West Virginia Week in Review - October 10, 2020

10/10/2020

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Gov. Justice announces Virgin Hyperloop to build Hyperloop Certification Center in West Virginia
Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday that West Virginia, birthplace of Chuck Yeager – the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound – will now be at the center of developing the next innovation in barrier-breaking transportation. Virgin Hyperloop announced that it will locate its new Hyperloop Certification Center (HCC) on nearly 800 acres of land, spanning Tucker and Grant counties, where it will leverage intellectual capital and resources from West Virginia University, Marshall University, and from across the state.

Hyperloop moves people and goods in pods through a vacuum tube at speeds exceeding 600 mph, enabling travel from Pittsburgh to Chicago in 41 minutes or New York City to Washington, D.C. in just 30 minutes.

Work on the HCC is expected to begin in 2021 with a planned Welcome Center, Certification Track and Operations Center, Pod Final Assembly Facility, Production Development Test Center, and Operations, Maintenance and Safety Training Center.
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Gov. Justice, all West Virginians celebrate 3rd anniversary of Roads To Prosperity program
Gov. Justice asked for West Virginians everywhere to join him Wednesday in celebrating the 3rd anniversary of the historic passage of Gov. Justice’s Roads To Prosperity bond program. On October 7, 2017, West Virginians were asked to cast their vote on whether to approve the issuance of $1.6 billion of state bonds to build and upgrade the state’s roads and bridges. This historic road bond passed with an overwhelming majority of voters – 73 percent – supporting the Governor’s Roads To Prosperity initiative.

According to the West Virginia Department of Transportation, 811 projects – worth $482.9 million and spanning 1,543 miles – have already been completed through the Roads To Prosperity program to-date. Those projects, spread across all 55 counties, include paving, slip/slide repairs, bridge repairs, and other road improvements.
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Gov. Justice announces additional free testing at pharmacy drive-thrus
During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that as part of his administration’s efforts to expand free COVID-19 testing throughout West Virginia, the State is partnering with Walgreens and West Virginia-based company Fruth Pharmacy to offer dozens of new free testing sites at several of their pharmacy drive-thrus across the state.

Walgreens is offering free testing at 16 locations statewide, including stores in Boone, Cabell, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, Monongalia, Putnam, and Raleigh counties. Fruth Pharmacy is offering free testing at 12 of their locations statewide.
Gov. Justice also offered a reminder that additional free testing events are scheduled in the upcoming weeks for several counties all across West Virginia. In each of the counties under the Orange color designation, testing sites will be offered throughout this week. According to the DHHR County Alert System map, Orange counties as of Friday included Cabell, Doddridge, Harrison, Logan, and Mingo counties

This testing is available to all residents in selected counties, including asymptomatic individuals. 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.
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Gov. Justice, Tourism Office, and DNR announce over $2.8 million in improvement projects coming to Tygart Lake State Park
From atop a scenic deck overlooking Tygart Lake, Gov. Justice joined West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Steve McDaniel and other local officials Tuesday for an event to announce more than $2.8 million in bond improvement projects at Tygart Lake State Park. These projects represent the latest phase of improvement work at the park, which has a total of $6 million-worth of enhancement projects either already completed, currently underway, or set to begin in the near future.

The overall investment, totaling $2,851,000, covers a variety of projects at the park, including upgrades to cabins, the lodge, and the campgrounds. Improvements also include wastewater treatment improvements, paving by the West Virginia Division of Highways, various recreational additions – including game courts and a trail to the lake – and much more.
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Gov. Justice kicks off major paving project in Nitro
Gov. Justice joined leaders with the West Virginia Department of Transportation and other local officials Monday for a ceremony to kick off another major road project in Kanawha County, funded through the Governor’s Roads To Prosperity program. The highly anticipated Purchase Order Paving project calls for the paving of more than two miles of roadway through the heart of the city of Nitro, providing more than 12,000 motorists per day easy access to the many local businesses on this major corridor of commerce.

