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The front porch is well known across much of Appalachia as a gathering place for conversation and sharing. During the coronavirus, those front porches have become a lifeline, for some -- in more ways than one. 

For YES! Magazine, in partnership with 100 Days in Appalachia, reporter Alison Stine explored how the ethos of the front porch as a connection point is being used to help keep students and families fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. She spoke with West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter Brittany Patterson. Here’s an excerpt of their conversation.

 


Woodburn Hall
West Virginia University

West Virginia University is furloughing around 875 staffers due to a possible $40 million loss from the coronavirus pandemic, the college said Friday.

How Ohio Valley States Are Reopening Their Economies

May 8, 2020
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

This story was updated on May 11, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the Ohio Valley Region. But stay at home orders and social distancing restrictions reduced the number of cases modelers projected without them. 

Now there is pressure to ease the restrictions and open states’ economies back up as the businesses that were closed struggle to find relief and record numbers of people apply for unemployment.

Here is a brief rundown of how West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky plan to reopen businesses.

The Front Porch Network Is A Lifeline In Appalachia

May 8, 2020
Brian Ferguson / 100 Days in Appalachia

A traditional gathering place where the public meets the private becomes the critical point of contact for Appalachian families.

On any day in Appalachia, you can find gifts in front of houses, left on porches for the people inside: mushrooms just foraged, cookies freshly baked. The porch is an extension of the home in Appalachia—not only a gathering spot for conversation, but a traditional sharing place. If you want to exchange tools, plants, or hand-me-downs with your neighbor: you put them on the porch. In times of struggle, porches are the vessel to deliver food: frozen meals to new parents, casseroles for grieving families.

On this West Virginia Morning, the front porch is a traditional gathering place for Appalachian families, and in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, one reporter shares how those practices have become even more important. We also hear a report about the increased risk for coal miners due to COVID-19, and we bring you this week’s Mountain Stage Song of the Week.

Seven companies have been named in a lawsuit related to the contamination of a West Virginia city’s water supply from firefighting foam.

The lawsuit filed by Charles Town attorney Stephen Skinner seeks damages for exposing Martinsburg residents to chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAs. Among the defendants in the lawsuit filed last month in federal court were 3M Co., DuPont Co. and Chemours.

West Virginia Tourism Office


While the coronavirus pandemic has all but halted out-of-state travelers and tourism in West Virginia, there are ways for residents to safely leave home, enjoy some local sites, and learn a little history along the way.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In response to the economic crisis resulting from COVID-19, West Virginia Public Broadcasting has offered a series of free radio announcements to independent and locally owned restaurants and small businesses that are still open and following social distancing guidelines during the pandemic.

More than 40 small business responded. Each business that met the criteria received a three-week rotation of underwriting spots on the statewide WVPB radio network. Most are still playing in rotation.

Teddy Bear, Child Abuse, Abuse, Fear
Adobe Stock

One in four women and one in nine men experience intimate partner violence – which can include physical injury or battery, psychological intimidation, emotional abuse or sexual violence from an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The online publication 100 Days in Appalachia recently published a report about what the pandemic could mean for some Appalachians. Inside Appalachia host Jessica Lilly talked with the reporter, Alison Stine, to find out more.

Emily Allen / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Only eight months after launching West Virginia’s first family treatment court, Boone County Judge William Thompson said the coronavirus pandemic caused some drastic changes to the program.

Family treatment court is a “problem solving court.” Instead of punishing parents in the abuse and neglect system for their addiction, it connects them to treatment options and resources to improve their parenting.

COVID-19 Accelerated This W.Va. Community’s Efforts To End Homelessness

May 7, 2020
Jesse Wright / 100 Days in Appalachia

COVID-19 has forced Lou Ortenzio to assume a new role.

“My new job,” Ortenzio, executive director of the Clarksburg Mission in Clarksburg, West Virginia, said, “is getting here in the morning, finding people clustered around and having to tell them, ‘You’ve gotta go.’” 

The mission offers emergency shelter to up to 50 people a night and has a dorm for men and another for women and children, each of which can accommodate about 20. It also offers services and support for those in recovery from drug addiction. The facility went into lockdown in March to protect its residents from contracting and potentially spreading COVID-19.

Ohio Valley Hitting Plateau Of Unemployment Claims

May 7, 2020
Courtesy Bytemarks via Creative Commons.

New unemployment insurance claims are starting to reach a plateau, but are still hitting unprecedented levels across the Ohio Valley region.

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear how one court program that helps bring families back together is adapting in this time of social distancing. And we explore some tips on how to get outside and learn some new history.

Lt. Dennis Feazell, of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, watches for debris as he and a co-worker search flooded homes in Rainelle, W.Va., Saturday, June 25, 2016.
Steve Helber / Associated Press

Flood mitigation efforts continue in southern West Virginia through a grant funded study by Marshall University.

