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Free testing reaches 675 people on first day in Cabell, Kanawha

HUNTINGTON — More than 600 people were tested in Cabell and Kanawha counties Friday during the first day of free COVID-19 testing provided by the state. Testing continues Saturday.

In Kanawha County, 385 people were tested at the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center in Charleston, according to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. In Cabell County, 290 tests were performed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Huntington.

Dr. Michael Kilkenny, medical director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, said it wasn’t quite as many as he had hoped — his goal was 1,000 over two days, so the pace would have to increase significantly Saturday — but people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to testing were tested, and Kilkenny said no matter where the numbers land, he will feel good about that.

“What matters is did we get the right people? Did we get the right population, and did it serve them?” he said.

Though open and free for all, even those not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the target audience is the medically under-served. The testing is also part of an effort to address the virus disproportionately impacting people of color in the state and nation.

Though only making up 3.6% of the population, 7.3% of all cases in the state are black West Virginians and 26% of those patients have been hospitalized, compared to just 14.3% of white COVID-19 patients. In Cabell County, 11.9% of all cases are people of color, despite making up only about 5% of the population. In Kanawha County, 26.2% of all cases are people of color, despite being about 10% of the population.

“We were getting the population when I was there this morning,” Kilkenny said. “The neighborhood is really a great neighborhood full of very vibrant and caring people. We want to serve that neighborhood. It might be an inconvenience for those living on 9th Avenue, but from the feedback from people who walked up, everyone was cheerful and everyone seemed to be positive about the aspects.”

The Huntington Black Pastors Association assisted county health officials in getting the word out about testing, Kilkenny added.

Testing was also conducted in Monongalia (376 tests) and Marion (303 tests) counties.

Testing continues in all four counties from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 23.

Kilkenny said the decision to get tested is up to the individual. It’s a medical test, he said, which aren’t done for fun. A person with no symptoms may experience increased anxiety as they await test results, he said.

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said Friday during the governor’s daily press briefing that the state was beginning more aggressive testing, hoping to get a better grasp of the prevalence of the virus within the state. Due to limited supplies, testing has been limited mainly to those with symptoms.

Also Friday, state health officials unveiled an improved dashboard for COVID-19 data, which includes more details on a county level such as recovered cases. The new dashboard, said state health officer Dr. Cathy Slemp, accounts for new changes in technology and national definitions.

DHHR has recently begun receiving serology-based laboratory results, frequently referred to as antibody testing. Serology-based test results will not be included in the dashboard reporting of confirmed laboratory results but will be reported separately on the county and lab tests tabs. Serology testing offers a different tool for understanding disease occurrence in communities, Slemp said.

In alignment with updated definitions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the dashboard now includes probable cases. Although a small portion of the cases to date, probable cases are individuals who have symptoms and either serologic (antibody) or a link to a confirmed case, but no confirmatory test. Public health takes all the same precautions for probable cases as confirmed cases, Slemp said, so those are now included. Ohio and Kentucky have included probable cases in their case counts for some time.

Slemp said the changes would lead to a dramatic one-time increase of positive cases and decrease in laboratory results received Friday. As of 5 p.m., there were 102 new positives reported, including probable cases.

Cases per county (case confirmed by lab test/probable case) are: Barbour (7/0), Berkeley (256/8), Boone (9/0), Braxton (2/0), Brooke (3/0), Cabell (57/2), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (2/0), Fayette (42/1), Gilmer (9/0), Grant (6/1), Greenbrier (9/0), Hampshire (13/0), Hancock (15/2), Hardy (35/0), Harrison (38/1), Jackson (135/0), Jefferson (140/3), Kanawha (212/2), Lewis (5/0), Lincoln (5/0), Logan (16/0), Marion (48/0), Marshall (27/0), Mason (15/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (13/0), Mineral (36/2), Mingo (3/1), Monongalia (119/1), Monroe (6/1), Morgan (17/0), Nicholas (10/0), Ohio (38/0), Pendleton (6/1), Pleasants (3/1), Pocahontas (24/0), Preston (15/4), Putnam (31/0), Raleigh (14/1), Randolph (28/0), Ritchie (1/0), Roane (8/0), Summers (1/1), Taylor (8/0), Tucker (4/0), Tyler (3/0), Upshur (6/1), Wayne (97/0), Wetzel (8/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (48/3) and Wyoming (3/0).

One new death was reported Friday, a 54-year-old man from Lewis County. The total number of fatalities related to COVID-19 in West Virginia is now 72.