Crews will begin work as soon as next week and will wrap up before the end of the month. The cost of the project is $820,000 and is being funded by General Obligation Bond 2 and 3 Bond Funds as part of the Roads To Prosperity program.
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Gov. Justice allows certain types of music performances to resume with limitations
During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that he has signed an Executive Order 74-20, allowing outdoor live music performances and certain indoor music performances to resume, provided that all additional guidelines are followed to help keep West Virginians as safe as possible. Under the new rules, all outdoor live music performances are permitted to resume. However, crowd sizes must be restricted to 25 percent of the venue’s full capacity or 250 individuals, whichever is less. Additionally, attendees must observe proper social distancing and will also be asked to wear face coverings at all times when social distancing cannot be maintained. Indoor live music performances with in-person crowds remain prohibited at this time. However, indoor performances with no audience physically present, but which are broadcast to a virtual or remote audience, are allowed under the new rules.
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Gov. Justice announces Mon County bars may reopen next Tuesday with restrictions
Gov. Justice announced Friday that as a result of a significant recent improvement in Monongalia County case numbers, bars throughout the county will once again be permitted to reopen next Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, so long as these establishments follow all additional guidance provided by state health experts.

“With this reopening, we are stepping up enforcement by sending more ABCA agents and more state police to the area,” Gov. Justice said. “Bars that don't follow the necessary safety guidelines, where we see a bunch of people packed in or no mask wearing – including in lines outside of your bar – you will be shut down again and any bars that don’t comply will have their license suspended."
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Gov. Justice provides funding to replenish SNAP Stretch Program
On Friday, Gov. Justice announced that he is providing $100,000 in CARES Act funding to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture to replenish the funds in the SNAP Stretch Program. This program allows consumers using SNAP benefits to double their spending power at West Virginia farmers markets. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the SNAP Stretch Program had its annual $150,000 budget exhausted halfway through the 2020 growing season.

Gov. Justice announced that the $100,000 he is provided will sustain the program through at least mid-December.
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West Virginia COVID-19 transmission rate improving
On Friday, Gov. Justice reported that the number of active COVID-19 cases across the state is now 4,435, up from 4,327 on Wednesday. The cumulative percent of positive cases also increased to 2.79 percent, up from 2.77 percent on Wednesday. Meanwhile, West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt – rose to 0.94; but remains among the top 5 best such rates of any state in the country. West Virginia continues to outperform the national average – as well as the rates of all of its bordering states – in percentage of population tested, percentage of population positive, and percentage of positive test results.
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Gov. Justice honors first West Virginia nurses to pass away from COVID-19
During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that two nurses – one from WVU’s J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown and one from Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington – recently became the first nurses to pass away from COVID-19 in West Virginia, according to the West Virginia Nurses Association. 

“We should continue to remember all of these frontline healthcare workers and first responders. These are the real heroes,” Gov. Justice said. “Just imagine: these great people get up in the morning and they know, not only are they running to the fire, but they’re headed right for the middle of the fire."
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Gov. Justice announces COVID-19 testing results from WV Veterans Nursing Facility
On Friday, Gov. Justice announced that after two employees at the West Virginia Veterans Nursing Facility in Clarksburg tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, more than 220 additional residents and staff members were tested, with all of the additional results coming back negative. The facility has stopped activities, visitation, and all outside appointments. Non-essential staff not required to work at the facility are being sent home. The two employees who tested positive are both quarantining.
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Gov. Justice announces funding for West Virginia Women’s Commission
Gov. Justice announced Friday that he will be supplying the necessary funding to keep the West Virginia Women’s Commission running. The commission is under the direction of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. The Governor has made available $150,000 from the DHHR budget to fund the Women’s Commission immediately. The Women’s Commission works to advance the economic status, health, safety, education, leadership, and advocacy of West Virginia women. They work with non-profit groups to develop statewide awareness, sponsor workshops, and promote the empowerment and equality of all West Virginia women.​
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Last large group of 1-150th and 201st soldiers return home from deployment
Last Saturday, more than 140 soldiers from the West Virginia National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 150th Cavalry Regiment and 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery Regiment returned to West Virginia following a nearly year-long deployment to the middle east. Families greeted soldiers as they arrived at Laidley Field.

