A2 A2
Ohio governor would issue mask mandate if law allowed

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday said he would have issued a statewide mask mandate to slow spiking cases of the coronavirus if the Legislature hadn’t tied his hands through a strict restriction on public health orders.

DeWine, a Republican, said he fears a fight with fellow GOP lawmakers, including one that might end up in court, could cause confusion at the worst time.

“I’m afraid what would happen is we would slide backwards and we would go the wrong way instead of the right way,” DeWine said.

DeWine, among the most aggressive of governors at the outset of the pandemic, has cited the restrictive legislation among his reasons for not imposing new mandates, as well as a belief that “the vast majority of people” nearly 18 months into the crisis want to make their own decisions.

DeWine made his comments as the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association called on eligible people to get vaccinated and to wear masks, particularly in schools. Leaders of the state’s six children’s hospitals said sick children are flooding hospitals and putting an unprecedented strain on providers. In some places, children with non-COVID-19 problems are forced to wait for hours or in some cases are simply leaving because of the overcrowding, medical officials said.

“Our inpatient numbers are the highest they’ve been during the pandemic for COVID positive children,” said Dr. Patty Manning, chief of staff, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“Our ICU numbers are the highest they’ve been for this entire pandemic,” she said. “Our children on ventilators with COVID are the highest they’ve been for this entire pandemic.”

DeWine, choking up with memories of taking his own children to hospitals, called those stories “gut-wrenching.”

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 4,460.71 new cases per day on Aug. 29 to 6,721.57 new cases per day on Sept. 12, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 6.2 million Ohioans, or 53% of the population, have started the coronavirus vaccine process, according to the state Health Department. About 5.7 million people, or 49% of the population, have completed the process.

In Kentucky, more than half of the state’s school districts have opted to continue requiring masks since the legislature shifted the coronavirus-related policy decision to local school boards.

So far, at least 90 of the state’s 171 public school districts had signaled by Tuesday afternoon that they will continue requiring masks in schools, according to the Kentucky School Boards Association. More school boards were scheduled to meet later in the day to discuss mask policies.

Last week, the Republican-led legislature voted to scrap a statewide mask mandate for public schools and imposed a ban on any statewide mask rules until June 2023. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed the mask-related language, but GOP lawmakers overrode him before ending a special session. As a result, the statewide mask mandate approved by the state school board ends Friday.

Beshear has said it should be a clear-cut choice as local school leaders make their decisions.

“There is one right answer — where you choose masking, where you protect your kids, where you keep them in school,” the governor said at a Monday news conference. “And then there is one wrong decision, where you endanger children and you allow COVID to spread throughout your community when your hospital is already overburdened.”

On Tuesday, the state reported 4,030 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,154 cases among Kentuckians 18 and younger. Twenty-four more virus-related deaths occurred, raising the statewide death toll from the virus to at least 8,095.

More than 2,510 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, and 666 of them are in intensive care units. Nearly 90% of the state’s ICU beds are occupied, the state reported.

St. Mary's names new director for Ironton campus

IRONTON — St. Mary’s Medical Center has named a new director for its Ironton campus following the retirement of Dr. Jim Wagenaar.

Wagenaar, who has served in the medical community for three decades, spent the last nine years of his career as the director of the St. Mary’s Ironton campus and was recognized Tuesday morning by Lawrence County commissioners with a plaque thanking him for his service to the community. He was named medical director when the facility opened in 2012.

In his absence, Dr. Larry Hutchison will serve as the medical director for St. Mary’s emergency room locations in both Huntington and Ironton, according to an announcement that also was made Tuesday morning. Benjamin Mack will serve as assistant director at the Ironton campus.

Site administrative assistant Melanie Kerstetter said seeing Wagenaar leave brings a mixture of emotions but the facility will continue to faithfully serve their community and reach for even greater heights under the new leadership.

“He’s had a great impact at a wonderful facility that serves the back end of our county,” Kerstetter said. “We don’t have anything else down there except for King’s Daughters especially with (Our Lady of) Bellefonte closing, we have seen so much more business and it’s a great asset for the west end of Lawrence County.”

Brenda Lucas: Community news for Wednesday, Sept. 15

COMEDIAN: Jeff Foxworthy, comedy icon, multiple Grammy Award nominee, best-selling author of more than 26 books and probably best known for his “redneck” jokes, presents “The Good Old Days Tour” at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, at Charleston Municipal Auditorium. Tickets are $36.50 and $56.50.

