Health & Science

On this West Virginia Morning, we remember two people who strove to make a difference in Appalachia – musician Elaine Purkey and former coal miner Charles Wayne Stanley. Purkey died in September after contracting COVID-19. Stanley passed in August after battling black lung disease.

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear from an author who wants to see some systemic change in how we talk about and work with people struggling with substance use disorder. Also, in this show, we hear a story about plastic bags versus reusable bags during the pandemic.

On this West Virginia Morning, we visit Williamson where folks are taking an innovative approach to healthcare – they’re trying to keep people from needing it. Also, in this show, we hear from colleges and universities in the Ohio Valley as they navigate the financial and economic impacts of the coronavirus.

Debra Corbett sits at her desk at Ranson Elementary School where she was the principal for 31 years. She retired this year after nearly four decades in West Virginia public education.
Courtesy Photo


Debra Corbett always loved education. Coming from a family of educators, it was something she said she always wanted to do. Her mother, aunts and uncles were all teachers.

“I heard a lot about, when the family got together, about school, about kids,” Corbett said. “It made me want to be in education … to somehow support parents and make a difference in student lives.”

Corbett retired this year after 31 years as principal of Ranson Elementary School in Ranson, Jefferson County. Prior to that, she was an elementary school teacher. She said her biggest takeaways in her career are the importance of compassion, to be gentle, to show support to teachers and students and help them see they can succeed.

Nine drug companies pledged Tuesday that they will not submit vaccine candidates for FDA review until their safety and efficacy is shown in large clinical trials. The move is intended to bolster public confidence amid the rush to make a COVID-19 vaccine widely available, and counter fears of political pressure to have a vaccine before the November presidential election.

On this West Virginia Morning, thousands of kids head back to school across the state. We hear advice from one educator with decades of experience. Also, in this show, we hear how forest managers, for decades, have started small fires of accumulated dead leaves to help prevent larger, more dangerous blazes – but some are concerned this increases climate change.

Adobe Stock

The West Virginia Department of Education announced Saturday that nine counties will begin with only remote learning for the week of Sept. 6 through 12. State officials rolled out updated data Saturday at 9 p.m.


Monongalia, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Putnam and Wayne counties will not initially open for in-person instruction. 


Empty classroom, school, classroom, desks
Adobe Stock

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Salango and union leaders in West Virginia education say Gov. Jim Justice and state officials are not doing enough for a safe reopening of schools next week. 

You may have heard of the Paw Paw, but how much do you really know about this mysterious Appalachian fruit? Learn about the Paw Paw from WVU Core Arboretum Director Zack Fowler!

On this West Virginia Morning, we check in with teams distributing anti-overdose drugs to some communities in West Virginia. Also, in this show, West Virginia isn’t the only state grappling with coal industry challenges. We explore how declines in the industry have affected Colorado.

DC Studio / Photoshop

Colton Mearkle is a registered nurse at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia. When the pandemic began, his floor was converted to caring for COVID-19 patients. 

He spoke with Eric Douglas recently about treating coronavirus patients and what he wants the rest of us to know. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Douglas: Describe for me the care that you provide for a COVID patient. 

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear from a nurse who is taking care of COVID-19 patients. Also, in this show, we listen back to an interview with Jeanette Walls, author of “The Glass Castle.”

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear an excerpt from a recent episode of Us & Them that explores how the coronavirus pandemic exploded telehealth use in the state. Also, in this show, we hear about the sport of Falconry.

The Mount Olive Correctional Complex
West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Dozens of inmates at a West Virginia prison have tested positive for the new coronavirus, health officials said.

On this West Virginia Morning, we look at politics, opioid overdose prevention, the pandemic, and of course, school.

Despite a foothold in medicine that predates Hippocrates himself, the traditional physical exam might be on the verge of extinction. The coronavirus crisis has driven more routine medical appointments online, accelerating a trend toward telemedicine that has already been underway.

