeri Matheney, Appalachian Power’s director of communications, said possible early retirement “will be one of the many scenarios evaluated.  We’re not seeking to retire the plants early, but we are committed to evaluating their economic viability in light of prevailing and forecasted market conditions.”

Appalachian Power is a huge coal customer. Together the two plants burn about 7.7 million tons of coal a year.  Matheney does not believe the agreement will impact coal production in the state.  However, West Virginia Coal Association senior vice president Chris Hamilton disagrees.

It is “alarming to learn of one of the state’s major utilities to be in negotiations with a national environmental group, the Sierra Club of all people, over the possible shutdown of two major coal-fired power plants,” he said.

“The economic value of these plants is of vital importance to our state’s economy,” Hamilton said, “and collectively they account for thousands of state jobs and keep dozens of surrounding cities and counties vibrant.”

The agreement falls in line with the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign to move the country away from the carbon-producing fossil fuel.   Pablo Willis, associate press secretary for the Sierra Club, said whether the plants close early—both are now scheduled for retirement in 2040—will depend on the utility’s study.

“The retirement analysis will take into account all future costs/expenses for those plants and will look at all reasonable options for replacement of the coal plants with clean energy alternatives such as solar or battery storage,” Willis told me.  The analysis is due in 2022.

Appalachian is already broadening its power generation portfolio to include more alternative fuels.  Earlier this year the utility asked for bids to construct a solar power plant in West Virginia capable of generating up to 50 megawatts of electricity.

Matheney said the deal with the Sierra Club is not related to that shift.  “While Appalachian Power is committed to gradually introducing more renewables as part of diversifying our generation mix, this agreement is completely separate from that goal.”

However, Appalachian, which has 532,000 customers in Virginia, is feeling pressure from the Commonwealth.  The Virginia Clean Economy Act, which took effect July 1, will require Appalachian to produce 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050.

Appalachian Power said that to meet that requirement, “the company will rely less and less on its coal fleet.”

The coal industry is struggling mightily.  The Wall Street Journal reported last week that President Trump has not been able to bring back coal as he promised.  “As mines and power plants continue to close, the question many are asking in the diminishing American coal industry is—what now?”

Clearly that is on the minds of West Virginians who depend on the coal industry.  The Appalachian Power-Sierra Club agreement is a harbinger of more difficult times ahead.

 

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Big 12 Snapshot: The calm before the storm

— By Dave Weekley

With only one Big 12 team in action over the weekend, there aren’t many changes in our second Big 12 Snapshot of the season, but we could be on the verge of a shuffle, with all ten teams set to open conference play next Saturday.

  This column provides a quick overview of where things stand around the Big 12 each week and unlike standings or power ratings, we use a tier format. 

 So, let’s take a crack at separating the contenders from the pretenders as conference play kicks off next weekend in the Big 12 football. 

TIER ONE — (This tier is reserved for teams that are legitimate Big 12 Conference champion contenders.)

OKLAHOMA

  Oklahoma remains the odds on favorite to win the Big 12 again and continues to set the standard for the rest of the league.  The majority of the Sooners’ starters played little more than a half of football in Oklahoma’s opener against Missouri State, but that’s likely to change this week against Kansas State.  You can expect Lincoln Riley to have the Sooners ready for K-State next Saturday after last year’s shocking 48-41 upset loss.  Spencer Rattler was outstanding in his debut against Missouri State, hitting on 14-of-17 for 290 yards and four touchdowns in two quarters with two drops.  True freshman Marvin Mims looks like yet another game breaker for OU at receiver and punt returner.  SOONER THAN LATER; Expect more depth for Oklahoma this week.  While the Sooners didn’t reveal the exact total, as many as 40 players didn’t suit up for the Missouri State game due to COVID-19, suspension or injury.  

TEXAS

  Despite having the weekend off, Texas actually moved up a spot to No. 8 in the new AP Top 25 Poll and they remain a Tier One team in our Big 12 Snapshot. Coming off their early bye week, Tom Herman’s Longhorns are off to Lubbock to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders next Saturday.  Sam Ehlinger was nearly perfect in Texas’ opener against UTEP and now gets a chance to face a TTU pass defense that allowed 572 air yards to FCS Houston Baptist.  Linebacker Joseph Ossai and the cornerbacks, D’Shawn Jamison and new starter Josh Thompson, keyed a solid defensive effort by Texas against the Miners, who could be looking at another name the score game this week in their conference opener.  TEXAS TWO-STEP; The Longhorns had seven different wide receivers catch a touchdown in the win over UTEP.   

