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VaNews
July 28, 2021
Top of the News

CDC calls for vaccinated people in areas with high COVID risk to mask up. In Virginia, that's most localities

By SABRINA MORENO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

The pandemic is getting worse. The risk of the delta variant mutating into future strains that could evade vaccines is becoming a fearful possibility. And the U.S. has hit a wall in vaccinations. Citing this information on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended universal masking in K-12 schools and for fully vaccinated people to wear masks in public indoor spaces in areas facing substantial to high rates of transmission — defined by the CDC as having between 50 and more than 100 infections per 100,000 people. In Virginia, that’s most localities.


Fairfax County moves toward requiring coronavirus vaccines for its workers

By ANTONIO OLIVO, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Fairfax County took a step Tuesday toward requiring its 12,500 employees to be vaccinated for the coronavirus, becoming the first locality in the Washington region to join government agencies elsewhere in the country that are seeking to respond more aggressively to a new surge in infections. In a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors in Virginia’s most populous locality asked County Executive Bryan J. Hill to evaluate how to incorporate a vaccine requirement when employees fully return to their workplaces in the fall.


Northam seeks $862 million for unemployment trust fund to head off payroll tax hikes

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Faced with a potential fourfold increase in payroll taxes on Virginia businesses, Gov. Ralph Northam wants to deposit $862 million in the state’s depleted unemployment trust fund to help them hire workers and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Northam, working with General Assembly budget leaders, also proposed to invest $73.6 million from the American Rescue Plan Act on upgrades to the Virginia Employment Commission


Northam proposes spending relief money on clean water; Republicans complain of being left out of the process

By GREGORY S. SCHNEIDER, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday afternoon called for spending $935.6 million of federal coronavirus relief money to replenish the state's unemployment insurance fund and beef up the office that administers payments, as Virginia struggles to recover from the huge increase in jobless claims generated during the pandemic. Earlier Tuesday, Northam also proposed spending $411.5 million of American Rescue Plan funds on clean-water projects. But Republican members of the House of Delegates complained that they have been shut out of the process of determining what to do with the $4.3 billion in total that Virginia has been allotted from the act.


Toll Patrol: Portsmouth leaders hope state will pay down tolls with COVID-19 relief money

By BRETT HALL, WAVY-TV

As Virginia lawmakers prepare to make plans on how to spend more than $4 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds, Portsmouth’s mayor has a suggestion: pay down the tolls. Specifically, he wants the state to — at the very least — reduce the tolls of the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels between Portsmouth and Norfolk. . . . The tolls have been a point of extreme frustration and a political punching bag for the entire region since a deal to develop and operate them was inked by former Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2011. Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) was given exclusive rights to set and collect tolls on the Downtown and Midtown crossings for 58 years.


Youngkin to participate in ‘election integrity’ rally at Liberty University

By LAURA VOZZELLA AND MEAGAN FLYNN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is scheduled to appear at a two-day "election integrity" rally early next month, a move that elections analysts say could hurt the political newcomer among suburban swing voters who will be crucial to victory in the fall. Youngkin made the issue the centerpiece of his campaign as he pursued the GOP nomination this year, hoping to court Republicans who agreed with former president Donald Trump’s unfounded claim that Democrats stole the 2020 election. But he has largely pivoted to other topics since then, aiming to woo suburban moderates who were turned off by Trump and must come back to the GOP fold for Youngkin to win this increasingly blue state.


Perfect storm brewing for region’s unvaccinated

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

This region appears poised for a “significant” rise in COVID-19 cases, a local health official warned Tuesday. Dr. Stephen May, medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, said the recent arrival of the highly contagious delta variant in a region where more than six in 10 people aren’t vaccinated against the virus could equal a dangerous pattern. “We’ve got the perfect storm brewing,” May said Tuesday. “We’ve got back to school going on, we just finished [Kingsport’s] Fun Fest, we’ve got [Bristol] Rhythm & Roots coming, we’ve got a big race coming up, and we’re just not using any type of safety measures out in the community right now.

The Full Report
40 articles, 19 publications

FROM VPAP

VPAP Visual A Blind Spot in Early Voting

The Virginia Public Access Project

A working group led by the Department of Elections is set to meet today to discuss how to restore granular results at the neighborhood level in future elections should large numbers of voters cast ballots at centralized locations. In the November 2020 presidential elections, Chesapeake was the only city in Virginia to distribute early votes back to the voters' precincts. The rest of the state is left in the dark on how Trump and Biden performed in their neighborhood. VPAP's visual shows the impact of being able to properly show these precinct-level results.


