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MetroNews This Morning 9-28-20

A drug fight in Mercer County leaves one dead, several hurt, and one in custody. Only two counties start the week in “orange” on the alert education map. The state’s RT number for Covid 19 spread is on the decline and now below one. Testing, largely through the National Guard, is about to make a dramatic swing upward. Preparing for the 2021 health insurance exchange. In Sports, a new MetroNews Power Poll and several HS football teams are getting ready for a season opener this week. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 9-28-20” on Spreaker.


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The Presidential Campaign Needs An End Point

Over this past weekend, we saw many examples of something coming to an end on our sports fields.  Teams prepared, the games started and then, at some point, they ended.

One team lost and another won.

Yes, there was controversy over some of the outcomes—a bad call or maybe even an allegation of cheating—but each had a sense of finality.

Game over. Move on.

We could use that lesson in our national politics right now. We are hearing increasing chatter in the political class that the presidential election may not be over on November 3.

President Trump is planting the seeds of an illegitimate outcome by questioning the legitimacy of mail-in ballots.  Democrats  are stoking fears that Trump may not accept the outcome if he loses.

Trump added fuel to the fire last week when asked if he will ensure a peaceful transition of power if he loses.  The president responded, “We’ll see what happens. Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer frankly. There will be a continuation.”

That prompted West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin to introduce a resolution in the Senate reaffirming the Senate’s commitment “to the orderly and peaceful transfer of power.”  It passed with bipartisan support.

Trump should have answered the question more succinctly with a simple, “Of course, but that is not going to be an issue because I’m going to win.”  Problem solved.  But after almost four years we know Trump is not given to diplomatic responses.

Yes, the country is divided, and the politics are tribal, but as bad as it seems, the condition is nothing like it was for the election of 1864. The country was literally divided by war, the North and the South, and the preservation of the union was at stake.

Abraham Lincoln easily won re-election over George McClellan.  Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865.  It was clear that the long and bloody Civil War that would claim over 600,000 American lives was ending in favor of the Union, and Lincoln used his inaugural address to call for healing.

“…With malice toward none, with charity for all…”

We are not in the midst of a Civil War now, but the country is clearly polarized and on edge. There is no real end in sight for the pandemic and racial unrest continues to boil up across the country.

We are in desperate need of an end to this presidential campaign, an election day where the results are accurately tabulated and there is a clear winner and a loser.  Where the political game is over, and governing can begin.

Whoever the winner, he should review Lincoln’s words before making his own inaugural address.  No malice, only charity.

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Week 5 Power Rankings: Spring Valley, Oak Glen, Doddridge County remain No. 1
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4-star RB Justin Johnson verbally commits to WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU has secured a 15th verbal commitment for their recruiting Class of 2021 on Sunday evening. 4-star running back Justin Johnson made his college choice on his 18th birthday.

The Decision…

— Justin Johnson Jr. (@J_ustin26) September 28, 2020

Johnson hails from Edwardsville, Illinois, where he led the Edwardsville Tigers to an 8-3 season in 2019. He rushed for 1,120 yards and 19 touchdowns despite missing a pair of games with an ankle injury. Johnson’s best game of the year came in a 176-yard effort against St. Louis CBC when he scored 4 touchdowns. Johnson also plays strong safety.

Johnson received a scholarship offer from WVU in December and he also listed California, Louisville, Michigan State, Minnesota and Washington State in his top six. He also owns ‘Power 5’ offers from Illinois, Indiana and Purdue.

West Virginia’s previous Class of 2021 verbal commitments

Ja’Corey Hammett Miami, Fla. 6-3, 205 DE 3-star
Nijel McGriff NW Mississippi C.C. 6-2, 285 DL
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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Warner, Tennant vie for Secretary of State seat in election rematch

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The race for West Virginia Secretary of State in the general election pits two familiar faces against each other, the current and previous secretaries the state.

Current Secretary of State and Republican Mac Warner is on the ballot in November against former Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. Warner unseated Tennant in a close 2016 general election 48.52 (335,526) to 46.82 (323,750).

