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Governor Jim Jus- tice has announced record-breaking visitation to West Virginia’s state parks and forests by West Virginia residents.

The announcement comes as part of West Virginia State Parks’ exclusive WVSTRONG promotion, the first-ever resident discount at state parks and forests across the state.

“I’m thrilled to see so many folks taking advantage of our WVSTRONG promotion and social distancing outside at our wonderful state parks this summer,” Justice said. “Our parks are on the move, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of this resident discount before the end of the season.”

The parks saw a 227 percent increase in online reservations compared to June 2019, with thousands of WVSTRONG promo code redemptions.

The promotion, issued to West Virginia residents for weathering the storm throughout COVID-19, includes a 30 percent discount on all state park lodging.

“We want our residents to know that we appreciate their diligence and commitment to safe travel practices, and that you don’t have to travel far away to enjoy a nice vacation,” said West Virginia State Parks Chief Brad Reed.

The summer season is not over yet. West Virginia residents are encouraged to continue visiting parks and forests close to home and to take advantage of the 30 percent lodging discount through the end of August.

“More people stayed close to home this summer but were still able to safely and responsibly enjoy a getaway at our parks and forests. We want to thank Governor Justice for encouraging West Virginians to visit our wonderful parks system.” said Steve McDaniel, director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “It is great to see folks enjoying our parks and forests and the tremendous work that has gone into them in the past few years.”

The WVSTRONG discount offer applies to lodge rooms, cabins, and campsite reservations for any West Virginia resident through August 31. Cabins and campgrounds tend to fill up quickly but limited availability remains at several of the lodges.

The discount is available to guests who make a reservation online at wvstateparks.com or over the phone by calling 1-833-WVPARKS. Guests who claim the discount will be asked to verify West Virginia residency with a state-issued ID at check-in. West Virginia’s senior citizens and veterans can combine the 30% discount with their existing discount by using code WVSENIORS or WVVETERAN at checkout.

Park and forest staff continue to follow all COVID-19 guidelines is- sued by Gov. Justice and state and federal health officials. This includes wearing personal protective equipment, such as masks, and amending operations to incorporate more stringent cleaning and promote distancing guidelines.

Guests are advised to maintain at least six feet of distance from others and to wear masks indoors where social distancing is not possible. For updates on availability and service changes due to COVID-19, visit wvstateparks.com/travel-alert.

A former West Virginia University associate professor admitted to wire fraud and filing a false tax return, a federal prosecutor’s office said.

Qingyun Sun, 58, of Morgantown, pleaded guilty to defrauding the university and to the tax charge. The charges stemmed from his official travel to China, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell’s office said in a news release last Thursday.

Sun was an associate professor and associate director of the United States-China Energy Center at the university, the release said. He also acted as the governor’s assistant for China affairs and was a consultant.

Sun has agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $6,233.12 to the university. He is no longer employed by WVU, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Sun faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for wire fraud and up to three years and a fine of up to $250,000 for tax fraud, the release said.

It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer who could comment on his behalf.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) has released the following statement regarding unsolicited seeds:

“Like other states, we have been made aware of reports from people in West Virginia that have received seeds in the mail that they did not order. Unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to lo- cal plants or be harmful to livestock. We are working with the USDA to deter- mine the proper recourse for such seeds,” said Com- missioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.

"If you have received seeds from another country, do not plant them if they are in a sealed package and do not open the sealed package. Keep the seeds and packaging and contact the WVDA, "Leonhardt said.

For more information or to report unsolicited seeds, call 304-558-2226.

Grant Memorial Hospital, its board of trustees, and its chief executive officer Bob Milvet, have responded to a claim of sexual harassment filed against them by former employee Kim Linville, by officially denying her allegations and requesting the court dismiss the case.

Linville filed her suit in April, bringing allegations of misconduct against the hospital, the board, Milvet and the county commission. In her filing, Linville claimed she was wrongfully terminated after she brought light to perceived sexual misconduct by Milvet. She claimed that the board of trustees was aware of the harassment and did not act to stop it. She also claimed Milvet engaged in an “inappropriate” relationship with the hospital’s nurse manager and that it had a negative impact on the work and patient environment.

Earlier this month, a Hampshire County woman pleaded guilty to burglary charges in a Grant County court and has been ordered to pay back more than $6,000 in damages to the Burlington family whose home she robbed.

Sophie M. Holland, 43, of 2 Karen Dr., Shanks, was indicted in March on charges of burglary after breaking into a home on Killbuck Lane near Burlington in Grant County

Since the beginning of July, COVID-19 cases in Grant County have more than doubled, jumping from 16 at the start of the month and currently sitting at 48 positive or probable cases. Of this, there are 26 active cases in the county with three hospitalizations.

“This month should prove that it is here, it is in Grant County,” said Sandria Glasscock of the Grant County Health Department. “We have an outbreak here and while it may have felt like we were safe from it, that isn’t the case.”

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, COVID-19

is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus designated SARS-CoV-2 that spreads person to person. COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in the far east and has since spread rapidly to countries worldwide, including the United States.

Community also warned of new deadly drug in PITAR meeting

 While it may have been a while since they have been in a classroom, local agencies are working to help keep students engaged this summer.

Susan Parker of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spoke during last week’s community PITAR meeting, a local group aimed at improving community health by facing issues such as drug addiction, rehabilitation and suicide prevention.

During their July 23 meeting, Parker talked about the DEP’s Earth Bingo event, where students up to age 18 work to win prizes by learning about nature, conservation and spending more time in the outdoors.

While more definite plans are still unsure, the Grant County Board of Education has now outlined three possibilities for students returning to school in the fall.

West Virginia students were dismissed from classrooms early last semester, with the governor ordering schools to close amid the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Students then switched to distance learning, with teachers providing work packets and online learning options since that time.

As of this time, education possibilities for the coming semester vary widely, with one scenario seeing students back in class five days a week and another scenario seeing all school facilities closed and all learning done virtually.

Last weekend, the Grant County Health Department (GCHD) received notification of the 24th, 25th and 26th confirmed cases of COVID-19.

This brings the county’s current total positive cases to 27 (total 26 positives, 1 probable).

According to Sandria Glasscock of the GCHD, a probable is a close contact of a confirmed case (spouse or household member) that is symptomatic but not tested.

The Grant County Commission received some positive news concerning the financial status of the county during their regularly scheduled meeting last week.

The county’s financial update was provided by Alicia Reel, the county’s financial manager through the Grant County Clerk’s office.

According to Reel, Grant County has a total general county balance of $1.6 million. While this figure shows the drop of approximately $119,000 from the prior year, this decrease is after the commission moved $250,000 into the financial stabilization fund.

Of all the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, one that was almost overlooked until recently was at the U.S. Federal Reserve. Many locals will have noticed new signs at businesses encouraging their customers to use credit or debit and forego cash. This request is not coming from the businesses themselves having a preference to cards, but is instead due to a sudden decline in the nation’s coin supply.

Volunteers with the Downtown Petersburg Beautification Project have been hard at work cultivating floral designs throughout the town. The project, which is headed by Tammy Kimble and Kim Secrist, have added new, self-watering flower pots in front of local businesses, installed hanging baskets throughout the area as well as replanted the long abandoned brick planters that run along Virginia Ave.

Editor - Camille Howard;
News Editor - Erin Camp;
Advertising Manager - Tara Warner Pratt; 
Graphic Designer - Jesse Hedrick;
Print Shop Manager - Richard Knight; 
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