From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

Our Virginia COVID-19 dashboard features VDH vaccination data, including what percentage of the state's population has received at least one shot and the number of vaccinations per 100,000 residents in each city and county. Our dashboard also makes it easy to track the latest available data for tests performed, infections, deaths and hospital capacity. There's also a filter for each city and county, plus an exclusive per-capita ZIP Code map. Updated each morning around 10:30 a.m.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Northam’s budget covers water projects, unemployment fund

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam introduced two more spending proposals Tuesday for the state’s $4.3 billion share of federal coronavirus relief money, calling for investments in clean water projects and over $860 million to replenish the fund that pays unemployment benefits. The Democratic governor has been incrementally rolling out his spending plans ahead of the special legislative session that begins next week, when lawmakers will vote on how to allocate the money from the American Rescue Plan.


Northam proposes $50 million for Richmond combined-sewer cleanup as part of $411.5 million water quality package

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Richmond would receive $50 million in federal aid to help with the next phase of its massive combined-sewer cleanup to stop untreated waste from flowing into the James River as part of a $411.5 million investment in water quality improvements that Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Tuesday. Northam included the money for Richmond, as well as $50 million for Alexandria and $25 million for Lynchburg to help them end combined-sewer overflows into the Potomac and James rivers, respectively.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Democratic leaders’ limits on special session debate draw GOP pushback

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

A decision by Democratic leaders to impose broad restrictions on the Virginia General Assembly’s upcoming special session is drawing criticism from Republicans who say the rules will sharply limit meaningful debate on how the state should spend $4.3 billion in federal pandemic relief money. In a memo earlier this month, House Appropriations Chairman Luke Torian, D-Prince William, told state lawmakers both money committees won’t entertain amendments proposed by members and won’t reopen discussion of the state’s regular budget.


GOP Lawmakers Say They’re Shut Out of Stimulus Plans

By BEN PAVIOUR, WCVE-FM

Top Republicans in Virginia’s House of Delegates say rank-and-file lawmakers -- and their constituents -- are being cut out of the debate over how the commonwealth spends $4.3 billion in federal stimulus funds. Democrats who control the legislature and its key money committees have warned lawmakers they won’t be able to submit budget proposals in a special session set for August 2. That’s a departure from the process in regular session, when the committees typically review reams of spending ideas from all 140 lawmakers.


Virginia police make urgent plea to increase funding for mental health care

By KERRI O'BRIEN, WRIC-TV

Law enforcement and health care representatives are urging state lawmakers to put dollars toward mental health care. Law enforcement says they’ve been sounding the alarm for years, but the need for services has been compounded by the pandemic. The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services recently announced the closing five of state-run psychiatric hospitals to new admissions. Police say that is leading to sometimes violent situations where those in crisis are waiting days for care.

STATE ELECTIONS

Youngkin, McAuliffe plan to disclose some tax return details

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

The two leading candidates in the closely watched race for Virginia governor say they will voluntarily disclose at least some information from recent tax returns before the November election. In response to questions from The Associated Press, the campaigns of both Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe made vague pledges to release unspecified details from their tax returns, but neither said they would make the documents available in full.

FEDERAL ELECTIONS

Rep. Beyer: Calls to Defund the Police are ‘One of the Dumbest Things I’ve Ever Heard’

By VERNON MILES, ArlNow

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) swung by the Arlington County Board last week to recognize 60 local first responders who responded to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. It’s the latest step in a complicated dance for the congressman, facing a new primary challenger, as Democrats nationwide grapple with how to balance public safety concerns with outcry over police killings and accusations of brutality. One particular slogan from nationwide protests last year has divided Democrats.

STATE GOVERNMENT

Lawsuit over Virginia schools' transgender policies tossed by Lynchburg judge

By DAVID CROSS, WSET-TV

A Lynchburg judge dismissed two lawsuits against the Virginia Department of Education’s policies regarding transgender students. Conservative activists filed the lawsuits against the VDOE’s “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools” earlier this year seeking to block the new policy.


Riverside inmate died of fentanyl overdose after concerns were raised over security breach

By MARK BOWES, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

An inmate at Riverside Regional Jail died of a fentanyl overdose just over a month after liability concerns were raised at a meeting of the jail’s governing body about a major security breach that allowed outside smugglers to break exterior windows of the jail and throw contraband inside.