Warner, born and raised in Kanawha County and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point told MetroNews he has transformed the office since taking over for Tennant.

As the chief elections officer, Warner said the transformation started with purging and updating the voter lists, removing over 190,000 names since 2016. According to his office, more than 115,000 outdated, duplicated, deceased, or convicted felon voter registrations were removed during the 2018 election.

Secretary of State Mac Warner

Warner said he is also proud of the opening the West Virginia One Stop Business Center in Charleston to help an entrepreneur or business owner wanting to start a new business.

“We have transformed this office in so many ways, improved it and made a focus on customer service. We get calls, letters, emails, every week about how people commenting on how the office and has been transformed and better customer service,” Warner said.

Tennant, the North Marion and WVU grad, has criticized Warner for not implementing an electronic, web-based business portal. She said Warner has made it more difficult for businesses to start in West Virginia, disregarding the portal that was created under a bill passed during her time in office.

Warner said her criticisms about making it harder on businesses could not be farther from the truth.

“We have won several national awards for the business one-stop program and the portal we have established making it easier than ever. Talk to business owners and you will see they recognize this. Talk to lawyers who have to serve process, they see it is easier,” Warner said.

In terms of elections, Tennant is also critical of Warner for not implementing an automatic voter registration. Legislation for automatic voter registration was passed in 2016 under Tennant but has yet to be implemented in the state.

She also said the state needs to follow the formula from the primary election, when absentee ballot applications were mailed to every West Virginia voter. Applications have not been mailed to every voter for the general election but Warner has rolled out an absentee ballot application portal for voters to apply online. Voters may also call their county clerks.

As of Tuesday, Warner’s office said 79,140 absentee ballots have been requested. During the primary election, a record 262,362 absentee ballots were requested, equaled to 21.4% of registered voters.

Three counties in the state, Ohio, Monongalia and Lincoln have decided to mail absentee ballot applications to voters in their county. Tennant said Warner is making it harder for citizens to vote by not mailing applications to every voter during the pandemic.

“There is a consensus that it was successful,” Tennant said of the primary election process in West Virginia. “Even Mac Warner says it was successful, he even said he had a moral obligation to send out those applications. What happened to his morals since then when we have more COVID cases and COVID deaths now, but yet he is not sending those out.”

Natalie Tennant

The two candidates have participated in two debates and one of talking points for Tennant has been Warner’s firing of 16 employees from the office when he took over in 2017.  She said it set the office’s progress back, broke employment laws and cost the state $4 million on his first day by taking those actions.

Warner had strong words for Tennant in during that period in 2017 on her actions around the transition of power, saying that Tennant sabotaged the transition.

Tennant told MetroNews she has picked up momentum in her campaign following the debates.

“Every time someone watches it, they will text me or they will put something on social media calling me the clear winner. ‘Natalie you are the clear winner, you have the facts, you have the knowledge, the experience, and you have a plan for moving again and moving forward,” she said.

Warner said that the debates showed two kinds of candidates

“I answered the questions and responded to exactly what was asked. In many questions, she simply went negative and tried to attack me. If you are looking for nastiness, people may think she came out on top. But nastiness is not what the people of West Virginia want,” Warner said.

WATCH: West Virginia Public Broadcasting SoS debate

Warner said he plans to continue the work on the voter rolls, expand the business center and build relationships with county clerks if reelected.

“I love the job. I get up energized every day and I am often the first person in the office and the last person to leave at night. Not to brag but it’s just the realization that this is the right job for me at this time in my life,” he said.

Tennant, looking to get back into the office, said her first days in office would be busy and will work to implement the online business portal, automatic voter registration, expand the business waivers for veterans and military spouses, and expand services online

The general election date is November 3.

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Big 12 Snapshot: League openers in the books

— By Dave Weekley

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Well, it didn’t take long to get a little chaos in the Big 12.  After the smoke cleared following the first Saturday of conference play, we have a host of changes in our third Big 12 Snapshot of the young season.

