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State government $20 million ahead for November collections

West Virginia’s general revenue collections for November came in $20.1 million above estimates and 6.1 percent ahead of last year, Gov. Jim Justice announced today.

That’s despite the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the state’s economy.

West Virginia has now recorded surpluses in each of the first five months of this fiscal year, the governor pointed out in a news release. Justice reported that year-to-date general revenue collections are $131.7 million above estimates and 9.1 percent above prior year receipts.

That’s in part because the tax day deadline was moved from April to July because of the pandemic. That gave us an unexpected $192.5 million head start for the new fiscal year.

But the state’s finances have held up, so far, despite the expiration of some federal relief programs — including expanded unemployment benefits — and inaction by Congress on any additional relief package.

Justice described the revenue reports in terms of economic momentum.

Gov. Jim Justice

“All West Virginians should be incredibly proud of what we’re accomplishing, especially when you think about everything else that’s going on in this nation right now,” Justice stated.

“The pandemic, no question, has been a punch to the stomach. But we kept our economy moving and we’ve stayed on this great roll we’ve been on.”

Total General Revenue Fund collections for November were $342.5 million. Year-to-date collections have totaled $1.937 billion; nearly $162 million above prior year receipts.

“When it boils right down to it, putting together five straight months of growth in any year is pretty dadgum tough,” Gov. Justice continued. “But to do it this year is especially incredible.”

More specifics:

  • Consumer sales tax collections rose by 7.5 percent in November, as monthly collections of $133.6 million were $6.6 million above estimate. Cumulative collections of $591.6 million were $25.7 million above estimate and 6.5% above prior year receipts.
  • Personal income tax collections totaled $149.8 million in November. Collections were $14.8 million above the monthly estimate. Cumulative personal income tax collections were $45.7 million above estimate and 15.7 percent ahead of last year. The November revenue gains were largely attributable to a 10.4 percent rise in monthly wage and salary withholding tax collections in comparison with the prior year.
  • November severance tax collections totaled $21.0 million and cumulative collections totaled $54.2 million. Collections for the year-to-date were $6.9 million above estimate.
  • Corporation net income tax collections totaled $2.1 million in October. Collections were $1.6 million above estimate. Cumulative collections totaled $118.6 million as compared with $67.1 million in the prior year. Year-to-date receipts were $50.6 million above estimate.
  • November collections included $2.0 million from abandoned and unclaimed property receipts.

“As we watch over the state’s finances, we try not to get too high or too low. But we continue to be incredibly impressed and pleased with the numbers we’re seeing so far this year,” West Virginia Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy stated.

A separate but related monthly report by the state Senate Finance Committee also showed the state coming in more than $20 million ahead of projections for the month.

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Snowshoe Resort braces for opening of ski season amid pandemic

SNOWSHOE, W.Va. — Excitement surrounds the opening of ski season at Snowshoe Mountain Resort following multiple delays and the prompt ending of the previous season due to COVID-19.

Snowshoe will drop the ropes on Friday for a public opening, one day after a soft opening for employees and season pass holders.

“Over the last 24 hours, we have been into the teens. That is great for some productive snowmaking,” Shawn Cassell, PR manager for Snowshoe told MetroNews.

“We are feeling really good about Friday and we are even going to give employees and season pass holders a crack at it on Thursday.”

On November 17, Snowshoe announced a delay to the opening due to the warm weather. Cassell said there are ‘large’ piles of snow after a system came through the state Monday into Tuesday.

Starting to get reports of whale sightings around the mountain…
❄🐳 pic.twitter.com/ATF53wByY1

— snowshoemtn (@snowshoemtn) November 24, 2020

Around 12 to 15 trails will be open Friday, Cassell said, but added there is no magic number when it comes to skiers allowed on the hill at once due to COVID-19.

Cassell said it would depend on the number of pass holders there and the resort would adjust per day. He warned that the largest impact on the resort because of COVID-19 is the availability of lift tickets and there is a ‘good chance’ you won’t be able to ski if you just show up without plans and tickets.