In Petersburg, Advocates Highlight Virginia’s Urgent Need for School Infrastructure Upgrades

By ALAN RODRIGUEZ ESPINOZA, WCVE-FM

A group of advocates and local officials toured the Westview Early Childhood Center in Petersburg on Tuesday to showcase the school district’s urgent infrastructure needs. The group wants state lawmakers to address these needs using a mix of federal, state and local funding. The Petersburg visit was the latest in the Crumbling Schools Tour, which aims to offer those in charge of education policy a “first-hand look” at the conditions students in high-poverty districts face every day.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS

Virginia Aquarium lands $4.5 million ‘shuttered venue’ grant from federal government

By STACY PARKER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

One of Virginia Beach’s most popular attractions that endured millions of dollars in losses from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been thrown a lifeline. The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center lost more than $1 million a month in revenue between March and June of 2020, during the governor’s stay-at-home order.

TRANSPORTATION

Newport News airport receives federal grant to support daily service to Washington Dulles International Airport

By SARAH FEARING, WAVY-TV

Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport is working to support a new daily air service from Newport News to Washington Dulles International Airport. On Tuesday, the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport announced it had received one of 22 grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the Small Community Air Service Development Program.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Virginia Union will require students be vaccinated

By ERIC KOLENICH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Virginia Union University is the latest college to require its students to be vaccinated. The university announced on social media late Monday that students who take in-person classes, live on campus, work in university facilities or use university facilities will need to have a coronavirus vaccine. VUU asked students to be vaccinated two weeks before arriving on campus. The fall semester beings Aug. 23.


William & Mary reconsiders plan to return to normal activities

By ABIGAIL ADCOX, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

William & Mary announced Monday that it is reconsidering returning to “more regular operations” for the fall semester based on current vaccination rates for students and staff. Currently, the school has verified 5,480 students (56.2%) are fully vaccinated and 2,118 (72.2%) employees are fully vaccinated. “The current vaccination rates are well below where we expected them to be based on prior surveys and where we need them to be,” wrote W&M in the message that went out to the university community.


Washington and Lee names new academic center for teaching race after Ted DeLaney

By AMY FRIEDENBERGER, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Washington and Lee University announced Tuesday it will name a new academic center for teaching and research on race after one of its late, influential history professors, Ted DeLaney. DeLaney, who died in December at age 77, had a nearly 60-year career at Washington and Lee University, joining the institution as a custodian, eventually earning enough credits to graduate at 41, and then returning a decade later to be a history professor and serve as the school’s first Black department head.

CORONAVIRUS

Virginia nursing homes join the call for employee vaccine mandates

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

Amid growing concerns over the more-infectious Delta variant, Virginia’s long-term care facilities are joining the push for employee vaccine mandates. In a statement on Tuesday, LeadingAge Virginia, an association representing nonprofit aging services across the commonwealth, called on facilities to require immunization for all staff working in the long-term care industry. While the “vast majority” of residents have been vaccinated, according to CEO Melissa Andrews, only 69 percent of nursing home staff in Virginia have opted for the shots.


Sovah, LifePoint 'encouraging' vaccination of employees

By STEVEN DOYLE, Martinsville Bulletin (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

With concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and specifically the delta variant surging across the country, the response continues to spiral in health care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday said that people again should wear masks in indoor settings, even if they are vaccinated, and on Monday hospital professionals advocated that all medical personnel be required to be vaccinated

VIRGINIA OTHER

Here are the 32 people and groups vying to take Charlottesville’s Confederate statues

By JESSIE HIGGINS, Charlottesville Tomorrow

About 70 miles west of Charlottesville, a tiny town called Goshen wants to put Charlottesville’s now infamous Confederate monuments on display in front of its new community center. With just 333 people, Goshen, in western Rockbridge County, struggles to attract visitors, the town’s clerk wrote in an email to the Charlottesville city manager in June. But, more than that, many locals are “concerned about the historical value” of the Confederate monuments being removed from public view around the state.

LOCAL

Student private information breached in Fairfax County Public Schools

By RICK HORNER, Fairfax Times

Fairfax County Public Schools has been releasing confidential student information for years without the permission from students to do so. That was the claim made in a story on Special Education Action, a website dedicated to informing parents about their rights in public school systems such as Fairfax particularly in the area of special education. The article, written by the site’s editor Callie Oettinger, discusses how the school system may have violated rules under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).


