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A 'jewel' shining from above

HUNTINGTON — Temperatures in the 90s cast a haze over city of Huntington on Thursday, as it was viewed from an airplane.

The city remained picturesque along the banks of the Ohio River as seen from above, even as those below were treated to the light sprinkles of pop-up showers around dinnertime.

Tri-State residents won’t see a reprieve from the heat for at least a week, as temperatures hover between the upper 80s to upper 90s, with a heat advisory in place.

Hazy clouds are likely to remain over the area as thunderstorms are possible Friday and Saturday.

Check this weekend for more aerial photographs of the city and some of its best-known landmarks, taken by Sholten Singer.

WV businesses are taking mask compliance and customer safety into their own hands

West Virginia business owners are taking it upon themselves to find creative ways under pandemic pressure to keep themselves, their employees and customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and comply with a new mask mandate.

A new layer of responsibility fell upon business owners Tuesday, when an executive order requiring West Virginians to wear face coverings indoors when social distancing isn’t possible.

While the masks are mandated through the order, Gov. Jim Justice said there wouldn’t be any criminal penalties for people who didn’t wear masks, putting the burden of enforcing his order on people working throughout the state.

Justice said he had “all the confidence in the world” that local businesses would “encourage enforcement” of the policy.

Some business owners are having to get creative to comply with the governor’s order.

In April, Small Town Market opened its doors in Clay, where there hadn’t been a full-service grocery store since January 2019.

Sarah Williams is the owner of the store, which she operates with her husband, B.J. Williams.

When the Williamses were setting up their business in December 2019, there was no pandemic.

When the World Health Organization declared the pandemic in March, about a month ahead of their opening day, the Williamses adjusted their business model to protect customers by becoming an order-only operation instead of having customers shop inside the store.

“It was overwhelming,” Sarah Williams said. “Where we’re a small community, I think it made it a little bit easier for everybody. Everyone’s been very understanding, and I think it helps us get acquainted with the community, having it be so personal and one-on-one.”

Sarah and B.J. Williams also are delivering groceries to customers throughout the county who either can’t leave their homes or are too afraid to leave their homes.

Those efforts are helping them stay in compliance with the governor’s order, Sarah Williams said.

“I’m just trying to help feed the community — not competing, not trying to make millions of dollars here,” Sarah Williams said. “We’re here just trying to help out the community we grew up in.”

However not wearing a mask for some people isn’t a choice in more rural parts of the state where big box stores don’t exist, she said.

“It’s hard to get masks for us anyway,” she said. “Luckily a few women have been making them in town, so we’ve been able to keep some. That was my worry was if everybody has to wear them then they’re going to be sold out again, so I didn’t want people to not be able to go shopping just because they couldn’t find one.

“Our number one goal is to keep everybody safe around here.”

Between 10 a.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Thursday, 136 new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed, based on data provided by the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Before the governor’s order was issued Monday, businesses including Red Caboose in Huntington, already had taken their own precautions based on available health guidelines.

The Red Caboose is an artisanal center and gift shop selling products from Appalachia-based artists and businesses. It’s operated by the Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The store was closed between mid-March and mid-June, said manager Raine Klover.

She and The Red Caboose employees worked during that time to put the store’s entire inventory for sale online for the first time and began hosting live sales to survive the months while the physical store was a closed, calling the whole pandemic a roller coaster ride.

Since the store re-opened, sales have been good for the store, Klover said, since more items are available for sale online.

“It was a little scary to reopen because, of course, we’re still in the middle of this thing,” Klover said. “There was a little trepidation regarding that, but we put in some good protocol.”

Employees at The Red Caboose have been wearing masks since the physical store located in the Huntington Convention and Visitor’s Bureau headquarters in downtown Huntington re-opened, and there’s a new sneeze guard in front of the register, Klover said.

Masks are available for free for customers, but even that hasn’t been enough to make everyone comply with the store-turned-statewide policy.

Klover said some customers have opted to politely leave the store instead of shopping and supporting local artisans.