TIER TWO —- (Teams in this tier are probable bowl teams that can reach Tier One status, but are still considered underdogs for conference title contention.)

OKLAHOMA STATE 

  Oklahoma State becomes the first team in our new Tier Ratings to change tiers, dropping from Tier One to Tier Two this week.  If you watched the Cowboys struggle against Tulsa, you understand why.  When quarterback Spencer Sanders limped off the field with a right ankle injury in the first half, Oklahoma State suddenly looked very vulnerable.  Sanders’ status for the West Virginia game is now key for both teams.  With Sanders out, true freshman Shane Illingworth came off the bench late in the third quarter for an ineffective Ethan Bullock and gave the Cowboys a lift, operating behind a shaky OSU offensive line that allowed six sacks to Tulsa. Chuba Hubbard also had a hard time getting on track, Tulsa held him to 93 yards on 27 carries. OKIE DOKIE; Tulsa was 0-for-11 on third down and 1-for-4 on fourth down against the Oklahoma State defense.

BAYLOR

  Perhaps we will finally get a look at Baylor this week, as the Bears open conference play at home against Kansas.  COVID-19 was the reason behind the Bears’ scheduled non-conference game with Houston being postponed.  Baylor didn’t meet the Big 12 Conference COVID-19 game cancellation thresholds, so its third (!) planned opener had to come off the board.  There are so many questions about Baylor at the moment.  Can a new defensive-minded head coach like Dave Aranda find success in a pass-happy league like the Big 12?  What will the Bears’ defense look like with so many new starters and an a new staff in Waco?  Can Baylor keep Charlie Brewer healthy for an entire season?  We may get a few answers on Saturday.  BAYLOR BYTES; BU is 9-0 at home in the all-time series with Kansas.        

IOWA STATE 

  Perhaps the best thing to happen to Iowa State was the lack of a game last week.  The shocking home loss to Louisiana knocked ISU out of the national polls, but we still have them as a solid Tier Two team in our Big 12 Snapshot.  Iowa State finds itself as a small underdog this week at TCU.  Brock Purdy will be looking to bounce back from arguably the worst game of his career in the loss to Louisiana, going a rather pedestrian 16-of-35 for just 145 yards and an interception.   Purdy was without tight end Charlie Kolar because of a lower body injury.  Matt Campbell said last week that Kolar was limited in the practices leading up the ISU opener and remains day to day. Kolar’s availability is a huge factor in a potential Cyclones turnaround this week at TCU.  STATE YOUR CASE: Louisiana outscored ISU 21-0 after halftime in the Cyclones’ upset loss.   

TCU 

   TCU had another weekend of watching other teams play, after the Frogs’ opener with SMU was scrapped due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the team.  Without a game, TCU got an unexpected extra week to prepare for their delayed season opener with Iowa State this week.  In addition to dealing with the pandemic, Gary Patterson has been dealing with other injury concerns.  The TCU quarterback situation has been fraught with drama over the last month.  Sophomore Max Duggan, TCU’s starter for most of last season, remains sidelined indefinitely with a heart condition and has not been cleared to return.  Meanwhile, projected starter Matthew Downing missed ten days of practice due to an undisclosed injury recently, but the former Georgia walk-on returned to drills last week and is expected to start the opener against Iowa State. GET TO THE PASSER; The TCU defense collected only 22 sacks last year, the lowest single season total in the Gary Patterson era in Fort Worth.

WEST VIRGINIA 

  There’s lots of WVU football content here at the website, so no need to go into great detail about the Mountaineers in this column.  Oddsmakers have West Virginia has nearly a touchdown underdog to Oklahoma State this week. Is it possible that a resurgent WVU running game can keep the football away from the Cowboys’ trio of elite playmakers in Hubbard, Wallace and Sanders (if he plays)?  Will the Stills’ brothers wreck havoc with the Oklahoma State offensive line that struggled mightily for three quarters against Tulsa?  We will start getting answers to those questions and more on Saturday in Stillwater.           

