Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Intelligencer on people from West Virginia who contracted the novel coronavirus during their vacation:
We hate to break the news to those of you planning to get away from it all for a few days, but there is no such thing as a carefree vacation this summer. That was made clear last week.
Eight West Virginians who made the trek to a popular vacation area for people in our state — Myrtle Beach — appear to have come home carrying the coronavirus with them. They live in Preston County, where the news was released by public health officials.
It has not been uncommon during the past four months to hear of individuals or even couples who contracted COVID-19 during trips to out-of-state destinations. But eight at one fell swoop appears to be something new.
Now, public health officials in Preston County are asking that anyone who traveled to Myrtle Beach “or any crowded vacation destination” during the past few weeks, self-quarantine themselves for 14 days.
“When you go to a situation like a beach, you’re going to be around people from all over the country, possibly all over the world,” cautioned Preston County Health Department Administrator V.J. Davis. “This is a virus that you have no idea of knowing who has it and who doesn’t have it.”
Actually, there is a way of getting at least some idea of how prevalent COVID-19 is in a place you may be considering for a vacation. Horry County, South Carolina, where Myrtle Beach is located, had more than 1,300 cases of the disease last week. At the same time, only about 1,000 more cases were reported in the entire state of West Virginia.
If you are planning a vacation, then, there are certain places you may want to avoid.
And if you travel anywhere, don’t take a vacation from common-sense precautions against COVID-19. Social distancing and masks are even more important when you are in a crowd of people you don’t know than when you are at home.
Many people have become restless and eager for some relaxation during the past few months, we suspect. But if you plan to take a trip, be cognizant of the risk — and do everything in your power to avoid bringing viral visitors home with you.
The Herald-Dispatch on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for a critical permit for a proposed natural gas pipeline that would cross under the Appalachian Trail:
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline cleared another hurdle last week when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the pipeline could indeed cross the Appalachian Trail.
The decision removes an obstacle for moving natural gas from wells in West Virginia to potential markets in Virginia and North Carolina.
The pipeline project begins in north-central West Virginia and travels southeast through West Virginia and Virginia until it reaches the North Carolina border. From there, a branch heads over to Norfolk, Virginia, while the main pipeline heads southwest through North Carolina to a point near the South Carolina state line.
All together, it’s a 600-mile project that would deliver natural gas to utilities in Virginia and North Carolina. The underground pipeline is a joint project of Dominion Energy and Duke Energy. Its total estimated cost is $8 billion.
The project has faced opposition from several groups for many reasons. The case decided by the Supreme Court on Monday had to do with whether the U.S. Forest Service had the authority to permit contractors to run the pipe under the Appalachian Trail.
Judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit voided a Forest Service permit in December 2018, saying federal law prohibits any agency from approving a pipeline on “lands in the National Park System.” That includes the trail. Hearing the appeal, the Supreme Court disagreed.
This is not the final victory for the pipeline, which was announced in 2014. Other challenges remain in other courts, and they touch on many different issues.
The Marcellus Shale revolution has been good for northern West Virginia’s economy. The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has unlocked vast gas reserves in the northern part of the state in the past 10 years. In the southern counties, the onset of shale drilling contributed to an economic calamity. The abundance of gas from shale wells in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania led to sharp decreases in gas prices, which encouraged utilities and other electric power producers to switch much of their generating capacity from coal to gas.
Coal was having its own problems before the shale gas industry boomed. Shale gas hastened coal’s decline.
With drilling comes the necessary infrastructure to process the gas and prepare it for shipping. Doddridge County in particular has benefited from that growth. And there is pipeline capacity. There have been other pipeline projects that have been developed to move shale gas, including one here in the Tri-State. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one of the largest, most visible and most opposed.
The pipeline has been described as a means of taking dirty coal out of the power generation industry and replacing it with cleaner-burning natural gas. That’s already happening, given the number of gas-fired power plants that have been built in recent years within a 150-mile radius of Huntington and the number of coal-fired generating units that have been retired.
But in the six years since the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project was announced, several states have developed plans to move past gas and to rely more on renewable power sources. Several engineering obstacles remain for those plans, but that doesn’t mean they are not feasible.
The fight over the future of power generation is not over. Assuming the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can survive the challenges that remain in a wide variety of venues, it might not be as necessary as it was thought to be six years ago. But natural gas will remain an important source for many industries in the years to come, so ensuring it can get to market in a manner that is both economically and environmentally sound is a challenge that must be met and overcome.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on the decision to cancel West Virginia's annual State Fair amid the coronavirus pandemic:
Even though they had the green light to proceed, members of the board for the State Fair of West Virginia made the difficult, but proper, decision to scrap the event this year.
The State Fair joins an ever-growing list of annual events drawing large crowds canceled because of the novel coronavirus.
When it was initially announced by Gov. Jim Justice that the fair could proceed and would simply “look very different,” there was a lot of head-scratching about how such an event could take place, even with plans to keep people properly distanced and everything sanitized.
As West Virginia and other states have resumed some activities that allow large gatherings, COVID-19 cases have surged — with new cases in West Virginia linked to crowds at church services. The fair board must have recognized the risk for disaster in making its decision this week.
As with all of the other events that have been canceled or heavily modified (Charleston’s FestivALL kicks off its online-only activities this weekend), it’s a shame. The fair generates a lot of money for the local economy in Lewisburg and draws tourism dollars from across the region. It’s a shame that kids who have worked so hard on their 4-H or Future Farmers of America projects won’t get to present them — or make money from auctions. It’s a shame that people who look forward to this event every year won’t get to go.
Despite all of that, it’s the right decision. As with everything these days, the benefit has to be weighed against the risk, and the public health threat COVID-19 presents — especially with so many people traveling from all over to one location — is simply too great.
It had to have been a hard decision, but the fair board should be lauded for making the tough, correct call.