  Just in case you forgot, or are reading this space for the first time, this column provides our view of where things stand around the Big 12 each week and unlike conventional standings or power ratings, we use a tier format. 

TIER ONE — (This tier is reserved for teams that are legit Big 12 title contenders.)


  Texas is 2-0 and Sam Ehlinger has thrown TEN touchdown passes in the first two games.  Two games in which the Longhorns have piled up 122 combined points.  So why don’t we feel more confident in Texas’ ability to win consistently?  Well, needing to rally from 15 points down in the final minutes at Texas Tech before winning in overtime against the team that barely edged Houston Baptist is a pretty good reason.  Truth is, as long as Texas can keep Ehlinger upright, they have a fighting chance in every game they play.  RUMBLINGS FROM THE FORTY ACRES: A rarity from the Texas/TTU game, both teams recovered an onside kick; Texas Tech had one in the first half and the ‘Horns countered with a recovery late in the fourth quarter, to set up their game-tying touchdown drive.   


  We are bouncing Oklahoma State up a tier this week, not because of what they are right now, but because of what they have the tools to become.  On a weekend  when Big 12 defenses struggled in most of the conference openers, the Pokes’ defense was more than solid in its win over West Virginia.  OSU allowed WVU just 13 points, held the Mountaineers to just 68 rushing yards and had a scoop and score to give their offense a helping hand.  In his first career start, freshman quarterback Shane Illingworth successfully managed the game.  Mike Gundy said after the game that Spencer Sanders could have played with his sore right ankle, but opted for Illingworth.  Of concern for the Cowboys; after a 20-point second quarter, OSU didn’t score again until late in the fourth quarter — not exactly a “pistols firing” type of performance on that side of the ball. RUSHING COWBOYS; Chuba Hubbard and LD Brown both had rushing TD’s and ran for more than 100 yards each, but Chuba fumbled twice and looked very un-Chuba-like for most of the hot afternoon.


  Despite their 38-35 collapse against Kansas State, we are not going to drop  Oklahoma out of Tier One for now.  It was a tough call to leave OU in the top tier, but wouldn’t Oklahoma still be favored against any other team in the Big 12, home or away right now?  But obviously, if the Sooners lose at Iowa State next week, that’s going to change.  As for Oklahoma’s CFP chances, we have seen this movie before.  OU has reached the College Football Playoff four times in the last five years after a loss, including last season.  OKLAHOMA, O.K.?; the Sooners’ defense created no turnovers and had just one sack in the home loss to K-State. 

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.)


  Be honest, did anyone believe when Bill Snyder finally retired at K-State that his replacement would beat Oklahoma in his first two tries?  Chris Klieman has done just that.  OU dominated most of the categories on the stat sheet, but not the scoreboard.  Consider, the KSU Wildcats knocked off a top-five team on the road while rushing for just 66 rushing yards.  And 38 of those ground yards came on a touchdown dash by 5-foot-5 freshman tailback Deuce Vaughn, who also broke way for a 77-yard catch and run. Skylar Thompson led the way again for K-State, going 18-for-25 for 334 yards and a combined four touchdowns.  How did these guys lose to Arkansas State?  FUN WITH NUMBERS; Since 2004, teams were 1-545 when trailing a top-five opponent by at least 21 points, per ESPN Stats & Info, until Kansas State’s win at Oklahoma.  


  Iowa State bounced back with a nice road win at TCU in Fort Worth.  The Frogs controlled the football early, but the Cyclones’ defense stepped up and did a solid job, not allowing any touchdowns until their own offense got on track.  Once ISU’s Breece Hall got rolling, he never stopped.  Hall rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns on a Gary Patterson defense — no easy feat.  The ISU defense got home for six sacks and JaQuan Bailey, who became ISU’s all-time sack leader in this game, has joined the conversation for early candidates for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.  AMES ATTITUDE: Preseason All-American tight end Charlie Kolar and starting offensive lineman Rob Hudson both played in the win at TCU, after missing the season opening loss to Louisiana.  


