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VaNews
January 19, 2021
Top of the News

Confused by Virginia's vaccine distribution data? You're not alone

By LUANNE RIFE, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Warning: This story about COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Virginia contains really fuzzy math that doesn’t quite add up. But we’re going to attempt to make it clearer. You might still scratch your head at the end because the government’s data on vaccine doses is muddy, just as it was at the beginning of the pandemic with testing.


With demand high and supply limited, seniors across region struggle to get vaccines

By KATHERINE SHAVER, ERIN COX AND JENNA PORTNOY, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

D.C.-area residents expressed new frustrations Monday over how to access the coronavirus vaccine, as the pool of eligible recipients grew and the available supply was far outstripped by demand. More than 1,400 new vaccination appointments in the District were snapped up in 25 minutes, city officials said, while people who were newly eligible in Maryland and parts of Virginia also struggled to get appointments. In Fairfax County, Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction, the health department started accepting registrations for residents 65 and older or who are at least 16 and have a high-risk medical condition or disability that increases their chance of getting severely ill from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.


Virginia Senate committee backs bill to abolish the death penalty

By FRANK GREEN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Over warnings it could endanger the lives of law enforcement officers, a bill that would abolish the death penalty in Virginia advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, largely along partisan lines. Senate Bill 1165, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, and supported by Gov. Ralph Northam, was reported out of committee and sent to the Finance Committee in a 10-4 vote.


Surf’s up at Smith Mountain Lake, but Virginia legislature is considering restrictions on wakesurfing

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

Rhonnie Smith’s grandchildren often are unable to play in the water just outside his house at Smith Mountain Lake. When wakesurfing boats come by pulling a surfer, large waves slam into the shoreline and the dock. Once during the summer, Smith said, his grandchildren were playing down in the water by the dock, and the waves threw the children into the dock. . . . Smith and other homeowners at the lake have grown increasingly frustrated with how to regulate the growing water sport. After a few years of trying to educate the wakesurfing community about how to respect the homeowners and shoreline with little avail, the homeowners have taken their concerns to the Virginia General Assembly.


With the Capitol cordoned off, gun rights activists drive and honk through Richmond's streets

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

Police encircled Capitol Square with silver barricades. They blocked roads with dump trucks and closed nearby streets. Officers held zip tie handcuffs and some watched from rooftops. The FBI had warned that far-right extremists were planning to march on state capitols, but Monday’s protests in Richmond were limited to lines of cars parading through Richmond and 100 or so heavily armed Second Amendment supporters standing in the streets downtown.


Region's agriculture can expect noticeable impact from spotted lanternfly, state officials say

By JOSH JANNEY, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The threat to trees and crops posed by the spotted lanternfly continues to grow in the region, officials with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) told the Frederick County Board of Supervisors in a virtual presentation last week. The invasive pest made its way to the United States from Asia in 2014 on a delivery of ornamental landscaping stone in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Four years later, it was found in Winchester.


This teacher was called to protect the U.S. Capitol as a National Guard member. He now holds class from a Humvee.

By SYDNEY PAGE, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

D.C. National Guard Sgt. Jacob Kohut was on his only break during a 12-hour shift standing guard outside the U.S. Capitol. In the back of a Humvee, flute in hand, Kohut was teaching students how to play Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” through his laptop. Kohut, 34, is one of the more than 20,000 National Guard troops providing security as part of a massive operation in D.C. ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Since his deployment to Washington on Jan. 13, Kohut has been on double duty, as an active member of the National Guard and a dedicated band teacher at public schools in Fairfax County in Virginia.

The Full Report
30 articles, 14 publications

FROM VPAP

From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

Our COVID-19 dashboard makes it easy to track the latest available data for tests performed, infections, deaths and hospital capacity. We've added a link the VDH vaccination data. 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.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Legislation to abolish death penalty advances in Virginia Senate

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

Legislation to abolish the death penalty in Virginia cleared its first legislative hurdle Monday, passing out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on 10-4 vote, with nine Democrats and one Republican supporting the measure. Supporters of the bill, which include Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration and an array of faith leaders, argued the death penalty has been disproportionately used against Black defendants and noted the sentence has repeatedly been handed down in cases where defendants were subsequently exonerated.