KANSAS STATE 

  After losing its season opener 35-31 to Arkansas State two weeks ago, things certainly don’t get any easier this week, with a trip to Oklahoma.  K-State has been installed as a four-touchdown underdog to the Sooners.  Arkansas State outgained K-State 489-374 in total offense and the first entirely new offensive line for the Wildcats in 31 years failed to open many holes for their previously patented strong running game in the loss.  You can count Kansas State among the Big 12 teams that have been struggling to keep COVID-19 under control.  K-State head coach Chris Klieman noted last week that the Wildcats were missing between 35 and 40 players due to Covid protocols and close to a dozen of his players who played in the game had missed two weeks or more of practice due to pandemic related issues. INSIDE ISSUES; In the loss to Arkansas State, K-State had 17 carries between the tackles for only 15 yards (0.9 yards per rush). 

     

TIER THREE —- (If you find yourself here, you are likely not a candidate for bowl consideration and will be an underdog virtually every week.)

TEXAS TECH 

  When Texas and Texas Tech meet in Lubbock on Saturday, both teams will come into the game undefeated, but the expectations are completely different.  TTU survived a failed two-point conversion try that likely would have put them into overtime with Houston Baptist.  Meanwhile, Texas rolled up 689 yards of total offense in its week one domination of UTEP — second-most of any team in the nation.  Early lines on this game have the Red Raiders as 19-point underdogs and the over/under total of 67 points is the highest of any game next weekend involving Power 5 teams.  RAIDER RUMBLINGS; TTU was 0-for-3 on fourth down conversion attempts, including a 4th-and-goal, against Houston Baptist.            

KANSAS

  Kansas is among the majority of Big 12 teams that are coming off a bye week before getting into conference action this week at Baylor.  In light of what happened against Coastal Carolina, that’s probably a good thing.  Falling behind 21-0 early in their eventual loss to CCU wasn’t exactly a glorious debut for Les Miles’ second team at Kansas. Coastal Carolina held KU to just 367 total yards and turned three Jayhawks’ turnovers into 21 points in building a 28-3 halftime lead.  It’s hard to find any KU bright spots in the loss, but here’s two; Kansas didn’t have any turnovers in their second half comeback attempt, that felt short.  Additionally, Pooka Williams sustained an undisclosed injury in the game and the timing of the early off-week may work in Kansas’ favor, in regards to getting him back this week.  AIR GAME TURBULENCE; KU quarterbacks Thomas MacVittie and  co-starter Miles Kendrick combined for only 176 passing yards against Coastal Carolina.      

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Power Rankings: Spring Valley, Oak Glen, Doddridge County rise to No. 1
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Mooney, Kunkel look to win 2nd District

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Both candidates in the race for West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District say they understand what voters want in a legislator. The two, however, do not share the same perspective.

For U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., people are supportive of President Donald Trump and want to see the economic results recorded before the coronavirus pandemic. For Cathy Kunkel, Mooney’s Democratic challenger, residents need lawmakers who will fight for improving basic needs while resisting corporate influence.

The two have the same goal: to represent the 2nd District, which spans from Putnam County to the Potomac River that divides Virginia and Maryland.

Mooney, who is seeking his fourth term in office, is a conservative who touts the achievements of the Trump administration and an agenda supporting coal, anti-abortion proposals and lower taxes.

Most of Mooney’s time in Congress has been with Republicans controlling the House. That changed in January 2019 when Democrats became the majority party and began setting an agenda different from Trump and the Republican-led Senate.

“I had higher hopes for the first six months or so that we could try to work on some bipartisan stuff,” Mooney told MetroNews last week. “Instead, most Democratic members of Congress focused on impeaching the president of the United States for no good reason.”

Mooney added: “President Donald Trump doesn’t deserve to get undercut or opposed just because he is a Republican. Frankly, he’s been great to West Virginia, and I support him wholeheartedly.”

Kunkel said the prevalent issue with Congress is most of the legislation the body passes is not beneficial to the average American.

“I think a lot of West Virginians are frustrated with the status quo right now,” she said. “We have an economy that is not working for a lot of West Virginians, and the pandemic has made that worse, expanded our inequalities here and shown a spotlight on a Congress that seems to be more concerned that Wall Street is doing well than making sure the majority of Americans and West Virginians are able to recover from the pandemic.”