Last August, approximately 450 members of the 1-150th Cavalry Regiment and 1-201st Field Artillery – mostly West Virginians – joined forces with additional soldiers from Ohio, North Carolina, and South Carolina, combining to create the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, which consisted of 4,200 soldiers in total.
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Gov. Justice signs proclamation for National Physicians Assistants Week in West Virginia
On Monday, in honor of the high-quality healthcare provided to West Virginians by physician assistants across the state, Gov. Justice announced that he had issued a proclamation, officially designating Oct. 6, 2020, through Oct. 12, 2020, as National Physician Assistants Week in the Mountain State.
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First Lady Cathy Justice invites students to participate in Halloween coloring page contest
First Lady Cathy Justice is inviting young West Virginia students to participate in a Halloween coloring page contest. This will be the seventh installment of her First Lady Student Artist Series, an art program started to promote the importance of the arts in schools throughout West Virginia. All students attending public or private school in kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades are eligible to participate in this Student Artist Series. The finished coloring pages must be completed by Monday, October 26.
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First Lady Cathy Justice, WVDACH inviting artists to create ornaments for this year's Artistree
First Lady Cathy Justice and the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History are inviting West Virginia artists of all ages to create and submit hand-crafted ornaments to be displayed on a Christmas tree at the West Virginia Culture Center. Celebrating its 10th anniversary as a First Lady Initiative, the 2020 Artistree will honor West Virginia healthcare workers who have served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, artists are asked to celebrate a healthcare worker by designing an ornament in their honor. The deadline for submitting ornaments is Friday, November 20, 2020.
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Gov. Justice announces sponsorship encouraging drivers to use Safe Phone Zones
As West Virginians prepare for the long holiday weekend ahead, Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday a sponsorship program urging drivers to curb distracted driving. The West Virginia Department of Transportation's Parkways Authority has partnered with Encova Insurance to create "Safe Phone Zones" on the WV Turnpike. The WV Turnpike has designated its Welcome Center, Rest Area and Travel Plaza facilities as Safe Phone Zones. New, informative signs, sponsored by Encova, have been installed along the Turnpike leading to these facilities.
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HHOMA inviting students to participate in art and essay contests to honor legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs Executive Director Jill Upson announced Tuesday that West Virginia students across the state are invited to create various types of original works to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The first contest is the Project on Racism which is presented by the Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission and the YWCA Wheeling. The project accepts entries for essays, music, and five-minute films. The competition is open to any student from grades 1-12 attending public, private, parochial, or home school in West Virginia.

The second contest is the 37th annual Poster Competition presented by the Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission and the Beta Beta Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. West Virginia students from grades K-12 may enter the poster contest. The art must focus on the following quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
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WVDOH bridge inspection team spots dog walking on bridge above Ohio River
On Wednesday, two West Virginia Division of Highways workers went above and beyond to rescue a dog who was trapped on the Hi Carpenter Memorial Bridge over the Ohio River. Operations Division Bridge Inspector Rob Jeffries and Operations Division Equipment Operator Joey Linville were doing a routine inspection of the bridge which spans the Ohio River between St. Mary’s, WV, and Newport, Ohio. The bridge which spans 2584 feet over the Ohio River carries the RT 807 traffic 69 feet above the Ohio River. While working aloft in a 120-foot manlift, the bridge inspectors spotted a dog walking on the lower chord truss member of the bridge. The inspectors quickly lowered their manlift to the deck and Joey Linville climbed onto the truss to rescue the hound. Once the dog was secure, inspectors donated their lunch (a ham sandwich) and offered him water, which he quickly wolfed down. The dog was reunited with his owners later that day.
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West Virginia Tourism Office releases second fall foliage report

Many of the higher elevations of West Virginia are peaking this weekend as the West Virginia Tourism Office released its autumn forecast to help travelers enjoy peak leaf season. The forecast, prepared with assistance from the West Virginia Division of Forestry, is the second in a series of fall foliage updates the Tourism Office will release over the next few weeks. Reports include the percentage of color change across the state and suggested travel routes through peak areas.

The mountains of eastern West Virginia from Pocahontas County in the south to Preston County in the north are starting to show some beautiful warm hues, with color at about 70%, so this may be a good time to plan visits to iconic locations like Spruce Knob or Highland Scenic Highway. The higher elevations of Tucker County are at 80% and color is expected to peak this weekend, so if you were thinking about visiting Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley Resort state parks, this may be your last chance this season to view the best color.

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West Virginia remains among national leaders in census response rate
Gov. Justice again asked all West Virginians this week to participate in the 2020 United States Census. West Virginia remains tied atop the national standings with the #1 best Census response rate in the country: 99.9 percent. For perspective, during the last Census in 2010, the state’s final response rate was just 74 percent.

Every West Virginian who does not respond to the Census represents a loss of $20,000 in federal funds over the next 10 years for the state and its local communities. The funds can go toward things like healthcare, education, infrastructure, school lunch programs, and more.

Be counted in minutes: 2020census.gov.
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Also this week:

W.Va. Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy South employees look forward to helping inspire cadets

WVDNR promoting 2021 Wildlife Calendar

New Child Locator Unit within DHHR’s Bureau for Children and Families established

Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission accepting nominations for 2021 “Living the Dream Awards”
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Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

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Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

Governor's Mansion:
304.558.3588

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