House panel passes tax conformity bill over Republican objections

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

Gov. Ralph Northam won the first battle in what's likely to become a political war over tax policy in the General Assembly. Faced with a potential loss in state revenue of close to $1 billion, the House Finance Committee voted along party lines on Monday to adopt legislation the governor is seeking to conform state and federal tax policy, with a major exception - a provision of the emergency relief bill Congress adopted last month that would let businesses deduct expenses that were paid with tax-exempt federal grants.


Bill moving local elections from May to November advances in VA Senate; mayors call it a power grab

By BRETT HALL, WAVY-TV

A bill aimed at moving all local elections in Virginia from May to November is moving forward, despite strong opposition from mayors whose cities will be affected. On Monday, legislation overriding election dates set by existing city and town charters was passed by the Senate Committee on Local Government Monday by a 12-3 vote. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake), says starting in 2022, a voter will elect mayors, City Council and School Board members during the November general election, no matter where they live in the commonwealth.


Bill to add ‘cultural competency’ training for Virginia teachers moves forward

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

A House committee voted Monday to approve a bill requiring new cultural competency training for Virginia educators — part of a sweeping effort to reform the commonwealth’s what critics says is outdated curriculum on African American history. The legislation, sponsored by Del. Clint Jenkins, D-Suffolk, would help codify recommendations from the Virginia Commission on African American History Education. The workgroup, formed through an executive order by Gov. Ralph Northam in 2019, spent nearly a year developing comprehensive reforms for how Black history is taught in K-12 schools — driven by long-standing concerns that current state curriculum fails to contextualize, inaccurately describes or simply omits key moments and nuance from a centuries-long struggle for racial equity.


Despite fears of violence, protests in Richmond remain peaceful

By MARGARET MATRAY, ANA LEY AND PETER COUTU, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Gun-rights supporters — some armed — gathered around the state Capitol in Richmond on Monday. But blocked by police barricades, a caravan supporting their cause that formed just outside downtown was unable to get close to the seat of state government. One man, Karl Golovin of Alexandria, drove around Capitol Square earlier, his car festooned with flags bearing the logo of the group behind the event, the Virginia Citizens Defense League. He said a similar gathering last year made Golovin feel “as proud as I’ve ever been to be a Virginian. … I couldn’t have felt more safe or among friends.”


‘I’m just trying to get on TV:’ Gun rally draws fringe groups, lots of media to Richmond

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

As each new armed group arrived in downtown Richmond Monday, they were greeted by a swarm of cameras and interviewers asking why they had come out to stand near the Capitol with their guns. “I’m just trying to get on TV,” said one young man wearing camouflage, drawing laughs from his group of about five armed associates. “Joke’s on you guys.” One year after more than 20,000 gun enthusiasts swarmed Richmond to protest new gun laws, Monday’s sequel was smaller and stranger.


Pro-gun caravan hits Richmond streets without incident; extremist groups protest peacefully

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

The pro-gun caravan that was supposed to send thousands of vehicles pouring into Virginia's capital on Monday turned out to be a sporadic affair, as clusters of flag-bedecked cars and trucks were slowed by the humbling force of traffic lights. “We were hoping it would have a continuous flow, like a funeral procession,” gun rights advocate Kevin Hulbert said, standing on a street corner with several supporters holding “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. Instead, groups of pro-gun vehicles passed intermittently along Broad Street, too few in number to dominate traffic and separated from one another by the need to stop for red lights.

STATE ELECTIONS

McAuliffe says he’ll push for assault weapons ban, create agency for gun violence prevention

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is running for another term at the helm of the state, says that if elected he will push for an assault weapons ban as part of a broader gun control agenda. McAuliffe, one of five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, shared his plans for gun control policy on Monday, when gun rights protesters rallied against such measures in downtown Richmond.