In Ohio, there were 627 new positive cases reported Friday, for a total of 30,794, and 36 new deaths, bringing the total to 1,872.

In Kentucky, 141 new positive cases were reported, for a total of 8,426, and five new deaths, for a total of 391. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said during his evening press briefing that he believes the state is finally seeing a decline in cases versus a plateau.

Beshear also announced an online portal for Kentucky voters to request an absentee ballot went live Friday. Ballots must be requested by June 15 for the June 23 primary. The last day to register to vote in Kentucky is Tuesday, May 26.

There were more than 20,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S. on Friday, according to the CDC, bringing the total number of cases to 1,571,617. There have been 94,150 deaths related to the virus.

The Associated Press reports that for most people, the novel coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Nine candidates running for two Cabell County BOE seats

HUNTINGTON — Nine candidates are running for two open seats on the Cabell County Board of Education, campaigning on key issues of school safety, equity across schools, community engagement and meeting the basic needs of students, among others.

The Cabell County Board of Education is a five-member, nonpartisan body elected by county voters during the spring primary election.

No more than two members can serve from the same district at the same time, and there are five districts in the county.

One incumbent, District 4’s Garland “Skip” Parsons, is seeking re-election, and current member Gordon Ramey of District 2 will be leaving the board.

Current board members President Mary Neely, District 2; Vice President Rhonda Smalley, District 4; and Carole Garrison, District 3, are not up for re-election this year.

Those challenging for seats are H.D. “Butch” Day, District 1; Amanda Kinder, District 2; Dolores Johnson, District 2; Kenny Graybeal, District 3; Alyssa Bond, District 3; Jenny Anderson, District 4; D. “Bruce” Shew, District 4; and Tom Turman, District 4.

The top vote-getters win in the school board election, as long as no more than two are in the same district. In this election, Districts 2, 3 and 4 run that risk.

Because Neely is a sitting member in District 2, only Kinder or Johnson could win the second seat; because Garrison is a sitting member in District 3, only Bond or Graybeal could win the second seat; and because Smalley is a sitting member in District 4, only Shew, Turman or Anderson could win the second seat.

Jenny Anderson, 51, of Huntington, is the director of the Families Leading Change program, a parent engagement organizer and statewide Local School Improvement Council (LSIC) trainer.

With four children and four grandchildren who have all attended Cabell County schools, Anderson said she has over 30 years of experience navigating the district’s education system.

A key issue Anderson said she would tackle as a member of the Cabell BOE is strategizing ways to promote family engagement, especially for more vulnerable students.

“One of the key things that is missing is more family engagement. We have all these tools, so looking at those and how to really improve on them, that’s what I’d like to see,” she said. “And I think LSIC is a great way to do that.”

Anderson is also an advocate for more “participatory budgeting” and allowing community voices to help develop the budget for the school year.

“Often, the families we most need to engage are not part of that. One focus is really trying to engage or reach children with special needs or those on a lower socioeconomic level,” she said.

Anderson said she would also like to see an expansion of CTE programs in the next 10 years to help students into potential jobs after high school, as well as continuing to meet basic needs of students and seeing an equal amount of education tools and technology across the district.

A “product of Cabell County schools,” Alyssa Bond is a 39-year-old former radiologic technologist and stay-at-home mother to five children, all who attend Cabell County schools.

Bond is also a volunteer, vice president of the Cabell Midland High School LSIC and was appointed to the Cabell County BOE in March 2018 for four months to fulfill the term of Karen Nance.

Bond said she knows the expectations of being a sitting board member and would be extremely active in the position, should she be elected.

“The reason I feel very called to this position is we have five children and they are very different. This gives me an amazing scope concerning the public school system and what improvements we could make,” Bond said. “I’m also inside the schools. I know what is going on there, and it’s important to help students find what they want to do and then open up that path to them.”

Bond said she would be in favor of expanding the Cabell County Career Technology Center and the programs offered to students.

“I am a huge supporter of the CCCTC. These are wonderful programs,” she said. “I am not a supporter of saying, ‘If you don’t go to a four-year college, you won’t be successful.’ That is absolutely not true.”

Bond said her No. 1 priority is helping students excel in flexible, small classroom settings, as well as continuing to meet their basic needs.

“I am for lowering that teacher-to-student ratio. We need smaller classrooms. We need our teachers — we need to make sure their basic needs are met and their educational needs are met,” she said. “I don’t want to see ‘cookie cutter’ programs.”