The long-term project focuses on Rainelle in Greenbrier County, which has experienced significant flooding in the past 20 years. The Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] awarded more than $1 million to continue the study.

Office of Gov. Jim Justice

Updated Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 4:55 p.m.

Four people working in Kanawha County day care facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus. The ongoing testing of day care staff is part of an effort to reopen West Virginia’s economy, but will now be mandated under an executive order. 

Mackie Branham views a lung X-ray with Dr. James Brandon Crum, who was among the first physicians to note an uptick in black lung diagnoses.
Howard Berkes / NPR

Underground coal miners start their shifts getting changed in closely packed changing rooms. They ride rail cars to their worksite, shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes for more than an hour. And once they’re underground, ventilation designed to tamp down coal dust blows air through the mine. All that makes a coal mine  the kind of place where the coronavirus could spread like wildfire. 

On this West Virginia Morning, we go hunting for a wild plant that grows in the forests throughout West Virginia. Some people love them, some hate them. How ever you feel, ramps are one of the emblematic signs of springtime in Appalachia.

And we hear from a West Virginia nurse who is treating COVID-19 patients in New York.

 

Office of Gov. Jim Justice

West Virginia has scaled back its plan to lift coronavirus restrictions to gauge how current reopenings will affect the state's caseload, officials said Tuesday.

Mary Altaffer / AP Photo

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told West Virginia officials that respirator masks distributed to 50,000 first responders might be counterfeit, but officials decided to leave them in use, according to a report.

Stradwick's Fade Cave Facebook Page

Across the U.S., some states, including West Virginia, are beginning to loosen restrictions meant to reduce the spread of coronavirus, allowing for some non-essential businesses to reopen. 

On Monday, May 4, West Virginia entered the second week of Gov. Jim Justice’s six-week reopening plan, “The Comeback.” During week two, businesses with fewer than 10 employees, salons and barber shops, dog grooming services, and outdoor dining restaurants are allowed to reopen. Churches and other places of worship are allowed to conduct funerals and other services with limited gathering sizes. 


Courtesy Woody Thrasher for Governor

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — It was a textbook campaign ad, red meat for a tough race — a killer freed, a governor to blame and his Republican challenger promising to keep everyone safe.

Bob Murray
Glynis Board / Ohio Valley ReSource

Last fall, Murray Energy — the largest privately-owned coal company in America with a large presence in the Ohio Valley — joined many of its peers in declaring bankruptcy. Murray faced mounting debt and a struggling coal market. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, tanking the global economy including energy markets. 

S&P Global Market Intelligence senior reporter Taylor Kuykendall has been following the bankruptcy case closely. Late last week, he spoke with energy and environment reporter Brittany Patterson about the latest updates in the case.


West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s team earned seven top honors during the 2019 Virginias AP Broadcasters Contest. Awards were announced May 1 during a virtual awards show.

Monday marked the first day some businesses across the state could begin to reopen after weeks of being closed because of the coronavirus. But some say they don’t feel ready to open their doors. We explore the tough decisions facing the state’s small businesses.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Following a second infusion of federal funding, the number of loans to small businesses in West Virginia has doubled, as employers nationally continue to deal with the economic impact of a global pandemic. 


Office of Gov. Jim Justice

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said he is once again revising the list of COVID-19 “hot spot” counties. Those changes come as state officials relax a stay-at home order and businesses begin to reopen under Justice’s plan. 

Jesse Wright / 100 Days in Appalachia

A federal inmate has tested positive for the coronavirus after being transferred to a facility in West Virginia. The transfer of federal prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic has been increasingly criticized as those facilities have seen outbreaks across the country. 

Dave Mistich / WVPB

A major part of the reporting process for many journalists is being on the ground and on the scene when news is happening.

Whether going out in the field to report a feature (and then returning to the office to write and produce the story) or responding to breaking news and having to file stories on the road, reporters are accustomed to working remotely. Plus, nothing beats a first-hand account.  But, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — and Gov. Jim Justice’s statewide stay-at-home order — the West Virginia Public Broadcasting newsroom and other staff are largely working remotely in ways we could not have imagined.

On this West Virginia Morning, we speak with a teacher in the Eastern Panhandle who went viral on Twitter after writing a poem using her emails. Also, in this episode, we bring you two stories about communities coming together to help their neighbors.

Nicole Musgrave

Girls Rock Whitesburg in Whitesburg, Kentucky is a music camp for female, gender-fluid, non-binary, and trans youth. Over the course of a week campers learn an electric instrument, form a band and write songs. At the end, they perform in front of a live audience. While the camp focuses on electric music instruction, participants also learn how music is tied to social justice.


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