Rasoul tops fundraising for lieutenant governor

By ANDREW CAIN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, led a large field for lieutenant governor with more than $600,000 in cash on hand as of the year-end campaign finance reports, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. The sprawling field for lieutenant governor includes eight Democrats and five Republicans. Many of the candidates for statewide office reported funds in multiple accounts, such as one for a legislative office and another for lieutenant governor.

STATE GOVERNMENT

State agriculture commissioner among Virginians picked for jobs in Biden administration

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

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Jewel Hairston Bronaugh, Virginia commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, to serve as deputy secretary of agriculture in his administration. Bronaugh, a former agriculture dean at Virginia State University, would become the first African American to serve in the position. Her appointment could help Biden overcome public reservations that Black farmers expressed over his appointment of Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary, the same role the former Iowa governor held for two terms under President Barack Obama.


Biden picks Petersburg native as USDA's second in command

By BILL ATKINSON, Progress Index (Metered paywall - 10 articles a month)

The woman tapped to hold the No. 2 post at the U.S. Department of Agriculture took to Twitter Monday to thank President-elect Joe Biden for the opportunity to, among other things, "end hunger in the U.S." Dr, Jewell Hairston Bronaugh, currently Virginia's agriculture commissioner and a former dean at Virginia State university, was tapped by Biden Monday to become deputy agriculture secretary.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS

Retailers forge ahead with openings, expansions during pandemic

By TREVOR METCALFE, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

It’s not all bad news for the Hampton Roads business world. Even though the coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll, a local movie theater chain in Chesapeake is expanding, a unique custom clothing store is opening in Norfolk and several other retailers in the region are stepping up to the plate.

TRANSPORTATION

Amtrak to suspend some service south of Washington ahead of inauguration

By LUZ LAZO, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Amtrak is suspending some service south of Washington because of security concerns related to Wednesday’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Northeast Regional trains will end their trips at Union Station on Tuesday and Wednesday, the railroad said. Passengers with tickets to Virginia stations will be contacted to adjust their travel plans.


Amtrak's cancellation of train service for two days this week means a quiet Ettrick station

By BILL ATKINSON, Progress Index (Metered paywall - 10 articles a month)

Capitol riots, risk of more trouble on Wednesday mean four trains that stop in Petersburg will not be running. Planning on taking a train trip up north this week? As long as you are not going Tuesday or Wednesday, you should not have any problem. Amtrak said last week it was "taking extra steps" to ensure passenger and employee safety Jan.19-20 by not allowing any Northeast Regional trains south of Washington.

CORONAVIRUS

A day after hitting nearly 10,000 new COVID cases, Va. records 7,245 more

By SABRINA MORENO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A day after recording nearly 10,000 new COVID-19 cases, the Virginia Department of Health on Monday reported 7,245 more, marking the state’s second-highest single-day increase. That’s twice the number of new cases reported a month ago, 3½ times the cases on Nov. 18 and eight times the cases on Oct. 18.


Glitches, thin supply frustrate Virginia seniors seeking COVID-19 vaccine shot

By MEGAN CLOHERTY, WTOP

Virginia seniors are having problems getting in a virtual line for COVID-19 vaccinations because health systems are overloaded with requests or experiencing technical issues. Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun counties are having difficulties taking appointments for those interested in getting vaccinated after the ages for eligibility expanded. Gov. Ralph Northam opened up registration to those age 65 and older last Thursday. Previously, the state was only allowing health care workers and those age 75 and older to get it.


COVID-19 cases declining, but local positivity rate remains high

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

Ballad Health reported its lowest COVID-19 inpatient census in more than a month Monday, but the region’s testing positivity rate remains seriously high. Ballad was treating 245 patients with the novel coronavirus in its hospitals, the lowest total reported since Dec. 4. That represents a 28% decrease over just one week ago, when Ballad reported 339 inpatients, including 73 in intensive care units.

