Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Journal on the number of deaths in West Virginia due to the coronavirus pandemic:
For a few months last spring, we West Virginians looked on in horror as many of our fellow Americans died by the thousands in what to us was still only a threat — COVID-19. By April 30, we felt lucky that our state had recorded the comparatively very low total of only 40 deaths from the disease.
Now we are part of the horror. It is likely that by the end of this week, more than 1,000 West Virginians will have succumbed to COVID-19.
Help is on the way, in the form of vaccines against the virus. Most people, even those most vulnerable to the disease, will not get access to the life-saving immunizations until spring, perhaps early summer, however.
How serious is the situation? Very. By Monday, 13 of West Virginia’s 55 counties were red — highest risk. Another 23 counties.
Just four counties were shown as green, or low hazard, on Saturday.
Most infectious disease experts believe the worst of COVID-19 is yet to come. One analysis, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, predicts the epidemic will have killed 2,000 West Virginians by April 1. What can we do to beat the odds?
Private industry, perhaps working with the federal government, can accelerate production of vaccines. At first, because of stockpiling, relatively large shipments can be expected. After that, however, quantities will drop off sharply. It has been reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set a cap of 16,575 doses of the Pfizer vaccine each week for West Virginia. That is only enough to treat fewer than 8,300 people.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers simply must do better. Federal officials should do whatever they can to make that happen.
In the meantime, Mountain State residents need to do all in our power — more than we have to date — to keep COVID-19 from spreading. Otherwise, it will indeed be a dark winter.
The Herald-Dispatch on redistricting in West Virginia:
West Virginia State Sen. Chandler Swope, R-Mercer, made an interesting admission when he visited Wayne County recently to meet with other elected officials.
Swope, who represents Senate District 6, which includes part of Wayne County, said he had never been to Wayne County, even though that’s part of his district.
District 6 might as well be called the Leftover District, as its boundaries look like what was left over when the other 16 district maps were drawn in 2011. One end includes all of Mercer County. It then follows the Virginia and Kentucky borders as it makes its way through most of McDowell County and parts of Mingo and Wayne counties until it ends near Ceredo. In McDowell County, the district’s boundary extends like baby fingers into another district to pick up a few precincts.
So, yes, people in Prichard are represented in the Legislature by a person who lives in Bluefield.
The 6th District isn’t the only one with such contours, although it is the most extreme. It’s what happens when senators who draw the redistricting map follow the first rule of redistricting: Protect the incumbents.
Wayne County, which has about 42,500 of West Virginia’s 1.8 million people — about 2.4%. It is divided among three Senate districts. When Swope made his admission, it drew this comment from Wayne County Commission President Bob Pasley: “It makes no sense that we are in three senatorial districts, none at all, and it’s not fair to our people who don’t get a say. If we have representation — strong representation — I think we’d be so much better off.”
District 6, as the other 16, has two senators. The other senator from the district is Mark Maynard, a Republican who lives in Wayne County. Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, represents the 5th District along with Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell. Then there’s the 7th District, whose senators are Ron Stollings, D-Boone, and Paul Hardesty, D-Logan. So Wayne County does have two of the Senate’s 34 members, or about 6%, which is more than its share of the state’s population. Thus, despite its having been carved among three districts, it does have good representation in the Senate.
Pasley’s complaint is not a new one. It’s heard every 10 years as legislators draw new district boundaries in response to each census. The Census Bureau is scheduled to report county-by-county results from this year’s census before the end of spring 2021. After that will come a special session of the Legislature to redistrict the Senate and the House of Delegates.
This time around, unlike past decades, Republicans will control the process. It’s possible but not likely that Wayne County won’t be carved up among three districts so counties in the central part of the state can be compact.
Swope has plenty of time in the next two years to visit Wayne County and get to know its people and its needs. The Republican leadership will most likely protect his seat and Maynard’s. Whether they represent the same district after the 2022 election remains to be seen, of course, just as whether Wayne County will be part of three districts or fewer.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on West Virginia Power, a minor league baseball team in the state:
Minor league baseball is synonymous with Charleston. Sure, there have been interruptions here and there, but minor league ball in West Virginia’s capital city goes all the way back to the early 1900s, and has, for a majority of its run, had an affiliation with Major League Baseball.
Things were looking glum for the West Virginia Power after the nearby Pittsburgh Pirates dropped the team as its low-A minor league affiliate two years ago. At the time, the Power had the lowest attendance figures of any other team in the South Atlantic League. The Seattle Mariners stepped in last year, and it seemed an odd fit. Not surprisingly, the Mariners dropped their affiliation.
During all of this, the Power appeared on a list of several minor league teams that MLB was considering dropping all together. The Power couldn’t really do anything to help itself in 2020, with the entire season scrubbed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So it was disheartening, although not unexpected, when MLB officially cut its affiliation with the West Virginia Power this month, along with several other teams in the region — including the Power’s de facto rivals, the Lexington Legends.
The Power’s ownership group seems determined to field a team and have games played at Power Park next summer, if not the spring, as well. Hopefully, they will. But what that will look like is very much up in the air.
It is possible, although not highly likely, that the Power could end up with an MLB affiliation in the coming season if other Single A teams still part of the professional mix fold or, for some reason, can’t or don’t sign on to continue. That would be fantastic for Charleston, although unfortunate for those other teams.
What is more likely is the Power joining one of the independent leagues that play shorter schedules over the summer and feature mainly college players or former major leaguers past their prime who are looking for one last shot. That’s not great, but it’s better than nothing for the team, the city and the surrounding area.
West Virginia has lost so much over the years. Losing baseball in Charleston would be another punch to the gut. But there is hope. An independent league wouldn’t be as great as an MLB affiliation, but it would be something. And it doesn’t mean the Power is forever separated from the big leagues. Minor league teams shift affiliations all the time. Teams in smaller cities shuffle around, and they get picked up by Major League clubs.
Hopefully, the Power can continue operations and eventually rejoin with an MLB franchise. Baseball is as much a part of Charleston as the Kanawha River is, and it’s something the city shouldn’t lose. Whatever form the team takes next year, everyone who can needs to support it so it can continue and, hopefully, thrive.