EDUCATOR: An eighth-grade West Virginia studies teacher from Milton Middle School recently was named 2022 West Virginia Teacher of the Year during the Celebration of Excellence Ceremony at the Charleston Culture Center. Brian Casto graduated from Marshall University and has been a teacher for 13 years. He receives a car from Toyota to use for yearly Teacher of the Year events and $5,000 from both Highmark West Virginia and the Horace Mann Companies, $500 from American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and a $1,000 school grant from West Virginia Education Association Foundation. Congratulations Brian and thanks for your dedication, efforts, knowledge and talents used in educating our children.

WINNERS: The Miss Flame Pageant was conducted Aug. 28 in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. Jasmine Webb, daughter of Ben and Christina Webb of Ashland, was named Miss Flame. She was crowned by Lori Menshouse, also of Ashland, Miss Kentucky and former Miss Flame. Runners-up were Victoria Penix, daughter of Vic and Samantha Penix of Louisa, first; Evan Hope Boggs, daughter of Greg and Kim Boggs, also of Ashland, second. Congratulations to the winners.

CERAMICS: “Beginning Hand and Wheel for Adults” continues from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Nov. 15 at Huntington Museum of Art. The classes, taught by Kathleen Kneafsey, cost $265 and $295 nonmembers, which includes the first 25 pounds of clay. Additional clay is $10 per 25-pound bag. “Open Studio,” open to ages 18 and older, begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, and continues each Wednesday through Nov. 17. The class monitored by Kathleen Kneafsey costs $10 per evening. George Lanham is monitor for the 10-session event each Thursday, Sept. 16 through Nov. 18. Artists work on their own. Clay is $10 for 25 pounds. Contact 304-529-2701 or www.hmoa.org.

CONFERENCE: The seventh annual Tri-State Conference on Diversity and Inclusion featuring 15 sessions, sponsored by Ohio University Southern in Ironton, is available via Zoom Sept. 20-24. Dr. Elaine Richardson, Ohio State University Professor of Literacy Studies, College of Education and Human Ecology, presents “Underlying Conditions: Black Women and Girl-Identified People with Corona.” A student Leadership Workshop with Daniel Juday from Columbus, Ohio, is available Thursday. A student panel discussion, “Student Perspectives: Social Justice, Diversity and Inclusion” with Gabriela Lett and Brennan Rinehart (Mountwest Community and Technical College), Takira Williams (Marshall University), Langley Sebastian (Transylvania University) and Donovan Grooms, West Virginia State University recent grad), is offered for the first time ever, moderated by Veella Grooms of Carnegie Mellon University. The featured panel for Friday’s closing include Ohio State Sen. Tina Maharath, representing 3rd Senate District, Kipp Colvin, director, Communities and Volunteer Relations, Human Rights Campaign), Yi Ting Wang (Graduate Writing and Research Center, Ohio University), Chief Joe Sanders (retired police chief, West Virginia Sate University), and Mayor Matt Perkins (City of Ashland), moderator is Dr. Teresa McKenzie of Ohio University Southern. The conference is free to attend; however, registration is required. Visit www.tristatediversityandinclusion.com.

MUSICAL: Alchemy Theatre Troupe presents “Exit Laughing” by Paul Elliott at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Sept. 17-18, at 1040 Vernon St., as part of West Edge Series, Live Theatre! Tickets are $15.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS: Pete Mastrangelo, Gwen Craddock, Linda Brown, Sandee Damron, Nash Merritt, Chad Lovejoy, Joyce Ruth, Ira Bartram, Schauna Chambers, Johanna Beckley, Lauren Meadows, Max Noble, Lezlee Haynie, Christopher Lipinski, Aaron Persinger, Jose Soto, Betty Wilson, Bob Dacci becomes double 6 (66), Bobbi Hillman, Lugene Jarrell.

TODAY’S ANNIVERSARIES: Michael and Jenifer Johnson celebrate number 31, Bob and Shelby Riddle (1956).

CHUCKLE: The daughter of a famous basketball star was watching television and her dad was in the other room. “Dad, come here! Mom’s on the television again!” yelled the little girl. Her dad yelled back, “You just tell Mom to get off the television and sit on the couch like a normal adult.”

More training could help child welfare workers recognize human trafficking in WV

CHARLESTON — More training is needed to help West Virginia child welfare workers identify human trafficking and more support is needed for survivors.

The lack of understanding, education and training can lead to misidentification of trafficking offenses, which can result in lesser criminal penalties, as well as hindering or delaying victims from getting vital services for trafficking survivors, said Kendra Boley-Rogers, program director with the Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Social Services. Boley-Rogers updated the Joint Committee on Children and Families about the state’s response to human trafficking within child welfare Monday during the state Legislature’s interim session.

Between Oct. 1, 2017, and Aug. 31, 2021, 70 trafficking referrals were made to DHHR. The victims ranged in age from 1 to 18 years old.