“Our skier capacity is going to have to be a lot lower than it used to be this season so we can keep social distancing. We are not going to allow as many people on the mountain at one time as we normally would,” he said.

Masks are required both inside the resort and when a person is loading and unloading the chair lift.

Cassell said the resort feels pent-up demand from the extended closure due to COVID-19. But there is also anxiety as virus cases continue to climb across the state.

“There is a spike in Pocahontas County too. It’s about as bad as it’s been right now,” he said of the virus. “That’s something that weighs heavy on us and influences the decision making as we go along.”

Timberline Mountain, Cannan Valley and Winterplace will open later in December.

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Charleston police officer shot, suspect in custody

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — A female Charleston Police officer was transported to CAMC General Hospital after being shot in the face Tuesday afternoon.

According to Metro 911, the call of an incident on Garrison Avenue came in just after 2:45 p.m.

Brian Humphreys, the spokesperson for the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) confirmed that one suspect was taken into custody elsewhere on the avenue. The suspect was shot, presumably by the officer.

Humphreys added that the officer was responding to a parking complaint.

Charleston Police Chief Tyke Hunt and Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin released a statement Tuesday: “This afternoon, a Charleston Police Officer was shot while in the line of duty, The officer has been transported to the hospital and is in surgery at this time. We ask all Charleston residents to keep our officer and the entire Charleston Police Department in their thoughts and prayers. We will provide more information as it is available.”

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Iowa State poses different challenges to WVU’s improving defense

(Neal Brown pregame Zoom conference)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When the Mountaineers take the field Saturday afternoon in Ames, twenty days will have come off the calendar since their last game, a 24-6 triumph over TCU on November 14. While bye weeks can be a precious commodity late in a season, the mid-week postponement of the Oklahoma game due to COVID cases with the Sooners didn’t give WVU much of a window to make best use of the extra week.

“Our guys were obviously disappointed we didn’t get to play last weekend. Really it was a tough end to last week. Guys were away from home on Thanksgiving and then not having a game to look forward to like they normally would. I thought our players and staff handled it the best they could,” said WVU head coach Neal Brown.

West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown arrives at Milan Puskar Stadium. (Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports)

“If we were in a situation where we knew we were going to have really three weeks in between games, then you would manage it in a different manner. We didn’t know we were going to have that. We were under the assumption we were going to play until last Wednesday afternoon. We are going to be fresh. That is the positive. I hope our timing can stay sharp.”

WVU will close out the regular season against the two likely combatants in the Big 12 Championship game, Iowa State and Oklahoma. The No. 12 Cyclones (7-2) heavily rely on multiple tight ends in the passing game. Charlie Kolar is second on the Cyclone roster with 31 receptions. He is also tied for the team-high with four touchdown catches. Dylan Soehner (15 rec., 174 yards) and Chase Allen (13 rec., 172 yards, 2 TD) are also top targets of Brock Purdy.

“They are different than other teams in our league,” Brown said. “They are going to operate with two and three tight ends. They motion and shift nearly every play. So getting lined up is going to be critical.”

Cyclones tight end Dylan Soehner (89) pulls the ball in for the first down (Ricardo B. Brazziell-USA TODAY NETWORK)

“It does present a lot of problems and when you have three really elite ones sitting in your room, it is hard not to utilize that. So hats off to those guys, they have done a nice job of spotlighting that and utilizing that type of offense,” said WVU co-defensive coordinator Jahmile Addae.

“You have to make sure you attack the ball when you are in the air,” said WVU cornerback Alonzo Addae. “With bigger guys, if they are able to go up and locate the ball, challenging them is going to be difficult. So you have got to make sure you are aggressive. Being technically sound, obviously they are bigger, but I have speed and quickness on them so I can use those skills to my advantage.”