We had some technical issues yesterday morning so on this West Virginia Morning, we’ll once again hear about community health centers. And it’s our Mountain Stage Song of the Week.

Aldarinho / Adobe Stock

The costs of treating COVID-19 patients are mounting, and they present a significant burden on the healthcare system in West Virginia, a state already hit by lost revenue from reduced visits to the emergency department and the canceling of non-emergency surgeries.

On this West Virginia Morning, we take a deep dive into how COVID-19 is affecting health and health care in the Mountain State.


Human beings are social creatures, but the pandemic is making it difficult to interact with one another. It is also bringing to light just how important human connection is in our lives.

Adobe Stock

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing added stress and anxiety across the nation and the globe. West Virginia’s capital city has responded by hiring a mental health coordinator to respond to growing local needs.

“This is a really stressful period, even for those who were not experiencing challenges before,” said Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin, acknowledging financial stressors, evictions, childcare and other health issues that are impacting mental health.

On this West Virginia Morning, we focus on one of the scourges of Appalachia: black lung disease. We hear from some miners coping with this disease amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Also, in this show, we speak with author Chris Hamby about his new book that explores the challenges of getting black lung benefits.

“Hello,” the call began. “This is a prepaid debit call from an inmate at the Virginia Department of Corrections.”

Madison Buchanan, a 19-year-old college student, pressed 0 to accept the call and was connected to Jacob Alan Shouse, Offender Number 1101441.

“I want to thank you so much for helping me out with this,” Buchanan said.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s fine,” Shouse replied. “I’m all about new friends, new advocates, activists, anything positive.”

Shouse, 37, had his own agenda in speaking to the student journalist. He asked if he could read Buchanan a letter he had recently written.

“Yes, please, absolutely,” she said.

“Living through this coronavirus pandemic inside the prison walls ⁠— razor wire plantations ⁠— reestablishes helplessness in an exacerbated form,” Shouse read. “One’s life takes an obvious backseat to prison bureaucracy, modern-day slavery. They’re misleading the general public into a false sense of security, that incarcerated loved ones are safe.”

WVU Medicine East's new medical office building in Shepherdstown is almost complete and expected to open mid-September. Photo taken on Aug. 14, 2020.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Residents and university students in Shepherdstown will have access to a new health care facility starting next month.

WVU Medicine East announced this week that its new medical office building is expected to open mid-September.

On this West Virginia Morning, a Wheeling-based artist is on the road to recovery after being diagnosed with the coronavirus. We hear about his experience. Also, in this show, we hear about the first graduation from a new family treatment court in West Virginia, and we learn about West Virginia’s fifth major export – airplane parts.

Daniel Walker/ WVPB

While the president has asserted that children are “almost immune” from COVID-19, public health experts say many things are unknown about how the virus impacts youth, particularly long-term.

“The short answer is that we do not know,” said Dr. Mariana Lanata, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who works at Marshall Health. “This virus is completely new, and we are still getting to know it and know what it does.”

On this West Virginia Morning, should we be worried about our kids and grandkids catching COVID-19? The short answer, according to experts, is it’s unclear. We get into the long answer of this question in this show. Also, we hear local reports in government and energy, and we learn about some natural springs in Southwest Virginia that may not be as clean as residents thought.

Updated at 10:35 p.m. ET

Hours after announcing he had tested positive for COVID-19, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said on Thursday evening that a second test for the virus came back negative.

DeWine announced that he was administered an antigen test in the morning and a PCR test in the afternoon, and was more confident in the results of the latter.

On this West Virginia Morning, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a steep drop in standard immunizations. We explore the local and national conversation surrounding vaccines. Also, in this show, we hear how one state in the Ohio Valley region is trying to increase coronavirus testing access.

On this West Virginia Morning, we remember and celebrate two individuals and the important messages they leave behind. Also, in this show, we bring you the latest coronavirus news in West Virginia.