Kunkel’s previous experience includes conducting research on the effects of natural gas development and testifying before the Public Service Commission of West Virginia about energy planning. She became a political advocate following the 2014 Elk River chemical spill, in which she helped create groups focused on water quality and social justice.

Her platform centers around a “New Deal for West Virginia,” in which the title pays homage to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policies amid the Great Depression. Kunkel backs universal health care and Medicare for All, additional funding for schools and staff, and modernizing the nation’s infrastructure, including water systems and broadband.

Cathy Kunkel (Kunkel for Congress)

“Families should not be working multiple jobs and unable to pay for health care and education. We need to guarantee health care as a human right in this country. We need well-funded public education, and we need infrastructure investment,” she said.

Kunkel noted after watching multiple coal companies file for bankruptcy, the state also to attract more economic opportunities and grow local businesses rather than place its hopes on coal and natural gas.

“A lot was promised to the state in terms of tax revenues and jobs, and we really haven’t seen that materialize like it was promised a decade ago,” she said of the natural gas industry.

“I think we’re making a lot of the same mistakes and seeing the wealth leave our state. We need to focus on building up our small businesses that keep wealth in the state, hire West Virginia employees and diversify our economy instead of putting our eggs in the next resource extraction basket, so to speak.”

Kunkel said the state needs to “chart a new course,” which has to include infrastructure improvements and expanding access to capital for small business development.

“I think we could have a thriving rural economy here in West Virginia, but not if we keep on the same path that we are on currently,” she added.

Another promise of the Kunkel campaign is not taking corporate PAC donations. She said if elected, she will support increasing taxes on wealthy households and corporations.

“One of the most fundamental problems with our politics today is not so much Democrat v. Republican, but just the ability for wealthy interests to write laws and to continue to make sure our economy works really well for them,” she said.

“It’s just not right to me that some of the wealthiest corporations in our state and our country can pay zero dollars in federal income taxes while our citizens and small businesses are struggling to get by.”

West Virginia Can’t Wait — the grassroots populist movement launched by former gubernatorial candidate Stephen Smith — backed Kunkel when she entered the race last September. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Kunkel last week, and other supporters include the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, AFT-West Virginia and the state AFL-CIO chapter.

Mooney called Kunkel a socialist who does not fit in with traditional West Virginia Democrats, namedropping Sen. Joe Manchin and Nick Casey, Mooney’s 2014 Democratic opponent.

“This lady is a total socialist. She’s radical,” Mooney said. “She doesn’t represent West Virginia Democrats. Unless the Democratic Party is just going to become socialist, there is no way she represents even Democrats in West Virginia.”

Jacobin, a socialist publication, described Kunkel in a September 2019 interview as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. The Kunkel campaign told MetroNews the candidate has not donated to the organization in years.

“This is a very different opponent than I’ve had before,” Mooney added. “Very radical and anti-coal.”

Mooney pointed to the 2017 tax law as one of his significant legislative accomplishments. Mooney backed the bill, which lowered individual and corporate tax rates.

“I’ve always advocated for tax cuts,” he said. “I’m tired of seeing jobs leave our country to go to China and other places. We need to bring those jobs back home.”

The congressman plugged his support for anti-abortion legislation; he is the lead sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, which would declare “the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being.” Women would not be punished under the bill for accessing abortion services.

“I think I reflect West Virginia when I stand for the unborn children who are being killed for absolutely no reason,” he said.

Mooney also mentioned the economy before the coronavirus pandemic, in which the nation had a low unemployment rate and a flourishing stock market.

“Whether someone likes Trump or doesn’t like Trump, they can’t argue against that in the first three years of his term, the economy was excellent,” the congressman said. “He promised to do that, and he did. He was pushed and attacked a lot and impeached for no reason, but he stood firm.”

U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va. (U.S. Congress)

Mooney voted against impeaching Trump in December 2019 and opposed the related proceedings, which included interrupting a closed-door deposition that was part of the House’s investigation.

“When someone becomes president, sometimes they can forget some of the things they promised and reverse themselves. This man has not done that,” Mooney said. “He has stood very firm on what he has promised. He’s been fighting to build the wall, he’s cutting excess government, and he’s been great to the coal industry.”

Trump endorsed Mooney in the June primary election when the congressman faced off against Dr. Matt Hahn, a physician who lives in Berkeley Springs. West Virginians for Life and the National Rifle Association also back Mooney.