A “back to the basics” change in education is what H.D. “Butch” Day, 70, of Huntington, would like to see in Cabell County should he be elected to the BOE.

Day is the current owner of The Framemaker and has a background as a therapist specializing in mental health.

Day said he would push for a focus on critical thinking in schools and allowing teachers to educate based on the student as opposed to a core curriculum.

“We’ve replaced American history, government, civics with social studies,” Day said. “And there is a big gap in the knowledge. We’re in a battle for our children and grandchildren.”

Day said he would take his ideas to the state level, as well as promote life skills classes like home economics to be reinstated in schools across the board.

“These basic, important things — how to open a checkbook, how to cook — those basic things have been almost eroded from the school system,” he said.

Day is also a supporter of Cabell County’s 10-year facilities plan and would help support the renewal of the bond issue levy.

Kenny Graybeal, 60, has lived in Huntington for most of his life, and has run for a seat on the BOE in the past. He has been involved in politics for 25 years and has been an employee at Cabell County Schools in various positions, including a custodian position for seven years.

Graybeal said he is passionate about seeing Cabell County become one of the top districts in the state by being a team player with the current administration.

“We’re on the road,” he said. “But we’re not there yet.”

Graybeal said he would like to address school safety as a member of the BOE, as he has seen firsthand problems in various facilities during his time employed with the county.

From outdated facilities to school entrance safety, Graybeal said students and staff need to feel comfortable to produce a stable learning environment.

“I want to address safety. That’s one of my key points,” he said. “Our kids need to be safe at schools.”

Graybeal said it’s also important that the county continue feeding students free of charge, and should budget issues arise due to COVID-19, meals would not be something he would ever consider eliminating.

“We have to learn to scale down,” he said. “One of the main things we do have to do is re-evaluate positions.”

With 20 years of experience as a teacher at Huntington High School and many more as a professor at Marshall University, Dolores Johnson, 78, of Huntington, said she would make it a priority to support teachers and growth in the profession.

Johnson said one of the biggest issues she sees today is teacher stress, which can lead to issues for students, as well.

“One of my priorities would be working toward decreasing stress in schools caused by problems like dropouts, drugs, bullying, safety issues, increased demands,” she said. “I would also like to see an increase in teacher pay.”

Johnson said she is also in favor of more flexible scheduling for students, including year-round schooling, independent learning and career exploration experiences.

“I do not think the school day works for every student,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of students who work, stay home with siblings, and I think because of the new technology, some students would be ready for independent learning.”

Johnson said she would also put an emphasis on the learning community as a whole, including teachers, administrators, bus drivers, cooks and “everyone that the child comes in contact with.”

As a work-at-home mom with two students in middle and elementary school in Cabell County, Amanda Kinder, 31, of Huntington, said she is active as a community organizer, volunteer, PTO member and chair/member of LSIC groups.

Kinder said her biggest concern in the district to date is inequity among lower income schools.

“It seems like lower performing or lower income schools in the county kind of tend to get the short end of the stick,” she said. “It’s really important we acknowledge all the schools and to make sure they’re receiving the same opportunities regardless of the income bracket of the families.”

Kinder also said she wants to see a greater emphasis on becoming a trauma-informed district amid fallout from the ongoing opioid epidemic in the state.

“I want to make sure that our schools are providing a safe and trauma-informed culture. I don’t think we’re doing enough as a school system to make sure our staff and administrators are appropriately trained on how to provide trauma-informed care,” Kinder said. “I do feel like that training is really important.”

Kinder said she is also passionate about protecting the existing jobs and infrastructure of the county, especially as the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop.

“Regardless of how we do learning, we need teachers and service personnel, and I think if we’re not carefully making sure we have a workforce, then we’re not going to be able to meet the needs of our students,” she said, “whether they’re in the building one day a week or five days a week.”

Garland “Skip” Parsons, 80, of Barboursville, has served on the Cabell County BOE for two terms and is seeking a third term as a sitting member.

Parsons said his years of experience and success as a board member drove him to run for re-election.

Parsons was a supporter of universal meals for students, voted against the closing of Davis Creek Elementary School and other methods of consolidation, helped hire 27 counselors and social workers as well as voted to fund many large district projects, including the Highlawn Elementary School building.

During Parsons’ time on the board, he also played a role in hiring the county’s current superintendent, Ryan Saxe.

Parsons said he hopes to see the district hire more service personnel, counselors and social workers in the coming years in order to continue on the path the county is on, as absenteeism is going down and graduation rates are increasing.

