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Justice gives public health a shot in the arm

Register-Herald - 3/29/2024

Mar. 28—This is what we expect out of our governor 100 percent of the time. On Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice was at his best when he listened to public health experts and then vetoed a bill that would have weakened one of the strictest and best school vaccination policies in the country.

West Virginia is one of a few states in the U.S. that offer only medical exemptions to vaccine requirements. The bill that Justice denied would have allowed some students who don't attend traditional public institutions or participate in group extracurriculars like sports to be exempt from vaccinations typically required for children starting day care or school.

And that, as doctors and other medical personnel told the governor, could lead to grave consequences, allowing diseases like measles to once again gain a foothold in a state that has been among the nation's best at avoiding such disastrous outcomes.

Those who were promoting the legislation, like Del. Todd Kirby from Beckley, argue that parents should have the freedom to make their own decisions about their children's vaccination status. And that may sound fine on the surface, but this is a little more complex than what a simple bumper sticker campaign can address. It also misses the point by a country mile when public health is at risk.

As Kanawha-Charleston Health Officer Dr. Steven Eshenaur said about the debate, "Yes, personal freedom is vital to our way of life in West Virginia and America, and I am all for it. But not when the lives of children are in danger."

So, for the time being, West Virginia remains in a leadership position nationally. Imagine that. But we are certain that arch conservatives in the House of Delegates and state Senate will be back next year, pushing the same if not even more draconian measures to put our children at risk — and we will have a new governor in Charleston who may assist in that effort.

So, yes, before you cast a vote in the upcoming May primary and general election later this fall, pay attention to this issue and where candidates stand. The health of our children demands nothing less. In no uncertain terms, it is in West Virginia's best interests to stay the course, promote public health and keep the state in a leadership position. — By J. Damon Cain, editor of The Register-Herald

----Thumbs up to Joyce Brewer of Mullens. Just shy of her 90th birthday, Brewer is still working full-time at the Mullens Area Public Library.

Never one to sit idle and in addition to her usual tasks, Brewer asked if it would be OK for her to clean one library section at a time during slow periods. The library is immaculate.

In her spare time, she also makes candy or pies for nearby family and her friends.

"I hope I have a dust rag in my hand when God calls me home," she said with a laugh.

----Thumbs up to Pineville Middle School teacher Amanda Mullins and her after-school robotics program students for being selected as one of 10 national finalists in the 14th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition. As a finalist selected from among the 50 state winners, the group is guaranteed at least a $50,000 Samsung technology prize package for the school.

Taking West Virginia's top spot in the contest has already earned the school a $12,000 prize package.

The students created carbon filters from banana peel to make drinking water safer.

"Our project is based on the fact that our tap water often contains high levels of cancer-causing chemicals and metals. We wanted to raise awareness of this fact and create something cheap and affordable to help," Mullins explained.

"Our water filter was 3D-printed. It screws into any soda bottle and contains a carbon filter. It can be opened and the carbon replaced.

"We have been collecting banana peels from the cafeteria, and we learned to create charcoal from them. That's our carbon for our filters.

"So, our filters, we estimate, cost about 35 cents to make," Mullins noted.

Mullins and three representatives from the after-school club will present their project video during a "live pitch event" April 29 to a panel of judges at the Samsung Solutions Center in Washington, D.C.

It is the third time Mullins' students have made it into the top 10, and she knows the competition is stiff. One of the finalists will also be selected as the Community Choice Winner through online voting by the general public, receiving a $10,000 prize package in addition to the national finalist prize package.

To view the video and vote for Pineville Middle, visit

Participants can vote once per day. Voting is open daily until 11:59 p.m. through April 23. — By Mary Catherine Brooks

of The Wyoming County Report

for The Register-Herald


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