West Virginia will line up against ISU quarterback Brock Purdy for a third time. In two meetings against WVU, Purdy is 2-0. He has completed 37-of-55 passes for 483 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. This season, Purdy is averaging 225 passing yards per game with 14 scores and 6 picks.

“He is a dual-threat guy, they don’t run him a ton,” Brown said. “When he does run, it is always effective on third downs and things like that. He extends plays. He has a little pump fake that he uses that gets people off their feet and is proven effective over and over throughout his career.”

The Mountaineers’ vastly improved defense will be tested by the Big 12’s leading rusher in Breece Hall. In 9 games, Hall has rushed for 1,260 yards and 16 touchdown totes. Both of those numbers are tops in the league by a wide margin.

Iowa State running back Breece Hall (28) outruns Kansas State senior Defensive Back Jahron McPherson (31) (Brian Powers-USA TODAY Sports)

“He is extremely patient,” said WVU co-defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley. “He waits on his spots and cuts. And when he does make them, he has a speed and power combination to get yards after contact and then he can break the big one.”

“He is definitely a good ball player,” said WVU defensive lineman Dante Stills. “He is physical and strong. He has capabilities to break tackles so that is kind of the main goal, to wrap him up and get him down on the ground.”

After allowing 31 points to Louisiana in a season-opening loss and 34 points against TCU, the Cyclone defense is yielding just 20.2 points per game since. They shutout Kansas State two weeks ago.

“Everybody would say in old school teaching that it is a three-man front and they drop eight, so run the football,” said WVU offensive coordinator Gerad Parker. “Well those guys aren’t that far away so they fit the run really good out of the drop-eight looks that make it really difficult to run the football. There’s eleven pairs of eyes on the football because everybody sees it.”

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No fans will be allowed for December games at the Coliseum

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No fans will be allowed to attend basketball games at the WVU Coliseum in the month of December.

Previously, it was announced that the Coliseum would welcome 20% capacity. The university says that due to recent spikes of positive cases and for overall safety precautions from the COVID-19 pandemic for indoor events, only essential game operations personnel and families of the players and basketball staffs will be admitted in December. Expected capacity at home games in January and February will be announced in the future and determined by local public health conditions at the time.

“To say that we are disappointed is quite an understatement, but the decision not to allow spectators in December is the correct one at this time for the safety of our fans, staff and student-athletes,” Director of Athletics Shane Lyons said. “The COVID-19 pandemic keeps presenting many challenges, but like I have said in the past, we need to continue being aggressive in taking appropriate safety precautions of wearing masks and getting tested so that we can end this pandemic.

“We have two exciting basketball teams and rest assured that our goal is to have fans in the Coliseum to watch our men’s and women’s teams play. Difficult decisions like this one have to be made for the safety of all involved, and I can’t wait for the day when we can welcome fans back to the Coliseum to see all the great upgrades that were made over the summer to the building for its 50th anniversary.”

All WVU men’s and women’s home games in the month of December will be televised by an ESPN network or ESPN+.

The No. 11 WVU men’s team (3-0) is scheduled to host Robert Morris on December 9 and then No. 19 Richmond on December 13. However, Richmond suspended all team activities Tuesday due to COVID testing results and contact tracing. The men’s team is also scheduled to host Iowa State on December 18 and Buffalo on December 29.

The WVU women’s basketball team (2-0) is scheduled to open their home schedule Thursday against North Alabama.

The WVU football team played their first two home games in front of families of players and staff members only before allowing 25% capacity since October.

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Longtime W.Va. Coal Association President to Retire
Bill Raney

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — One of the longtime fixtures of the West Virginia coal industry has announced he’ll retire at year’s end. Bill Raney has been the President and CEO of the West Virginia Coal Association since 1992. His ties to coal mining go all the way back to his childhood.

“It’s just one of those times and you look back on it and it’s gone by pretty quickly. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but hopefully it’s all been handled in a positive way,” Raney said in an appearance on MetroNews Talkline Tuesday.