Report: Local crime dipped in most categories in 2020

By DANIEL BERTI, Prince William Times

Local crime dipped in most categories in 2020, and criminal incidents continue to be steady through the first six months of 2021. But the overall crime rate ticked upward last year amid an increase in property crimes and some violent offenses, according to police Chief Peter Newsham and the county’s recently released annual crime report.


Summer school enrollment up in Richmond area; some teachers' pay is nearly double

By CAITLYN FREEMAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

The students in Autumn Stinnett’s summer school class of rising second-graders keep their masks on as they sit at spaced-out desks with plastic barriers surrounding them in Room 10 of Henrico County’s Skipwith Elementary School. As Stinnett does reading exercises with a group of students at a crescent-shaped table in the front of the room, the remaining students are tasked with writing a sentence about a friend.


Henrico residents urge Board of Supervisors to create police civilian review board

By JESS NOCERA, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

After plans for establishing a police civilian review board in Henrico County recently stalled, a handful of residents advocated at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting for creating such an oversight body. In May, Supervisor Tyrone Nelson, who is one of two Black members of the Board of Supervisors, pumped the brakes on establishing an oversight board after running into resistance from his colleagues.


Hopewell City Schools becomes first school district in the state to implement year-round school

By KENYA HUNTER, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Hopewell City Public Schools has become the first school division in Virginia to implement year-round school districtwide, which prompted state officials to sing praises to the district. Gov. Ralph Northam, along with Virginia first lady Pam Northam, visited Hopewell on Monday and congratulated the district and its students on their first day of school.


Virginia Beach can’t hold special election for Kempsville district seat this November

By STACY PARKER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

In a couple weeks, the Virginia Beach City Council will appoint someone to temporary fill the Kempsville district seat vacated earlier this month by Jessica Abbott. But what will happen after that remains to be determined. Abbott, 32, resigned July 2, citing medical concerns. Her colleagues hoped to fill the seat through a special election this November. However, a court determined in March that the way Virginia Beach elects City Council leaders is illegal and discriminatory.


Mental health crisis team in Newport News among 1st in Virginia to be primary responders on nonviolent calls

By JESSICA NOLTE, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Newport News launched a program last week that makes it one of the first cities in the state to use mental health professionals as first responders — rather than police — for nonviolent mental health crisis calls. The Community Assistance Response program, called CARE, places trained paramedics and mental health professionals at the forefront of calls for service when a person is having a crisis. Police will also respond to the call but stage at a distance.


CCPS superintendent: Whether to require masks 'will be the big issue we have to decide on'

By MICKEY POWELL, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

To mask, or not to mask, that is the question on the minds of Clarke County Public Schools (CCPS) officials as they prepare for a new academic year. The Clarke County School Board will be presented a draft back-to-school plan for consideration during its Aug. 9 work session. Whether to require children and/or adults to wear face coverings inside school buildings — as the COVID-19 pandemic continues — will be “the big issue we have to decide on,” CCPS Superintendent Chuck Bishop told the board Monday night.


Front Royal Town Council blocks vaccine ordinance

By ALEX BRIDGES, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The Front Royal Town Council shot down a proposed ordinance on Monday aimed at protecting unvaccinated workers. Council members voted 3-2 against a motion to adopt an emergency ordinance enacting a new town code chapter that prohibited employers in the Front Royal corporate limits from firing employees who do not receive a COVID-19 vaccine.


Roanoke Democratic Committee loses leaders to resignations; Jeffrey indictment part of issue

By JEFF STURGEON, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Three of the top five leaders of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee have resigned in recent days, at least one saying his situation is based, at least in part, due to the indictment of party Vice Chair and City Councilman Robert Jeffrey Jr. After Chairwoman Beth Deel and Secretary Barbara Andes quit, Treasurer Luke Priddy said he was nominated to succeed Deel. After thinking it over, he said he declined the nomination and resigned.


Botetourt, Roanoke counties lift in-school masking requirements

By STAFF REPORT, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Two more Roanoke Valley school divisions on Tuesday announced they will not require students to wear masks indoors in the new school year, but are recommending that unvaccinated individuals, which would include all children under the age of 12, continue to do so. Botetourt and Roanoke County public schools both have stepped away from mandating masks now that an order of the state health commissioner requiring their use in schools expired Sunday.