  We finally got a look at Baylor, as the Bears opened the season with a mostly impressive effort against Kansas.  New BU head coach Dave Aranda’s defense played better as the game progressed, but it’s tough to measure success when the opponent is Kansas.  One this is for sure, WVU will have to be aware of Trestan Ebner when he’s on the field next Saturday.  In the lopsided win over Kansas, Ebner became the first player in Big 12 conference history to have a rushing touchdown, a receiving TD and TWO kick returns for scores in the same game.  BEAR-LY BREAKING A SWEAT: BU’s offensive line took care of business against Kansas with three starters out.  Center Xavier Newman was serving a one game suspension, while UCLA grad transfer Jake Burton and Blake Bedier also missed the game.      


  Neal Brown accurately identified WVU’s problems in the loss at Oklahoma State when he noted that West Virginia will start winning games, when they stop losing them.  Penalties, critical turnovers, special teams errors added up to a loss in Stillwater.  Jarret Doege’s 70-yard scoring pass to Winston Wright was WVU’s lone touchdown and beyond that, the offense mostly struggled.  WVU averaged just 1.6 ground yards per carry on 42 attempts.  Doege was sacked five times and hit numerous while throwing the football.  SPECIAL TEAMS WATCH; Here’s a trend to be aware of, three Big 12 teams blocked punts in their conference openers — Kansas State, Texas and Texas Tech.



  A slow start on offense eventually doomed TCU in their season opening loss to visiting Iowa State.  The quarterback position was a question mark coming into the season for the Frogs and remains so.  Matthew Downing got the start against the Cyclones, but was ineffective.  Last year’s starter Max Duggan, who was slowed by a heart condition that kept him sidelined until just a few days before the Frogs’ opener, came off the bench in the third quarter and went 16-for-19 for 241 yards and three touchdowns.  While Duggan’s return was a welcome sight for TCU, the Frogs’ rushing game was missing in action.  Allowing 37 points to ISU is not typical for a Gary Patterson defense.  Patterson will have to get the defense tightened up for a trip to Texas, but he normally shines in that matchup.  Patterson is 6-2 at TCU against the Longhorns.  DOES FORT WORTH EVER; TCU rushed for just 99 yards on 44 attempts in the loss to ISU.    


  Stop me if you’ve heard this before.  Texas Tech can put up point with the best of them, but can’t stop anyone.  In the 63-56 overtime home loss to Texas, TTU had three wideouts; T.J. Vasher, Erik Ezukanma and KeSean Carter, who all had big days against Texas and Alan Bowman threw for 325 yards and five touchdowns after a slow start.  It will be very interesting to see what direction TTU takes now in this week’s road test at K-State, after blowing a 15-point fourth quarter lead with less than four minutes to play in regulation.  They proved they can play with one of the best teams in the Big 12, but have nothing to show for it. RAIDERS SEEING RED; The early 60.5 posted points total for the TTU/KSU game is the second-highest among P5 teams for next week, trailing only Miss. State/Arkansas (62).     

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


  Kansas is alone in Tier Three this week — and they deserve it after a lopsided loss at Baylor.  The Jayhawks turned to true freshman quarterback Jalon Daniel in Waco and while he showed he’s an athlete, he also struggled.  KU showed a spark by scoring on their opening drive, but very little after that.  Daniel went 19-of-33 for 159 yards and no scores in his starting debut.  Pooka Williams got his share of touches and rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns.  The Jayhawks allowed a pair of kick return touchdowns in the second half.  The Hatter has his hands full with this bunch.  A winless season is not only possible, it’s probable.    


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National Guard playing role in increasing testing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia National Guard is increasing its coronavirus testing capabilities as part of the statewide effort to test more West Virginians for the virus.

The National Guard has nearly doubled the capacity for testing teams to 15 as the unit approaches 200 days of assisting with the statewide COVID-19 response.

Gov. Jim Justice said last week he would like to test 7,000 people a day with his ideal goal being 10,000 West Virginians.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the state’s adjutant general, said the National Guard is capable of between 8,000 and 10,000 daily tests.