Raney’s father operated mines in Wyoming County and he got his start working in the industry for Ben Greene as a surface mine inspector. Over the years he worked in various capacities before coming to the Coal Association in 1992 where he’s become the face of the organization for many years.

He’ll be replaced by Chris Hamilton who Raney said is ready for the job.

“With Chris and Jason (Bostic) taking over, they’ll do a fabulous job. They’ve been with me the whole time and they’ve been doing the heavy lifting of course. They know all about this stuff,” he said.

Raney admitted he had seen the best of times and the worst of times for the industry and although things were not promising now, he still believed there was a future for coal.

“It’s going to be difficult because of all the transitions that will go on. We’re still feeling the effects of the Obama Administration closing down lots of power plants which affected the steam market domestically. But the rest of the world knows West Virginia coal and they know the miners and managers here are going to produce what they want, which is the best coal in the world to make steel,” he explained.

 

Bill Raney, Outgoing President of the West Virginia Coal Association, speaks with @HoppyKercheval about his announcement to retire, and he reflects on his time with https://t.co/rn6maOBVPd. Coal Association.. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/loYLG2DaOp

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) December 1, 2020

Raney doubted production topping 160 Million tons annually would ever happen again, but believed if the industry could produce 90 to 120 Million tons annually it would help stabilize the state budget.

He said getting to go to bat for those who work in the industry was his greatest joy of the job.

“I’ve been very blessed to represent such an industry. You can’t love an industry, but you can surely love all the people in it. They are so resilient, so tough, and so optimistic.”

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As covid spikes, W.Va. hospitals work to keep capacity under control

Hospitals in West Virginia are preparing not only for a current surge of patients during the coronavirus pandemic but for what could be weeks of pressure.

Jim Kaufman

“They’re actually looking at what they need to do to have capacity not only today, but the trends continue to go up. The experts are noting, we expect to see those increases continue over the next 45 days,” said Jim Kaufman, president of the West Virginia Hospital Association.

“So what hospitals are looking at today is how do we make sure we have not only the bed capacity but also the staff to serve those communities. So they may look at delaying non-emergency procedures. They may look at other things they can do to make sure they have capacity.”

West Virginia’s hospitalizations related to covid-19 have continued a steady rise.

The coronavirus dashboard for the Department of Health and Human Resources today showed 595 hospitalizations.

That doesn’t represent capacity, but it’s a steadily growing number of West Virginians who are so sick they need to be in the hospital.

By comparison, on Nov. 1, there were 254 cases requiring hospitalization. On Oct. 1, there were 164.

“You’re definitely seeing numbers going up,” Kaufman said.

There are 166 West Virginia covid cases requiring admission to the intensive care unit, according to state figures.

And there are 81 with such trouble breathing that they need ventilators.

“I’m telling you this situation is really critical,” Gov. Jim Justice said on Monday.

Reacting to the rising hospital numbers to start the week, Justice described efforts to cut down on the number of other surgeries to ease bed capacity and staffing stress.

State health leaders have described that effort as working on two levels: priorities established by individual hospitals but also coordinating more broadly with other hospitals around the state.

“Your individual hospitals are looking at what’s going on in their communities to decide what to do, such as do they delay non-emergency procedures that require an overnight stay? Do they do other things to make sure they have the capacity to serve their community?” Kaufman said today on MetroNews “Talkline.”

“Even when you look at the statewide map, it’s not consistent across the state so you’re seeing different surges in different communities. So the local hospital needs to prepare for their local needs as well as being ready to serve for the statewide response.”

Jim Kaufman, President and CEO of the https://t.co/rn6maOBVPd. Hospital Association, talks with @HoppyKercheval about how hospitals are dealing with the increase in COVID-19 patients. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/dsjMtrj24X

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) December 1, 2020

WVU Medicine, a dominant hospital system in the state, has seen steady increases in the number of covid patients over the past few weeks. Although Ruby Memorial in Morgantown is often considered full this time of year, the covid patients are on top of the usual numbers because the virus is new.

Albert Wright
Albert Wright

“I think concern with the covid patients, especially when you have 70 covid patients, is they are patients that end up staying a long time. They’re also resource intensive,” said Albert Wright, CEO of WVU Medicine.

Any given weekday, there are 600 or more patients in the Morgantown hospital, he said. Normally, coming off Thanksgiving, that number would drop by more than 100 because people would have scheduled procedures to be timed to get out and be with family.

“This year, when I woke up Monday morning, we were at 600-some patients and you never really saw that drop,” Wright said in a telephone interview.

“We started to raise the red flag a little bit.”

So WVU Hospitals will be a little more selective about what procedures go ahead. Ongoing issues such as hip or knee surgeries might have to be put off.

But “You want to do anything that is going to save life, save limb, stop the progression of a deadly disease, a cancer, a tumor. If somebody is in significant discomfort, I think you have to do that as well.”

WVU Medicine also hopes to reduce the strain on resources by warning people to be careful, even in small gatherings.

“Those small group gatherings are where a lot of the spread is happening now,” Wright said.

“If you’re in a room with 10 people these days, there’s a good chance one of those people has it. Got to be careful. It’s highly contagious.”

Charleston Area Medical Center, the biggest system in southern West Virginia, released a statement on Monday saying it had cut back on elective procedures by about 50 percent in recent weeks.

Today, CAMC followed up by saying the hospital system has seen an increase in higher acuity patients, not necessarily covid, requiring ICU-level care. CAMC today reported 97 covid patients, including one pediatric patient.

“Throughout the pandemic CAMC has occasionally reduced some procedures as the need for beds necessitated,” stated CAMC spokesman Dale Witte. He added, “The overriding principle is bed availability.

Regarding what procedures are being put off, Witte said, “Patients should contact their physician to confirm their scheduled procedure.”

CAMC is making decisions based on its own situation but with the state’s broader picture in mind too, Witte said.

“CAMC is autonomous, but follows federal/state/county health guidance and abide by emergency orders etc.,” he stated. “In addition, we continually coordinate with other health care facilities throughout the state in order to meet the needs of the communities we serve.”

With a spike in coronavirus cases expected to continue over the next few weeks, Kaufman predicted such efforts will continue.

“Hospitals are preparing for emergency situations all the time,” he said. ” I think the difference is it’s been going on for months, where usually they’re thinking of an emergency situation of a couple of days. I think that’s where it’s really important to thank anybody you know that works in a hospital — nurses, doctors, cleaning staff, security guards — because it’s putting a lot of pressure on them not only today but over the next several weeks.”

 

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West Virginia prepares for coronavirus vaccine distributions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Joint Interagency Task Force that will be key to distributions of coronavirus vaccines in West Virginia is now up and running with emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for at least two vaccines expected this month.

“We feel pretty comfortable we’re doing well and we’re at the point where we need to be right now,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general for the West Virginia National Guard.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer

He talked about the vaccine plans during an appearance on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” a day after a task force kickoff meeting.

On Tuesday, members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices were meeting to establish U.S. vaccine priority recommendations for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As many as 40 million doses, enough for 20 million people since pending vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna require two doses, could be available before the end of year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources.

FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine may come as early as Dec. 10 with Moderna approval prior to Christmas.

Once approvals are finalized, Maj. Gen. Hoyer said vaccines could start being moved to states within 24 hours.

“States will do it differently,” he said. “Some states will push it directly to hospitals. Some states will go to the county level. We believe that we’re putting together the approach that’s best for West Virginia.”

In general, West Virginia will have a series of primary sites for vaccine distributions — hubs and sub-hubs — supplying different parts of the Mountain State.

Some of those sites could be at hospitals, medical schools or even bases for the West Virginia Air National Guard to allow for shipment by air, if necessary.

Under West Virginia’s tentative vaccination plan, hospital employees, nursing home staff members, EMS workers and other first responders would be the first to get shots, according to Hoyer.

“We’re going to be focusing on those to reduce our fatality rate, protect our most vulnerable citizens and to keep our healthcare system up and running because of the nature of the health issues we have in West Virginia,” he said.

A tabletop distribution exercise for the Joint Interagency Task Force was planned for Thursday.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss distributing vaccinations across West Virginia, and how it will all work. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/1t3XfBvcRL

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) December 1, 2020

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Nearly two dozen deaths added to West Virginia’s coronavirus death toll

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 20 additional deaths of West Virginians attributed to COVID-19 were confirmed through the state Department of Health and Human Resources to start the day Tuesday, the first day of December.

The 23 deaths included the following people:

– 99-year old man from Marshall County,
– a 72-year old man from Fayette County,
– a 91-year old man from Harrison County,
– an 81-year old man from Wood County,
– an 88-year old man from Raleigh County,
– an 82-year old woman from Kanawha County,
– a 65-year old man from Cabell County,
– a 59-year old woman from Mercer County,
– a 90-year old woman from Pocahontas County,
– a 69-year old man from Mercer County,
– a 77-year old man from Harrison County,
– a 55-year old woman from Harrison County,
– a 60-year old man from Boone County,
– a 76-year old woman from Lincoln County,
– a 68-year old man from Berkeley County,
– a 66-year old woman from Wyoming County,
– a 79-year old woman from Berkeley County,
– an 80-year old man from Hancock County,
– a 92-year old woman from Ritchie County,
– a 74-year old man from Mineral County,
– an 83-year old woman from Mineral County,
– a 77-year old man from Mineral County,
– and a 73-year old woman from Lincoln County.

In DHHR reporting, the daily virus infection was down from Monday’s 7.07 percent to 6.07 percent, though health officials have cautioned the numbers were being affected by less frequest testing during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

West Virginia’s cumulative infection rate was 3.67 percent as of Tuesday.

Active case numbers were at 16,921 with 976 new additions since Monday morning.

Hospitalizations totaled 595 with 166 of those patients in intensive care and 81 on ventilators.

Seven counties were listed as red counties for what was defined as “substantial” coronavirus transmission: Mineral, Grant, Ohio, Marshall, Wirt, Mason and Wyoming.

CASES PER COUNTY: Barbour (441), Berkeley (3,374), Boone (663), Braxton (119), Brooke (682), Cabell (2,956), Calhoun (81), Clay (120), Doddridge (125), Fayette (1,177), Gilmer (209), Grant (405), Greenbrier (534), Hampshire (353), Hancock (753), Hardy (295), Harrison (1,463), Jackson (706), Jefferson (1,413), Kanawha (5,785), Lewis (242), Lincoln (433), Logan (1,069), Marion (927), Marshall (1,276), Mason (513), McDowell (629), Mercer (1,374), Mineral (1,356), Mingo (990), Monongalia (3,373), Monroe (379), Morgan (297), Nicholas (371), Ohio (1,613), Pendleton (109), Pleasants (101), Pocahontas (215), Preston (664), Putnam (2,009), Raleigh (1,644), Randolph (718), Ritchie (182), Roane (188), Summers (2748), Taylor (360), Tucker (141), Tyler (141), Upshur (523), Wayne (1,052), Webster (69), Wetzel (415), Wirt (117), Wood (2,639), Wyoming (756).

Free COVID-19 testing was continuing statewide.

The full schedule was posted HERE.

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MetroNews This Morning 12-1-20

The first significant snow of the season is arriving in West Virginia. Covid 19 cases are on the rise and prompting stark concern from Governor Jim Justice who may soon implement new county-by-county restrictions. A fatal fire in Raleigh County is under investigation. The West Virginia Black Bears baseball team gets a new lease on life and WVU basketball heads to Indy to face #1 Gonzaga. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 12-1-20” on Spreaker.

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