The Intelligencer. February 21, 2023.
Editorial: Ensuring Clean Water in W.Va.
Those living in our region have had good reason to keep on eye on information coming out of East Palestine, Ohio, as officials continue to monitor the quality of water into which some of the chemicals from a Norfolk Southern derailment spilled more than two weeks ago. So far, officials say the water remains safe for those who drink water from systems that pull from the Ohio River, though they have recommended those who drink well water should seek independent testing.
This is the latest concern, and one on which administrators will surely keep a close eye. But there’s another danger we’re already fighting to address. Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (think C8) are a problem in West Virginia. Many water systems have been able to address the matter with carbon filtration, but that comes only after proper testing determines the needs of the system.
Fortunately, U.S. Sens. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., are both members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and have secured nearly $19 million in funding for both testing and addressing the contamination, through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“When the (Environment and Public Works) Committee negotiated, wrote, and passed the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, a cornerstone of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we prioritized a basic need, which is safe drinking water for our citizens,” Capito said Thursday.
“Today’s funding announcement is a direct result of that record investment and it means our communities will be better equipped to test for and address PFAS ‘forever’ chemicals.”
Crucially, the allotment is meant to address PFAS “and other emerging contaminants, and to conduct water quality testing.” It’s beginning to look as though we’re going to need a lot of that, which means Capito, Manchin and the rest of our Congressional delegation must not let off the gas in ensuring West Virginians have the resources we need to give everyone access to clean drinking water.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. February 17, 2023.
Editorial: Education: Teachers Ascend has great potential
When government runs across a winning strategy, it looks for ways to adapt and apply it to other challenges. Most of the time. In the case of West Virginia’s labor shortages and education struggles, the state Department of Education, West Virginia University and the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative are working together to adapt the Ascend West Virginia relocation and recruitment program to tackle our teacher shortage.
“Teachers Ascend into West Virginia will not just fill open teacher positions,” WVU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said. “More importantly, it will help recruit passionate, forward-thinking individuals to educate our students in new and exciting ways that prepare them for jobs of the future.”
As the pilot program is designed, the partners collaborating on the effort will learn just what teachers want in terms of their professional interests, their ideal work environment and quality of life.
“We hope to position West Virginia as a competitive place to live and teach by offering rewarding experiences in our schools and communities,” said Donna Hoylman Peduto, executive director of the WVPEC. “To create a sense of place and belonging, leadership opportunities, professional development, community engagement and partnerships with local businesses and community leaders, will be woven throughout the program.
One would hope education officials are thinking along those lines for the sake of teachers already on the job. But if such a program makes the work more appealing for potential new AND current teachers, all the better.
Development of the pilot project is expected to take a few months. We must hope it doesn’t drag on, as the program’s potential to improve the public education we provide for our students is exciting. Those who thought to give it a try are to be commended.
The Journal. February 21, 2023.
Editorial: Continue to keep your health in mind
West Virginia’s COVID-19 state of emergency ended at the beginning of this year. President Joe Biden has announced the national public health emergency will officially end May 11. And now, West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources has changed the way it reports COVID-19 data. It is no longer reporting the number of “current active cases.”
“In line with the federal public health emergency set to expire, DHHR is updating the COVID-19 dashboard metrics to better reflect the current response to the pandemic,” the DHHR website says. “Dashboard updates will occur weekly on Wednesdays.”
An asterisk on the dashboard further explains: “Current active cases will no longer be displayed. This metric is no longer used as universal case investigations are no longer recommended in the context of the current response.
It is likely the number was inaccurate for months, anyway, as fewer people test when they experience symptoms and those who do test positive do not always report their illness. But the change brings up an important question: Now what?
As recently as a week ago masks were required for entry into federal facilities such as the visitors center for New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. But few in West Virginia are wearing masks these days even when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it’s a good idea. We hear fewer people talking about making sure they are up-to-date with covid vaccines and boosters.
Is it over? Well, no. But we have certainly changed our thinking on the virus — deadly as it still may be to some.
With that change must come consideration of an annual COVID-19 vaccine, similar to what many of us receive for the flu each year. If health officials and researchers determine it necessary, they should waste no time developing one and making it available for the same reasons so many seek a flu shot each fall.
What must not change are the habits of which we were reminded at the start of the pandemic. Keep your distance, wash and sanitize your hands often and for goodness sake stay home if you are sick. That should be standard practice whether you are dealing with a stomach bug or coronavirus.
Absence of a data point on the DHHR’s website should not lead to an absence of common sense or courtesy. Continue to do what is best for your own health and for those around you.
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