Roanoke Housing Authority reaffirms marijuana ban in public housing

By ALEXANDRIA SAVAGE, WFXR-TV

The effects of relaxed marijuana laws will not be trickling down to even federally funded ventures in the Commonwealth. Marijuana usage will not be allowed in public housing that is managed by the City of Roanoke’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The unanimous decision by the Board of Commissioners involved all eight members who voted to ban the use, consumption, or possession of marijuana. Medical marijuana is also not permitted.


Hearings set for September on Martinsville's reversion

By BILL WYATT, Martinsville Bulletin (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The only real sticking point with reversion between Martinsville and Henry County is not what it will be, but when it will start. “We’ve signed the memorandum of understanding, and we’ve been exchanging documents, and while the settlement agreement is being reviewed by staff, it has not been completed,” Henry County Attorney George Lyle told the Henry County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday afternoon. “The plan is to have it submitted to the Commission on Local Governments in the early part of August.”

 

EDITORIALS

Impacts of mental health crisis could expand

Daily Progress Editorial (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

The sudden curtailing of admissions to state mental hospitals sent a “shock wave” through the entire system, said state Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta. That wave is expected to spread to the law enforcement system and exacerbate an already difficult relationship between policing and mental health. Unfortunately, many patients enter the mental health system through the doors of local police and sheriff’s departments — often literally.


Four reasons the governor's race is so close

Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Some Virginia Democrats are mystified why the early polls show the governor’s race so close — statistically a tie. This is for them. Here are four reasons why the contest between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin is so close — for now. 1. Virginia isn’t as blue as recent elections suggest.


Help pending for area vets

Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

It’s tempting to greet the news that a location has been picked for a new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic for South Hampton Roads with a grumbled “It’s about time!” The new clinic has been sorely needed for years, with the need only growing more urgent as the process has dragged on longer than in should have. But it’s better to put the past frustrations behind us and look to the now not-quite-so-distant future.

OP-ED

Crawford and Goedert: Citizens Should Engage with Redistricting Commission

By BEN CRAWFORD AND NICHOLAS GOEDER, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Last year, a broad coalition of academic experts in elections, good governance and gerrymandering endorsed Amendment 1, the statewide ballot referendum to form the Commonwealth’s first bipartisan, citizen-led redistricting commission. It was also endorsed by every major newspaper in the Commonwealth, including the Roanoke Times, which said the commission “represented a major step away from partisan gerrymandering” and that the referendum was “the most consequential vote on the November (2020) ballot.”

Crawford is a former faculty member at Virginia Tech’s Institute for Leadership and Volunteer Development. Goedert is a nationally renowned professor of political science at Virginia Tech, researching on legislative elections and political gerrymandering.


Graf: Floyd County statue stands in way of equal justice

By ALAN GRAF, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Editor’s note: This is a copy of the letter that Graf recently sent to Floyd County Circuit Judge Michael Fleenor: You may recall that when you first took office as Presiding Judge of the 27th Judicial Circuit, Floyd Circuit Court, I wrote the court asking you to consider taking down the Confederate statue in front of the Floyd Courthouse. At that time, I was not licensed in Virginia. I was licensed in Oregon and Tennessee.

Graf is an attorney in Floyd County


Rodriguez: Congress must assert its role in America’s war efforts

By ROSEANNE RODRIGUEZ, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

When I joined the U.S. Army in 2004, I was ready to go to war. I trained as a combat medic, and with the Iraq War underway, I knew a deployment was imminent. Two years later, I was on my way to Mosul. I served there for 15 months and saw some of the worst of war. But I also served with incredible people. We served honorably, with a deep love for this country. If I had to do it over again, I would.

Rodriguez is a coalitions director with Concerned Veterans for America in Virginia


Pryor: For rural and urban Virginians, broadband access is a critical connection

By WAYNE F. PRYOR, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Rural Virginia is known for its abundance of resources — timber, livestock, corn, soybeans and dairy, to name a few, but broadband internet access is not one of them. Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry and the key to rural prosperity; however, increasingly, participation in this industry requires reliable internet service. Virginia’s farmers depend on broadband just as they do roads, rails and ports to reach customers and participate in the agricultural supply chain that feeds America.

Pryor, a Goochland County hay and grain producer, is president of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.