“The key piece now is getting able to get out there and give the ability in the communities,” he said last week on “MetroNews Talkline.”

Hoyer said the National Guard is collaborating with retailers and pharmacies on testing.

“We’re also working with the federally-qualified health care centers — about 120 of those across the state — and the regional health clinics to allow people to go daily so we’re not spending as much effort with significant test lanes that we have to in some areas,” he said.

Hoyer noted people will still receive test results within three days despite more tests being processed. The state Department of Health and Human Resources has signed multiple contracts for processing coronavirus tests.

“If you go beyond that three-day period, you’re not getting the benefit out of the test,” he said.

Multiple places will be hosting coronavirus testing events on Monday:

— Cabell-Huntington Health Department, 703 7th Ave., Huntington, WV 25701; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
— Elkview Baptist Church, 1150 Main St., Elkview, WV 25071; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
— First Baptist Church of Grafton, 2034 Webster Pike, Grafton, WV 26354; noon to 2 p.m.
— Spring Valley High School, 1 Timberwolfe Dr., Huntington, WV 25704; noon to 4 p.m.
— Boone County Health Department, 213 Kenmore Dr., Danville, WV 25053; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The National Guard has assisted the state Board of Education with providing schools with personal protective equipment. Installation of WiFi hotspots as part of the governor’s Kids Connect effort is almost complete; members have finished 17 of the 20 related projects.

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Photo gallery: Chapmanville opens season with 20-6 win over Logan

CHAPMANVILLE, W.Va. — Photo gallery from Chapmanville’s 20-6 win over Logan in the season opener for both teams.

(Photos courtesy of Chuck Roberts)

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Photo gallery: Wheeling Central shuts out Man, 19-0

MAN, W.Va. — Photo gallery from Wheeling Central Catholic’s 19-0 win at Man Friday evening.

(Photos courtesy of Chuck Roberts)

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P&G plant adjusts to covid era with attention to detail and greater demand

Procter & Gamble, one of West Virginia’s most prominent manufacturing plants, has been making some adjustments during the coronavirus pandemic.

Like other workplaces, the P&G plant in Berkeley County has instituted workplace precautions such as screening stations, mask rules and social distancing.

The other effect is greater demand for the many cleaning supplies that P&G produces, such as dryer sheets and Swiffer cleaners. People are staying home more, with a greater urgency for cleanliness.

“We took great pride in being an essential employer,” said Steve O’Brien, the site human resources manager at Tabler Station.

He added, “You think about surface care, dish care, people are doing more laundry. So for us that meant we needed to keep running, but we also needed to provide a safe environment for our employers, our providers and anybody who comes on site.”

The P&G plant off the Interstate 81 exit is still so new it shines. These days, visitors stand in a yellow box for a temperature screening before being handed a surgical mask approved by the company. The mask you brought from home is stowed in your pocket.

Staircases, where you are supposed to hold the rail, have pumpable hand sanitizer at the top and bottom. The high-alcohol sanitizer is made by P&G but not for sale.

Workers wear mask and keep their distance. Those taking a meal break sit at individual tables but chat across the way. The areas where there are desks have been thinned out so workers can sit every other.

“We’re very focused on trying to design out work to be able to do it at a safe distance so we are able to not cause any virus spread,” O’Brien said.

Some are working from home, although the nature of the business makes that a challenge.

“Manufacuring is a team sport,” O’Brien said. “There is limited work from home.”

There are 1,400 workers at the plant, split up by 12-hour shifts, some days on and some days off. They oversee many of the semi-automated machines that cruise down aisles or stack pallets.

The plant is the nationwide supplier for household mainstays like Bounce dryer sheets, Dawn dish detergent and Gain laundry detergent.

P&G says products like those are in greater demand this year as people spend more time at home.

“Demand’s been very high as you think on the fabric and home care side of the business,” O’Brien said. “People are doing more laundry, which still has you using your Bounce dryer sheets, things like that.”

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