Most of the referrals were for sex trafficking, but five were for labor trafficking. Of the 65 sex trafficking referrals, 44 were parent/caregivers and 21 were non-parent/caregiver, and most victims were female. Of labor trafficking, three were parents/caregivers and two were non-parent/caregivers. All labor trafficking victims were male.

Only four of those 70 referrals were substantiated, with approximately eight cases currently pending. There are an additional four sex trafficking disclosures from victims that were made, but could not be associated to the correct maltreater. For example, a victim did not disclose who trafficked them.

One was labor trafficking, a case of a man taking advantage of three immigrant children.

Seven were sex trafficking, five by a non-parent/caregiver and two by a parent/caregiver. Some of the cases involved a parent selling their child for sexual favors in exchange for drugs and, in one case, housing.

Boley-Rogers said sometimes those in child welfare and the general population envision a Hollywood version of human trafficking, thinking it’s always a “Taken” situation or perpetrated by strangers. But as evidenced by the confirmed cases in West Virginia, it’s often done by someone the child knows and trusts, and often triggered by desperate situations.

Survivors of trafficking also often don’t know they have been trafficked, she said. This misunderstanding can lead to cases being treated as typical abuse and neglect.

Children who enter the Child Protective Services system, including trafficking victims, are entitled to services including shelter, food, clothing and mental health help. However, there is only one therapist in the state that specializes in human trafficking survivor treatment.

“It’s critical to that dynamic, because a lot of times your victims don’t see themselves as victims, they don’t understand what’s happening,” she said. “Specifically when you’re talking about your children, and that familial trafficking dynamic. A lot of children we see, they don’t really understand that’s what’s going on and what’s been happening. Over the years, they realize ‘Oh, it was trafficking.’ So it’s really critical for that specific training. So that victims can understand that they are the victims, so that they can receive the appropriate services necessary to heal.”

DHHR is working on more training for child welfare workers on how to identify human trafficking and a statewide task force is working on ways to bring more services to West Virginia to assist survivors. The task force is also working on ways to identify areas of risk for trafficking so services can be targeted.

Currently, local rape crisis centers assist survivors, though they receive no state assistance, said Katie Spriggs, director of the Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center. She said crisis centers are perfectly poised to assist human trafficking victims with their already 24/7 services, including help with shelter, law enforcement and mental health.

Pandemic isolation leaves man's social skills 'rusty'

DEAR ABBY: I am a guy who is 27. I have always been somewhat shy and reserved, but I do like people and I like mixing. After more than a year of being “locked down” during the COVID-19 pandemic, although I was fine being housebound, I started missing human contact.

Social opportunities are opening up for me now, and though I was never great in conversations at parties, my “time away” has made me rusty. I believe you have written some pointers for being better in social situations. Can you give me a quick refresher course? Thanks, Abby! — READY TO BE BACK OUT THERE

DEAR READY: I’m happy to try. The first thing to understand is that social adeptness is a skill. No one is born with it. It has to be learned. With practice, it can be “polished” until it becomes second nature.

Part of being social is showing an interest in other people. Encourage them to share their interests and opinions. Ask them to tell you about themselves and what they think. Ask their opinions and, when they tell you, be a good listener. Cultivate your own interests so you will have something to share with them.

I publish a booklet (which is probably what you were alluding to in your letter) titled “How to be Popular” that contains many useful tips for polishing social skills. It can be ordered by sending your name and address, plus a check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. It is meant for people of all ages and covers a variety of situations. (If parents, teachers and clergy know someone who needs help in this regard, it might make an inexpensive gift that could change the course of a person’s life.)

When you receive it, don’t read it just once. Keep it handy for reference because it contains many helpful suggestions about how to be the kind of individual others find interesting and attractive. The keys to being socially successful are: Be kind. Be honest. Be tactful. Offer a compliment if you think it is deserved. And if you become anxious, remember: People can think of only one thing at a time. Forget about yourself and concentrate on the other person. Try it and you’ll find it works like a charm.

DEAR ABBY: Lately my best friend has been assuming the role of the masculine lesbian in our duo. I’m tired of making cute outfits, and I want a turn to dress as the male. How do I subtly hint that we need a role switch-up? — CURIOUS & CONFUSED IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR CURIOUS & CONFUSED: Hint? Why hint? Choose a time when you are both calm and relaxed and tell her what you need. You have a right to do that, and if she cares about you, she should be willing to accommodate you.

TO MY READERS: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown. During this 24-hour period, observant Jewish people fast, engage in reflection and prayer, and formally repent for any sin that might have been committed during the previous Hebrew year. To all of you who observe — may your fast be a meaningful one.