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Vax rate doubles for kids 5-11 overnight; state officials warn of incoming winter surge

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice warned Friday “the stars are aligning” for another COVID-19 surge as temperatures drop and the holidays near.

State health officials reported more than 1,000 new infections Friday for the second consecutive day, raising total active cases statewide to 6,727, according to the state dashboard. That’s 243 more cases than Thursday.

Transmission rates continued their weeklong rise. Officials expect the statewide virus reproduction rate over Thanksgiving to top 1.0, indicating rapid spread, with the number of infections climbing as people gather for the Christmas holidays, said James Hoyer, head of the state’s interagency task force.

A total of 839,255 people — 1,680 fewer than reported Thursday — or 49% of those eligible statewide are fully vaccinated. Just 48,893 of those people have received boosters, “far away” from the number needed to prevent death and serious illness, said state coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh.

The ranks of children 5 to 11 getting at least one vaccine dose doubled to 1,412 on Friday from 697 a day earlier.

Statewide, 531 people were hospitalized with the virus, 173 in intensive care and 87 on a ventilator. Nearly three-fourths of the hospital patients, 82% of those in intensive care and 86% of those on a ventilator were unvaccinated.

Outbreaks totaled 35 on Friday at long-term care facilities and one at a church in Nicholas County.

Infected people may be eligible for monoclonal antibody treatment, which revs the immune system to combat the virus and has been shown to prevent severe illness.

The Hoops Family Children’s Hospital in Huntington is currently the only facility in West Virginia offering monoclonal antibody treatment to children ages 12 and older. It can offer the treatment to up to four children at a time.

Those 18 or older are eligible for boosters six months after being administered their second Moderna or Pfizer shot and two months after getting a Johnson & Johnson shot.

To learn more about the vaccine, or to find a vaccine site, visit vaccinate.wv.gov or call 1-833-734-0965.

Salvation Army teams up with Santa at Huntington Mall to help families in need

HUNTINGTON — The dynamic duo of the Salvation Army and the Huntington Mall joined forces Friday evening to help Tri-State families in need this Christmas.

The group called on Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams to charge the Salvation Army with its fundraising goal, and announce his own “Woody’s Angels” tree in a pre-recorded message.

One goal is to make sure more than 2,000 children have a Christmas, Salvation Army officials said.

To participate, stop by Huntington Mall any time before Dec. 10 to adopt an Angel. Once adopted, you can purchase items and return them to Santa’s Workshop Area at the Salvation Army table. A Salvation Army helper will be at the Huntington Mall to assist.

“Times are difficult for children and families, and the Angel Tree and Christmas assistance makes things easier on our local families every year,” Captain Liz Blusiewicz from the Salvation Army said in a joint release with the Huntington Mall. “The public’s generosity helps the Salvation Army provide over 2,000 children with Christmas toys they would not receive otherwise.”

Santa will be at the mall every day from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; and from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

“Our theme this year for the 2021 Holiday Season is ‘Make it Magical,’ and we feel that the Salvation Army’s efforts with the Angel Tree does exactly that for thousands of children in our area,” Margi MacDuff, marketing director for the Huntington Mall, said in the release. “We are honored to be the venue for their kettles and their Angel Tree this year in Center Court near the large Christmas Tree. With the community’s help and support, this could be a very magical year many families in our community.”

All toys given to the Salvation Army at Huntington Mall and surrounding areas will remain in the local community.

To learn more, visit TSAHuntingtonWV.org.

City council committee votes on proposed redistricting map

HUNTINGTON — The redistricting committee of the Huntington City Council has put forth a proposed map that will move forward to the rest of the council.

In a Friday meeting, committee members voted on one of three proposed maps that will move forward in the redistricting process. The City Council must adopt a new map of districts by an ordinance, meaning it must have two readings.

The committee members are council members DuRon Jackson, Holly Smith Mount, Todd Sweeney, Teresa Johnson and committee chairman Bob Bailey. All members voted in favor of a map formally called “Councilwoman Mount Proposed 3.” Mount said the work on the map was a team effort, with help from Johnson and Sweeney. Director of Innovation Scott Lemley and other members of city staff also aided the council members in the process, she said.

Of changes to districts on the proposed map, District 5 would include both Fairfield East and Fairfield West. The change was important to Johnson, she said, as it promotes unity within the neighborhood. Johnson is the District 5 representative on the council.

“If we’re going to have power and work within our community, then they have to work together,” she said after the meeting. “And what better way to work together when they’re all together?”

Other changes include that District 1, which is currently in Wayne County, would expand into Cabell County under the proposed map. District 2 would also expand into the Harveytown neighborhood.

“I’d just like to thank everybody who helped on this too,” said Sweeney, who represents District 2, during the meeting. “It was good work by everybody involved.”

The district that would lose the most voters — more than 2,200 — is District 6, which is Mount’s district. Because it was the largest district, the change had to happen, she said.

“I was really grateful for my teammates on council for being so flexible knowing that I was going to take that kind of hit,” she said. “They all really worked well with me to help me maintain the integrity of District 6 and ... keeping all the interests of the district aligned.”

The city goes through the redistricting process every 10 years, as lines are redrawn with the latest U.S. Census data. Each of the nine Huntington districts must have a mean of about 5,205 voters and are allowed a 5% variance of population.

The ordinance that the council can eventually adopt would be in place for the next round of city elections in 2024. The City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, at Huntington City Hall. Council members will be sent the proposed map ahead of the meeting.