Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


July 8

Bluefield Daily Telegraph on West Virginia's mask mandate:

Masks are now considered mandatory in both West Virginia and Virginia. Like it or not, facial coverings are one of the best tools we currently have to slow the surge in new coronavirus cases across the region. The ongoing community spread of COVID-19, particularly in Mercer County over the past two weeks, is reason for concern.

Health officials have confirmed 44 new virus cases in Mercer County over the past two weeks with 54 percent of those cases being attributed to community transmission of the virus. The other 46 percent of the cases are blamed on travel, particularly to Myrtle Beach, S.C., a virus hotspot. Even more troubling is the news that three people have been hospitalized in Mercer County over the past two weeks, bringing the total number of hospitalizations since the onset of the pandemic to five, along with one death in Mercer County.

That’s right. We can no longer say that there have been no virus-related deaths in Mercer County.

Dr. Kathy Wides, county health officer, confirmed to the Daily Telegraph Monday that a “transient” who caught the virus outside of West Virginia came to Mercer County during the state lockdown period and died at Princeton Community Hospital due to complications from COVID-19.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice instituted the mandatory face mask order for indoor spaces Tuesday after the Mountain State reported record numbers of new coronavirus cases over the past several days. In neighboring Virginia, a mandatory mask order has been in effect for several weeks now. And sadly, many of our Virginia side neighbors have been all but ignoring the facial covering rule.

This needs to change. The virus is real. People can and are getting sick. And deaths have occurred.

While it is true that most people who contract the virus experience only mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and cough, it can cause more severe illness and even death for others, including older adults and people with existing health conditions. And now a growing number of young people — even those in the 20 to 29 age group — are testing positive for the virus.

Here in Mercer County we did good — for so long — in holding the virus at bay. Between the onset of the pandemic in mid March to mid June, the county had a cumulative total of only 13 cases. But then, when area residents let down their guard and decided it was OK to travel to virus hotspot locations such as Myrtle Beach, the virus was suddenly unleashed upon Mercer County.

That brings us to where we are today. Local virus numbers are surging, and people are still refusing to practice social distancing. Others continue to scoff at the suggestion of wearing a mask while out and about in public.

Folks, we need to start taking this pandemic seriously. If we don’t, our local virus numbers could get out of control. And more people could end up in the hospital.

No. It’s not all one big conspiracy.

No. The virus isn’t “fake.”

No. The virus isn’t just going to suddenly disappear.

At this rate, it could be with us all summer, and well into the fall. Unless we are willing to take precautionary steps now to slow the community spread of COVID-19.

This includes social distancing. Six feet between you and other people.

Wash your hands, and do so often with hot water and soap. If you are traveling, use hand sanitizer instead.

If you are indoors, and social distancing simply isn’t possible, then please wear a mask.

Remember, it’s no longer a suggestion. It’s now a mandate in both West Virginia and Virginia.



July 7

The Charleston Gazette-Mail on the decision to rename a West Virginia school named for a Confederate general:

Changing the name of Kanawha County’s Stonewall Jackson Middle School was clearly, to borrow part of a famous phrase, “an idea whose time has come.”

There had been efforts to change the name in the past, all rebuffed. But the groundswell of support from the local Black community and others this time, against a backdrop of national racial tension, resonated with the Kanawha County Board of Education, as members voted unanimously on July 6 to do away with the name.

It was the right decision. On one hand, it could appear difficult. Monuments and buildings named after the Confederate general can be found all across the South, but Jackson was actually from what would eventually become West Virginia. Still, as has been said in many different ways over the past few weeks, just because someone is from a place doesn’t mean they should be honored.

Jackson joined a secession from the United States and fought a war to preserve the enslavement of Black Americans. That is nothing to celebrate, especially at a school where the Black student population is 42%, the highest anywhere in West Virginia.

Stonewall Jackson’s name was put on that building in 1940, when it opened as a high school, during a time of segregation. Confederate iconography was popular in many states from the early 1900s through the 1960s and beyond, because it glorified a misconstrued past and reminded Blacks who had ideas about true equality exactly where they stood in this country.

That was a long time ago. The school’s name should’ve been changed well before 2020, even if some still cling to outdated notions of race, wrapped in an argument that changing the name somehow does a disservice to history.

If anything, history will celebrate what happened on July 6. And now the school board has the chance to expand on this historical moment by choosing a name that will honor not just the person, but the culture of a more deserving West Virginian, perhaps Katherine Johnson, Booker T. Washington, Leon Sullivan or another of the many prominent Black Americans who hailed from the Mountain State.

Black children, parents, teachers and administrators can walk into the school and feel proud, rather than angry or confused by the veneration of a man who fought a war against his own country to keep their ancestors in chains.



July 7

The Herald-Dispatch on the economic impact of the Atlantic Coast pipeline project's cancellation:

The Atlantic Coast pipeline project, which would have expanded the market for natural gas produced in West Virginia, was canceled on July 5 when its two corporate backers decided the cost wasn’t worth it.

Legal challenges were the main reason. Virginia-based Dominion Energy and North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp. had already spent $3.4 billion on the project, but ever-increasing legal expenses and uncertainties led them to call it quits.

Canceling the pipeline is a blow to West Virginia. The pipeline would have carried natural gas extracted from northern West Virginia wells and processed in the state — that itself is a significant industry that has added to the state’s economy — and shipped it to customers in Virginia and North Carolina.

Dominion and Duke have spent years fighting regulatory battles — federal, state and local — that went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled favorably for the companies last month.

But other legal issues in other venues caused the companies’ lawyers and financial people to wonder if the project could be built and if it was worth the cost.

“This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States,” the companies said in a joint statement issued Sunday. “Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.”

On the other side of the issue was the Sierra Club.

“Today is a historic victory for clean water, the climate, public health, and our communities,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement issued Sunday. “Duke and Dominion did not decide to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — the people and frontline organizations that led this fight for years forced them into walking away. Today’s victory reinforces that united communities are more powerful than the polluting corporations that put profits over our health and future.”

Sen. Joe Manchin issued a statement Sunday expressing his disappointment in the cancellation.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project took meaningful steps to ensure the pipeline was safely constructed and the Appalachian Trail and surrounding areas were protected. The pipeline would have created good paying construction and manufacturing jobs for hard working West Virginians, reinvested in our energy markets increasing our domestic energy supply, and strengthened national security with reliable energy to key military installations,” he said.

For now, there probably is not one big thing people can take away from the decision to cancel the pipeline, but there are some smaller things that we can know now. For one, large pipelines are like coal-fired power plants. The minute they are announced, they draw opposition from environmental groups, landowner groups and other opponents. The number of permits and approvals that are needed from federal, state and local authorities almost guarantees progress on them will be slow or stopped.

However, the nation’s pipeline infrastructure still needs to be updated to meet modern needs. That’s also true for electricity, air, highway and waterways transportation.

None of this is to say the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project is dead and buried. Some new development could put it back in action. In its biggest deal in years, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway investment group announced over the weekend that it will buy substantially all of Dominion Energy’s natural gas transmission and storage assets for $4 billion, along with the assumption of $5.7 billion in debt.

So the pipeline project might not be dead. It might re-emerge in a different form. That could be good news for West Virginia’s economy and job picture. Or it might not.

As with so many other things, we’ll have to wait and see.