There are opportunities for bipartisanship in Mooney’s eyes; he said he has worked with Democratic colleagues on investing in infrastructure and broadband projects, and he supported three of the coronavirus relief packages that became law.

Mooney was one of 40 Republicans who voted against the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in March; the bill appropriated money for food assistance programs and health services as well as funded additional unemployment benefits and paid sick leave.

“They put it up at 2 in the morning, they wouldn’t tell us how much it cost, and they waived the requirements that it be paid for,” he said. “I just don’t think that is a good way to legislate. We have to know how much things cost that we vote for.”

Mooney also voted against the House’s $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief proposal in May, which the chamber passed. The Senate has been unable to pass another relief measure, including a “skinny” relief bill earlier this month.

Kunkel is open to debating Mooney, yet the congressman has rejected the opportunity.

“I consider stuff like this debating. You’re interviewing both of us and putting it out there,” he said. “She’s done different town hall meetings, and I’ve done my thing. I just like to debate the issues, but I don’t see us doing a one-on-one platform type of thing.”

County clerks began mailing absentee ballots to voters on Friday. According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, 65,348 registered voters across the state have applied to vote by mail.

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Photo gallery: Lewis County knocks off Ripley 29-13

RIPLEY, W.Va. — Photos from Lewis County’s 29-13 win at Ripley.

(Photos courtesy of Chuck Roberts)

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Marshall enters the AP Top 25

— Story by Taylor Kennedy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Marshall Thundering Herd continues to build off an impressive weekend. 

Yesterday, the Herd defeated No. 23 Appalachian State, which was Marshall’s first win over an AP ranked opponent since 2003. Today, the Thundering Herd moved into the No. 25 spot in the latest Associated Poll (AP) ranking. Marshall is the only Conference USA team listed in the latest rankings.

The Herd are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2014. That season, Marshall reached as high as No. 18. The Herd would finish that season 13-1, including a Conference USA title.

As of today, Marshall is not expected to play until October 10. The Herd will travel to take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in a conference showdown.

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Longtime Monroe paramedic recovering from COVID-19 scare

UNION, W.Va. — Monroe County native Kelly Crosier thought she had just about seen it all during her 40 years as a paramedic but then COVID-19 came.

Crosier, 58, who started making ambulance runs shortly after her high school graduation in 1979, recently spent more than a week in the intensive care unit at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, after contracting the virus.

Crosier, who was just released from the hospital last Wednesday, told MetroNews she got sick very quickly at the end of August.

Kelly Crosier has been a paramedic for 40 years.

“I was tired from just working a lot of hours and hadn’t given it a lot of thought but I woke up in the middle of the night all of the sudden with this terrible cough and difficulty breathing and body aches and right then I knew I had it,” Crosier said.

The ambulance crew that works out of Peterstown had been down to just a handful of workers in the days before Crosier fell ill. More than half dozen of them had gotten sick with the virus and there was a serious outbreak at the Springfield Center nursing home in Lindside.

Crosier describes it as “a couple of weeks of flat-out craziness.” She said she felt relatively safe but they had transported “some very sick patients.”

Crosier, the daughter of former Monroe County Delegate and Sheriff, the late Gerald Crosier, was diagnosed with COVID-19 at Greenbrier Valley Medical Center. She spent a few days there before being transported to UVA.

“I knew I had it and I knew it wasn’t good,” she said. “I’m normally a fairly healthy person but when it affected my lungs it was like nothing I had never experienced.”

Crosier was put on oxygen at UVA. She said one thing she noticed from the doctors there is that they took nothing for granted when it came to COVID-19.

“You could make a couple of strides forward and they probably took that less for granted but if you took even a half a slide backwards they were all hands on deck. Because I guess they’ve had so many patients who they thought were getting better but turned and got worse,” Crosier said.

It’s than unpredictability of COVID-19 that showed itself in Crosier’s case. She was wearing the proper PPE and following all of the guidelines yet she still contracted the virus.

“I think doing everything you can do—when you got a disease that spreads my mere particles it’s almost impossible to predict where that might go or how it might leak out,” she said.

She’s now recovering at home but dealing with the all-out exhaustion that many have described after coming down with the virus. She said she feels like someone who has just run a marathon. She hopes to get back in the ambulance soon.