“I also want to hire and keep top-quality teachers,” he said. “My top priorities are to give students a quality education in a clean, safe environment, continue with the free lunch program and to see what more we can do for special-needs children.”

Parsons said he will also push for more technology in schools across the district.

D. “Bruce” Shew, 71, of Huntington, plans to use his background and years of experience at West Virginia American Water to create success in Cabell County Schools through a hard look at the district’s budget, should he be elected.

Shew said he hopes to tackle the county’s dropout issues by engaging students in the school community from a young age.

“Right now, we have got to start young. These kids that are coming in now, with the drug epidemic we have, you’re liable to have 40-50% of kids in some areas that could be left behind,” Shew said. “I really think we need to concentrate on getting our parents and kids involved in a very young age.”

Shew said that could involve changes to class sizes and the hiring of more aids and support personnel.

“So that’s got to be worked into the budget without affecting morale,” he said.

Shew said his history in finances will allow him to make necessary changes, although he is against making reductions in staff, particularly teachers.

“We need to look at the money that’s available, what’s needed, the grants we’re going to need,” Shew said. “I am against cutting staff, because that’s just hurting the students.”

Instead, Shew said, a deeper look at construction budgets and cost of projects should be implemented.

Tom Turman, 53, of Barboursville, said he hopes to bring his experience in business and management at Frontier Communications as well as his parental view of the school system to the board should he be elected.

Turman, who has two children in the county, said the district needs to improve in the realm of fiscal responsibility and look at how each dollar can be used for the benefit of the student.

“We might not have money for new computers, but there’s money for a football field — something’s not right there,” he said. “I’m really here for the kids, and that’s the one thing I hope to put some common sense to.”

Turman is also an advocate for the voices of the community and said listening to LSIC members, as well as students, could be an effective way to tackle issues such as absence rates.

“I’ve attended LSIC meetings,” he said. “And they’ve asked, ‘What can we do to better engage the students to help the absence rates?’ I said, ‘Have we ever really asked the students why they’re not going to school?’”

Turman said those students might be prime candidates for an online education program, as he also supports flexible scheduling.

“We want to produce a socially responsible adult,” he said. “I don’t care as much about chasing statistics, and we can’t do that if we don’t think about where we spend our money.”

Board members are paid $160 per meeting for up to 50 meetings. Anything above that, they are not paid for.

The West Virginia primary election takes place June 9. More information on the candidates for other positions can be found online at www.herald-dispatch.com/elections/.

Memorial Day still will be observed locally with events

HUNTINGTON — While the number of public observances will be fewer, and those that are taking place will have restrictions implemented for safety, citizens in the Tri-State still will have ways on Memorial Day to honor the memory of service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The 152nd Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade will still take place, preserving its status as the longest continually running Memorial Day parade in the United States.

However, this year’s parade will have no spectators, it will run only three blocks instead of its usual 3.7 miles and it will last 20 to 30 minutes instead of two hours or longer.

The theme is “Honor-Respect-Thanks,” which will focus on the veterans who have been the inspiration behind the legendary parade since the first one more than 150 years ago.

The parade will start at 10 a.m. Monday, May 25, with an honor guard and a 21-gun salute. There will be a riderless horse, veterans units, the Ironton Police Department, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio State Highway Patrol officers, among others.

People are urged to stay home and watch the parade online, where it will be livestreamed on the parade Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TheMemorialDayParade/. City fire trucks will be stationed along the parade route for security.

Jim Rowe, a longtime parade committee member, will serve as grand marshal. Sally Inglis, a U.S. Army veteran, will be honorary grand marshal, and Lou Pyles, a former grand marshal and a committee member, will be parade commander. The parade will begin on South 3rd and Center streets and end at South 3rd and Washington streets.

In Huntington, members of the community are encouraged to participate in the “Cruise to Remember” on Monday.

The event, which was planned after the Veterans Committee for Civic Improvement canceled the annual Memorial Day ceremonies scheduled at the Memorial Arch due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be similar to an old-fashioned “cruise” through town.

It will begin at 11 a.m. Monday at the Save-A-Lot on 14th Street West, wind through Ritter Park, drive by Cabell Huntington Hospital and make its way back to Save-A-Lot. Participants are encouraged to decorate their vehicles with patriotic themes and posters with names of veterans.

Participants should be at Save-A-Lot by 10:45 a.m. For more information, call 304-751-2823.