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West Virginia meets governor's benchmark to reopen

CHARLESTON — West Virginia hit the benchmark set by Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday, signaling the slow reopening of the Mountain State.

Health care providers from primary care to physical therapy can reopen Thursday. Monday will begin Week 2 of Justice’s comeback plan, which includes hair salons, outdoor seating at restaurants and small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Social distance standards will still remain in place, such as limiting capacity inside establishments and maintaining 6 feet of distance between individuals, and employees are required to wear masks. More guidelines can be found on the governor’s website, and the West Virginia National Guard can also provide assistance in training or helping business owners acquire personal protective equipment.

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department has also provided guidance for businesses on how they can safely reopen. It is up to individual business owners whether they reopen or not.

Weeks 3-6 will begin on subsequent Mondays, and Justice said details on each week are forthcoming.

Justice also said Thursday he will discuss lifting the stay-at-home order, moving instead to a “safe-at-home” approach.

“We have to go to another level,” Justice said during his daily press briefing. “We can’t just stay where we are. We need you to step up again, West Virginia. Show the nation just how good you are again.”

As he announced two more deaths of elderly residents related to COVID-19, he urged all West Virginians to remember the elderly as this new phase of the pandemic response begins. He said he highly suggests businesses have senior hours. He also highly recommends all West Virginians wear masks when they are around other people.

The two deaths — an 80-year-old man from Kanawha County and a 95-year-old woman from Wayne County — bring the total deaths to 40.

As of 5 p.m., there have been 42,784 laboratory results received for COVID-19, with 1,109 positive and 41,675 negative.

Fourteen new cases were reported Wednesday, and the percentage of positives of all tests taken is 2.59%.

Confirmed cases by county: Barbour (four), Berkeley (143), Boone (three), Braxton (two), Brooke (three), Cabell (42), Fayette (12), Gilmer (two), Grant (one), Greenbrier (three), Hampshire (seven), Hancock (nine), Hardy (five), Harrison (30), Jackson (129), Jefferson (77), Kanawha (157), Lewis (four), Lincoln (one), Logan (12), Marion (45), Marshall (11), Mason (12), McDowell (six), Mercer (10), Mineral (15), Mingo (two), Monongalia (102), Monroe (five), Morgan (10), Nicholas (six), Ohio (27), Pendleton (three), Pleasants (two), Pocahontas (two), Preston (13), Putnam (25), Raleigh (eight), Randolph (four), Roane (six), Summers (one), Taylor (six), Tucker (four), Tyler (three), Upshur (four), Wayne (85), Wetzel (three), Wirt (three), Wood (39), Wyoming (one).

Like Justice, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reminded residents that despite businesses beginning to reopen, precautions need to continue. Groups of more than 10 should not gather, he said.

DeWine also continued to amend his mask mandate Wednesday, saying there were exceptions to the rule requiring all employees wear masks, including employees who work alone and where safety regulations advise against face coverings. He also strongly advises all Ohio residents to wear a mask in public.

DeWine announced 534 new positive cases of COVID-19, for a total of 17,303, and 138 new deaths, bringing Ohio’s total to 937.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday provided more details on his phased in approach to reopening the Bluegrass State. Beginning May 11, manufacturing, construction, horse racing without fans and dog grooming, among other businessess, can begin to reopen.

May 20 extends to retail and houses of worship, and May 25 extends to salons and other services, as well as lifting the group limit to 25. Restaurants and day care centers are not included in Phase 1 of Beshear’s plan.

Beshear announced 184 new positive cases of COVID-19, for a total of 4,529. There have been 235 deaths.

Cabell County high schools organize drive-through graduation gear pick-ups

HUNTINGTON — Huntington High School seniors had the chance to pick up caps and gowns on Wednesday morning in preparation for their tentative late June graduation ceremony.

Students followed a schedule from 10 a.m. to noon in alphabetical order to keep the drive-through safe and moving.

Signs in honor of the seniors also were displayed, and although those participating were not permitted to leave their cars, students were encouraged to come back to the school until early evening to take pictures.

Cabell Midland High School put on a similar graduation drive-through event Tuesday for its seniors to pick up caps, gowns and other items.

Some Cabell Midland parents also have put their heads together to facilitate creative ways to make sure the Class of 2020 is properly celebrated, despite their last year of high school being cut short amid COVID-19 concerns.

A parade through the Barboursville area is in the works for the evening of May 22; further details will be released as planning progresses.

Those interested in participating in the parade may contact the Village of Barboursville by Saturday, May 2, to ensure a spot in the event.

Levy rejected a second time in postponed Ohio primary

IRONTON — Several incumbent elected officials won Republican primary elections in Ohio Tuesday, but a proposed levy to support the Lawrence County Board of Developmental Disabilities was rejected by voters for the second time in six months.

The board, which provides services for some 500 county residents with developmental disabilities, lost a bid to increase revenues by about $2.1 million. The proposed five-year levy was rejected by a vote of 5,978 to 4,777. Last November, an even higher levy was rejected by about 350 votes.

Board officials decided to put the question back before voters, changed it from a permanent levy to a five-year levy, and reduced the amount from 2.5 mills to 1.75 mills.

“We would like to thank the voters of Lawrence County for supporting services for individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Tim Nunnery, a board spokesman. The board also thanked the levy committee for its work.

The board also wants to assure county residents it will manage its funds efficiently and directed toward high quality services for those who need it.

“It was not a good time to try to get a levy passed,” Nunnery said Wednesday.

In other races, State Rep. Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, was effectively elected to a two-year term representing the 93rd District in the state legislature by winning the Republican primary and facing no opposition in the November general election. Stephens finished with 9,796 votes in the Republican primary to 5,472 for Jeff Halley, a Gallia County resident. Stephens won in Lawrence, Jackson and Vinton counties but lost to Halley in Gallia County.

Stephens, a former Lawrence County commissioner and auditor, was appointed to the state legislature last year.

“I am pleased with the results,” he said. “I am looking forward to continuing to serve.” Stephens becomes the first Republican elected from Lawrence County since 1972.

Meanwhile, Commissioners DeAnna Holliday and Dr. Colton Copley won Republican primary elections.

Holliday, the board president, easily defeated Shawn M. Hacker, 5,164 to 3,055. She will face Jeffrey Blakeman, a Democrat, in the general election this fall.

Copley, meanwhile, had a tougher time defeating Rome Township Trustee Brian Pinkerman. Copley, an incumbent commissioner and an emergency room physician, finished with 4,072 votes to 3,883 for Pinkerman. Copley will face Perry Township Trustee Douglas “Matt” Malone, a Democrat, in the general election.

Lawrence County Auditor Paul David Knipp won a three-way race in the Republican primary for auditor.

Knipp finished with 3,623 votes to 2,779 for former County Commissioner Les Boggs and 1,851 for Vallery Dyer. Knipp will face Jason Tolliver, a Democrat, in the fall.

Tresa Baker defeated Union Township Trustee Cole Webb to win the Republican primary for county treasurer. She finished with 4,557 votes to 2,906 for Webb. Baker will face County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham, a Democrat, in the general election this fall.

About 10,000 votes tallied Tuesday in Lawrence County were through absentee ballots. About 1,100 were cast by early, walk-in voters.

The primary was rescheduled from March 17 to April 28 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Work is being done on the Erma Ora Byrd Clinical Center in Huntington, shown on Wednesday, April 29, to fix a longstanding issue.

Nate Bowen, 14, of Huntington, works on 3D printing face shields at his home to donate to local medical facilities.