“We are certainly concerned that there are people who may have more aggressive or violent reactions to being asked to wear a mask,” Klover said. “We also deal with the public every day, especially here at the Visitors Center, we have all kinds. It’s just part of our job is dealing with the public, and hopefully we’ve got the skills to diffuse any kind of situation. I’m still feeling better about masks being used than any potential for violence or aggression.”

Beshear mandates masks for Ky. residents 5 and older

With 333 of newly reported cases of COVID-19, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday signed an executive order mandating masks for state residents who are out in public and anywhere they would be unable to social distance.

The order, which does not apply to children under age 5 or people with health conditions, disabilities or impairments that make them unable to wear face coverings, goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday.

“The No. 1 thing a mask can do is protect the health and the life of yourself and those around you,” Beshear said. “It can make sure we don’t lose more people than we should, it can keep our cases down and it can help us to continue to reopen our economy.”

Beshear cited health experts who say wearing face coverings not only protects others, it also lowers the infection risk for those wearing masks by 65%.

Kentucky’s new executive order requires Kentuckians to wear face coverings under several circumstances for the next 30 days, at which point the order will be evaluated to determine whether an extension, or additional steps, are needed.

The executive order states that face coverings will be required, among other instances, while inside or waiting in line to enter businesses including stores, restaurants, health care settings or any other indoor public space in which it is difficult to maintain social distance; while waiting for or riding public transportation or ride-sharing vehicles; and while in outdoor public spaces in which social distancing is not possible.

With the more than 300 new cases, there now are at least 18,245 coronavirus cases in Kentucky, and at least 4,939 in the state have recovered from the virus.

“When we have higher numbers, it’s hitting all parts of our population,” Beshear said.

A 61-year-old man from Pike County was among four new deaths recorded in the state Thursday, along with a 93-year-old woman from Clark County; a 79-year-old man from Edmonson County; a 94-year-old man from Knox County.

West Virginia was placed under a mask mandate by Gov. Jim Justice as of July 7. On Thursday, Cabell County reported 83 current active COVID-19 cases and six probable cases, with 179 confirmed cases. In Wayne County, there have been 124 total COVID-19 cases, with nine deaths and 104 recoveries. The county has one probable case as of Thursday evening.

To increase COVID-19 testing opportunities for minorities and other vulnerable populations, state and local health departments are offering free COVID-19 testing on Friday and Saturday on a first-come, first-served basis from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Wayne County.

Tests will be administered at Dunlow Community Center, 1475 Left Fork Dunlow Bypass Road in Dunlow, on Friday and at Wayne Elementary School, 80 McGinnis Drive in Wayne, on Saturday.

This testing is available to all individuals in Wayne County, including those who do not have symptoms. Proof of insurance is not required. Attendees should bring identification, such as a driver’s license or proof of address, to help in returning test results. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

West Virginia has 197,081 total confirmatory laboratory results received for COVID-19, with 3,826 total cases and 95 deaths.

Cases per county (case confirmed by lab test/probable case): Barbour (17/0), Berkeley (499/18), Boone (29/0), Braxton (3/0), Brooke (18/1), Cabell (180/6), Calhoun (4/0), Clay (11/0), Fayette (79/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (15/1), Greenbrier (68/0), Hampshire (42/0), Hancock (32/3), Hardy (45/1), Harrison (104/0), Jackson (149/0), Jefferson (247/5), Kanawha (372/12), Lewis (19/1), Lincoln (10/0), Logan (31/0), Marion (93/3), Marshall (54/1), Mason (23/0), McDowell (8/0), Mercer (61/0), Mineral (60/2), Mingo (25/2), Monongalia (405/14), Monroe (14/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (15/1), Ohio (122/0), Pendleton (13/1), Pleasants (5/1), Pocahontas (36/1), Preston (78/16), Putnam (77/1), Raleigh (66/2), Randolph (174/2), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (12/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (19/1), Tucker (6/0), Tyler (7/0), Upshur (22/1), Wayne (120/1), Webster (1/0), Wetzel (26/0), Wirt (5/0), Wood (154/8), Wyoming (7/0).

The state of Ohio has 12 counties now considered “Red Alert Level 3 Public Emergency” locations where Gov. Mike DeWine ins mandating the use of masks.

There are 61,331 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 3,006 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths.