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Grieving: Counselors come to help Wise County first responders deal with Big Stone Gap officer’s death

WISE — Members of the area’s law enforcement agencies spent much of Tuesday coming to grips with the fatal shooting of Big Stone Gap Police Officer Michael Chandler, a day after his body was brought back to the town.

Several counseling and stress help programs came to bear in Wise County to help deputies, officers and first responders deal with the impact of Chandler’s death. Wise County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Teresa Meade said deputies and first responders are receiving services from the state Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Southwest Emergency Medical Services’ Regional Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team and the Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance program.

The Billy Graham Evangelical Association sent a van with chaplains to join the WCSD’s weekly devotional meeting on Tuesday, Meade said. The group was to join local clergy at Glamorgan Church on U.S. Route 23 in Wise for a community Back the Blue reception.

Wise County commonwealth’s attorney spokesperson Jessica Hood said the various counseling services are available to all first responders impacted by Saturday’s incident and will be private and closed.

Congressman Morgan Griffith, R-9th, had recognition of Chandler read into the Congressional Record on Monday, including a recounting of his life as a Powell Valley High School graduate and football player, his service as a town firefighter starting in 2015, and his two years with the police department.

“The death of Officer Chandler is a grievous loss to the Commonwealth of Virginia, Wise County, and the Town of Big Stone Gap,” Griffith stated. “I mourn his loss, yet I am grateful that he and the other men and women of law enforcement step forward to protect us knowing full well the risks they face.”

A public funeral service will be held on Wednesday from 3-7 p.m. at UVA Wise’s David J. Prior Convocation Center, with Virginia Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares speaking.

Authorities were tight-lipped Tuesday about the status of a South Carolina man apprehended in the wake of Saturday’s shooting.

Kingsport police arrested Michael Donivan White, 33, of Cross, on Saturday in connection with Chandler’s death. He waived extradition during a Sullivan County magistrate hearing Sunday and was taken back to Virginia Monday afternoon.

White was not listed among Southwest Virginia Regional Jail inmates Tuesday, according to the authority’s website.

Hood said no other information would be released Tuesday.

Watch now: Dobyns-Bennett marching band performs National Champion show

KINGSPORT — The Model City’s marching band took a taste of Appalachia to Indianapolis over the weekend.

It brought back prizes, including best in its class size and eighth best overall — not bad for a show that was designed for the 2020 marching band but was shelved and then repurposed for this year’s band because COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the 2020 national competition.

To thank the community for its continuing support of the band program, nearly 300 Dobyns-Bennett High School competitive marching band members, chorus members and a violin player took the field at Kingsport’s J. Fred Johnson Stadium Tuesday night one last time for the Grand National championship show.

The roughly 12-minute show is named after the Aaron Copland composition “The Promise of Living,” which along with Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” the band played for the show.


At the Bands of America Grand National marching band competition, held Nov. 11-13 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, D-B was the lone Tennessee band in the top 12 finishers overall Saturday night after making finals earlier in the day. It was among 99 bands competing and 34 that made the semifinals.

D-B finished eighth nationwide and first in Class AAA.

Props this year were representations of the Appalachian Mountains. Director of Bands Lafe Cook said the “black shirts” — band fathers and some mothers — made a second version of the props after not being satisfied with the first versions.

Cook thanked the black shirts, parents and community, corporate sponsors, music staff at D-B, photographers, others and of course the students in a presentation before the performance.

He said some band members had to learn to play new instruments, including baritones, because the band lost many baritones to graduation. The show and arrangement were designed for a band that never got to perform it because of COVID.

In Class AAA, D-B finished first, making it a Grand National champion, and in AAA it also came in first for music and visuals. In the overall finals, D-B finished eighth with a score of 91.95.


Among the 12 finalists, Texas had seven bands, Indiana two, and Oklahoma, Ohio and Tennessee one each. Cook and longtime band supporter and retired Eastman Chemical Co. executive David Golden said Kingsport, at about 53,000 residents, was by far the smallest community and least affluent one to be in the finalist lineup.

“The fact that we can stand on the same stage as these other high schools is incredible,” said Golden, who has joined the board of directors for Music for All, the not-for-profit group that operates the Bands of America competitions nationwide that feed into the annual Grand National competition.

First place was Broken Arrow High of Oklahoma at 98.25, followed by Carmel High of Indiana at 97.05, Woodlands of Texas at 96.2, Avon of Texas at 96.05, Flower Mound of Texas at 95.4, and Marcus of Texas at 93.275.

Cook said the designer of Broken Arrow shows has designed recent D-B shows, which he said has helped the Kingsport City Schools band inch its way into the finals. This was the second year D-B made the finals, with the first being 2018.

The band did not compete in 2019 because it went to the Rose Parade that year.

Rounding out the 12 top finalists were seventh, Claudia Taylor Johnson of Texas at 92.7; eighth, D-B at 91.95; ninth, Ronald Reagan of Texas at 91.45; 10th, Blue Springs of Missouri at 90.35; 11th, William Mason of Ohio at 90.2; and 12th, Vista Ridge of Texas at 89.9.

Golden said many of these communities put money into music programs not just to produce winning bands but to lessen drug use and teen pregnancy, as well as improve workforce development, literacy and numeracy. He said music programs do all that and more.

Cook said the students learn to work together as a diverse team toward a common goal. He also said Bands of America officials were so impressed by the D-B show that they had a video made about the band before the finals. It was shown on the large screen at the football stadium Tuesday night.

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Watch now: Bays Mountain unveils book celebrating park’s 50th anniversary

KINGSPORT — Bays Mountain has offered a lot over the last 50 years, from wildlife education to recreation and planetarium entertainment. Now, all that history is recorded in Bays Mountain Park’s 50th anniversary commemorative book.

Park officials and sponsors unveiled “Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium: Celebrating 50 Years” at the Kingsport Times News on Tuesday afternoon. The hardback book describes the original plans for the park as well as the Kingsport park’s history. The book also includes detailed text, written by Pam Cox, and wildlife and landscape photos, captured by Jay Huron.

“For the first time in our 50-year existence,” Rob Cole, the park manager, said at the event, “we have books that are specifically inspired by and about Bays Mountain Park. It’s a place that is special to all of us and has been special to so many over the last 50 years.”

The book was designed by Andy Barnes and coordinated by Mary Steadman, chair of the History Subcommittee for the Bays Mountain Park Celebration Committee. The project was sponsored by Eastman Credit Union and was created in partnership with the Times News.

“ECU is honored to be a part of the 50th anniversary celebration,” said Darrel Dinsmore, the senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Eastman Credit Union at the event. “This book so vividly captures the beauty of Bays Mountain. ECU has proudly served the Kingsport area for 87 years and has a long history of supporting Bays Mountain Park.”

However, the anniversary edition wasn’t the only book introduced on Tuesday.

The children’s book “Unalii’s Unexpected Adventure” was also unveiled on Tuesday. The book takes readers on an adventure through the park, detailing educational information, wildlife photos, and a glossary of terms. The hardback book was written by Julie Nutter and Lize Bailey, with photographs by Huron. The project was coordinated by Susan Lodal, chair of the Education Subcommittee for the BMP Celebration Committee, and sponsored by Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network.

“We began meeting at the park,” Lodal said of planning for the book. “We learned a lot through the process and are very excited to share ‘Unalii’s Unexpected Adventure’ with you.”

Thanks to Ballad’s sponsorship, all children’s book proceeds will benefit upcoming projects at Bays Mountain, including upgrades to the wolf habitat and construction of the Fox Den natural play space. More than $10,000 in presale earnings has been raised so far. Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network also purchased 500 books to give to families ahead of the holidays.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this project that will ultimately help to put books in the hands of children across the Appalachian Highlands, and allow us to celebrate the natural beauty of Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium in its 50th year,” said Lisa Carter, the chief executive officer of Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network in a statement, “Literacy has been proven in studies to have an impact on long-term health, and we need to do all we can to help our children read at an appropriate level. What better way to help children do that than with a book that showcases some of our region’s most beautiful assets.”

Both books are available for the special discounted bundle price of $39 until Nov. 30. The commemorative book is $30 and the children's book is $15. To order your copies, visit baysmountain.com/books. You can also call (423) 723-1442 to place a credit card order. Books will be available for pickup in November at the Kingsport Times News.

The “I Am Bays Mountain” contest winner was also announced at the unveiling. Norm Blue wrote about his and his mother’s love for the Kingsport nature park and was awarded the grand prize.

Blue came from Atlanta to attend the ceremony and was joined by his mother.

He received the grand prize of a lifetime membership to Bays Mountain Park, which is valued at $1,000. He was also gifted with a plate featuring his article in the Kingsport Times-News.

Bays Mountain Park is one of the nation’s largest city-owned parks and has been a local attraction for school trips, a hiking destination and more for the past 50 years.

The park features hiking and mountain biking trails, a planetarium, wildlife habitats and exhibits, a 44-acre lake, and a ropes course with zip line — all of which park officials hope to offer well into the future.

“We get people into the great outdoors,” Cole said. “We give people a chance to find peace of mind, to chase health goals, and to learn. That’s special.

“We’re really just launching the next 50 years.”

Pfizer asks US officials to OK promising COVID-19 pill

WASHINGTON — Pfizer asked U.S. regulators Tuesday to authorize its experimental pill for COVID-19, setting the stage for a likely launch this winter of a promising treatment that can be taken at home.

The company’s filing comes as new infections are rising once again in the United States, driven mainly by hot spots in states where colder weather is driving more Americans indoors.

Pfizer’s pill has been shown to significantly cut the rate of hospitalizations and deaths among people with coronavirus infections.

The Food and Drug Administration is already reviewing a competing pill from Merck, and several smaller drugmakers are also expected to seek authorization for their own antiviral pills in the coming months.

“We are moving as quickly as possible in our effort to get this potential treatment into the hands of patients, and we look forward to working with the U.S. FDA on its review of our application,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, in a statement.

Specifically, Pfizer wants the drug available for adults who have mild-to-moderate COVID-19 infections and are at risk of becoming seriously ill. That’s similar to how other drugs are currently used to treat the disease.

However, all FDA-authorized COVID-19 treatments require an IV or injection given by a health professional at a hospital or clinic.

The FDA is holding a public meeting on the Merck pill later this month to get the opinion of outside experts before making its decision.

The agency isn’t required to convene such meetings and it’s not yet known whether Pfizer’s drug will undergo a similar public review.

Some experts predict COVID-19 treatments eventually will be combined to better protect against the worst effects of the virus.

Pfizer reported earlier this month that its pill cut hospitalizations and deaths by 89% among high-risk adults who had early symptoms of COVID-19.

The company studied its pill in people who were unvaccinated and faced the worst risks from the virus due to age or health problems, such as obesity.

If the pill is authorized, the FDA will have to weigh making the pill available for vaccinated people dealing with breakthrough infections, since they weren’t part of the initial tests.

For best results, patients need to start taking the pills within three days of symptoms, underscoring the need for speedy testing and diagnosis. That could be a challenge if another COVID-19 surge leads to testing delays and shortages seen last winter.

Pfizer’s drug is part of a decades-old family of antiviral drugs known as protease inhibitors, which revolutionized the treatment of HIV and hepatitis C. The drugs block a key enzyme that viruses need to multiply in the human body. That’s different than the Merck pill, which causes tiny mutations in the coronavirus until the point that it can’t reproduce itself.

On Tuesday, Pfizer signed a deal a with U.N.-backed group to allow generic drugmakers to produce low-cost versions of the pill for certain countries. Merck has a similar deal for its pill, which was authorized in Britain earlier this month.

The U.S. has approved one other antiviral drug for COVID-19, remdesivir, and authorized three antibody therapies that help the immune system fight the virus. But they usually have to be given via time-consuming infusions by health professionals, and limited supplies were strained by the last surge of the delta variant.

The U.S. government has already committed to purchasing Merck’s pill. Federal authorities were in negotiations with Pfizer to buy millions of doses of its pill, according to an official familiar with the matter.