“I’m anxious to get down there and start picking up my share of the work again, helping to take care of folks and doing what’s right for our community,” she said.

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Biser and Mohigans hopeful to make season debut soon

MORGANTOWN – After being shutdown for two weeks, teams in Monongalia County are back on the practice field for workouts and remain optimistic that actual competition is not far away. 

Until Saturday, Monongalia County had been in the ‘red’ category on the West Virginia Department of Education’s color-coded map, mandating remote learning and all extra-curricular activities cancelled. Mon County begins this week in the ‘orange’ allowing workouts to resume but playing actual games is still at least a week away.

“Two of the most miserable weeks of my life, honestly,” Biser said last week on Talk of the Town with Dave & Sarah on WAJR-AM.

Listen to “Dave & Sarah | September 18, 2020” on Spreaker.

“I think I’ve been kind of a bear on Friday evenings. I haven’t really watched any other games or wanted to watch football because it makes me sick to my stomach that we couldn’t be out on the field.”

Biser had no other choice than to make the best of an unfortunate situation, holding Zoom meetings everyday instead of practice, checking in with his players, sending them workouts and encouraging them to stay active. After games were abruptly cancelled just hours before kickoff, players were understandably dejected and for Monongalia County, there didn’t seem to be any end in sight. 

With COVID-19 cases rising at among the West Virginia University student population, there was not path to getting back to the classroom or back on the field. 

That was until last week. 

With changes to the back-to-school metric, allowing for COVID-19 testing positivity rate being factored in to the color designation and counting WVU students isolated at Arnold Hall as a congregate, suddenly there was renewed optimism. 

“We went from being ‘is this ever going to end?’ then when this all transpired, it was like ‘there’s some light at the end of the tunnel,’” explained Biser. “It gave everybody a bit of hope.”

Biser was thankful to everyone who came out for a rally prior to WVU’s first football game against Eastern Kentucky to bring attention to, what they felt, was a hopeless situation. Now, he’s asking for the community to step up again. 

“Let’s do what we’re supposed to do. Let’s wear our masks. Let’s wash our hands. Let’s social distance. Let’s do all the things the guidelines have set for us and that includes the WVU students too. They’re a huge part of this. Their numbers have directly affected our community and I’m asking them to do what they’re supposed to do,” Biser requested.

“I’m a Mountaineer too. I went to WVU and played football there and If we can all pull together and do this, we can get our kids back in school and back on the field.”

Biser remains hopeful COVID-19 case numbers will continue improving and his players will back in the classroom and on the field, sooner rather than later. 

“ For my kids, we’ve just been trying to keep them hanging in there and trying to give them hope there may be light at the end of the tunnel and we can get back together. “

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GALLERY: Marshall tops App State
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Crouch says mask rule will stick

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch says he has no plans to lift a recently filed rule that requires all EMS workers in West Virginia to wear masks when dealing with patients.

Bill Crouch

“The reason for that (the rule) is that we have reports of EMS folks not wearing masks,” Crouch said during Gov. Jim Justice’s Friday media briefing on the coronavirus. “Those folks are critical to our emergency management structure in the state of West Virginia and the responses that we need.”

The amended legislative rule was filed Friday, Sept. 11, and took effect immediately.

Crouch said he’s heard of some complaints from EMS workers in the past 10 days but he said he sees no reason to reverse the move.

“I understand they’re upset about that. There was a reason to do that. We believe it’s important and I stand by those rules,” Crouch said.

He cited outbreaks in recent weeks involving EMS crews, firefighters and police officers.

“If you wear the mask and don’t need the rule then the rule will have no impact on you,” Crouch said.

The amended rule includes the following requirements:

–All personnel must limit bystander presence and maintain a distance of six feet from any member of the public other than the patient, and shall wear a face covering as follows:

–Personnel shall wear a surgical mask on all calls or when closer than six feet from any member of the public, and personnel involved in direct patient care shall wear a surgical mask unless an aerosol generating procedure is anticipated, in which case an N-95 mask should be worn.

–Personnel shall wear eye protection on calls, and when available, should wear a face shield to cover the eyes and mask.

–Face coverings and reusable eye protection should be cleaned before reuse in accordance with guidelines published by the bureau.

The DHHR is accepting written comments on the change through Oct. 5.

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