VIRGINIA OTHER

FEMA denies Maryland’s and Virginia’s emergency declaration for security costs

By FREDRICK KUNKLE, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied requests from Maryland and Virginia for an emergency declaration to cover expenses associated with responding to the Capitol riot and increasing security around President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. FEMA’s decision — which both states plan to appeal — could mean the states would not receive federal funds for providing law enforcement personnel and other support to help restore control after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, and to enhance security for Wednesday’s ceremony.


Central Virginia man charged for having ‘KILL BIDEN’ sign

WWBT-TV

A Goochland County man has been arrested for having a “KILL BIDEN” sign, among others. According to the criminal complaint, the sheriff’s office received multiple complaints about signs at a home along Whitehall Road saying “KILL BIDEN” and “MAKE BIDEN PAY!!!” When a deputy drove by, they say Kenneth Kraig Thomas was standing next to the signs and waving at cars as they went by.

LOCAL

School Board deadlocked over Kamras’ contract

By RONALD E. CARRINGTON, Richmond Free Press

The Richmond School Board apparently is deadlocked on how long to extend Superintendent Jason Kamras’ contract that ends June 30. Sources familiar with the contract negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Free Press on Wednesday that four veteran board members support extending Mr. Kamras’ contract another four years while four other members prefer no more than two years.


Virginia lawmakers join opposition to proposed Wegmans distribution center near historic Black community in Hanover

By C. SUAREZ ROJAS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

As Hanover County residents opposed to a 1.7 million-square-foot Wegmans distribution center planned near their homes await a decision on environmental permits, several state lawmakers have joined in the resistance. The Rochester, N.Y.-based grocery chain hopes to see its warehouse complex rise off Sliding Hill and Ashcake roads near Brown Grove, a rural African American community settled by freed slaves a few years after the Civil War.


Chip Boyles selected as Charlottesville city manager

By NOLAN STOUT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Chip Boyles, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, has been selected as Charlottesville’s city manager — for the time being. Meanwhile, City Attorney John Blair, who has been interim city manager since October, is taking a job in Staunton, marking another high-profile departure.


Franklin County modifies return plan after teachers protest

By MIKE ALLEN, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

“We deserve a safe return,” chanted about a dozen Franklin County teachers and supporters as the Franklin County School Board gathered for an emergency meeting Monday evening. The school system was set to bring back students for in-person classes four days a week starting Jan. 26. Desks in those classes will be spaced 3 feet apart as recommended by the American Association of Pediatrics, instead of 6 feet as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Oversight, analysis ordered for Halifax IDA

By HENRY STEVENS, South Boston News & Record

The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority is bringing in a private firm to conduct an organizational analysis as the organization seeks to right itself after the firing of its latest executive director. The IDA board of directors authorized Interim Executive Director Mike Davidson to hire RiverLink Group to conduct the organizational analysis. RiverLink Group is headed by Elizabeth Povar, former vice-president of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the state’s lead agency for business recruitment and development.

 

EDITORIALS

Unusual process marks city manager hire

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

“We have to empower someone to be a true city manager.” Amen to that. Charlottesville Vice Mayor Sena Magill uttered those words as she and her colleagues announced the hiring of Chip Boyles as the new city manager. The new city manager — pro tem. In an unusual move, the council hired Boyles — an experienced public servant — to act as a true city manager, but not a permanent one. The decision also was made without the open-interview process that council in the past has favored.


Keeping Virginia’s fiscal house in order remains Job One

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

It was a bit awkward — standing in a near-empty House chamber on Wednesday evening, for his next-to-last State of the Commonwealth address — but Gov. Ralph Northam delivered his remarks with purposeful grace and good humor. It always helps, of course, to come calling at the General Assembly with happy numbers — financial numbers, that is. This time next year, Northam plans to hand off Virginia’s fiscal baton in good order, telling the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week that, “Virginia is going to be in probably the best financial shape that they’ve ever been.”


Where is Virginia’s unified system for COVID-19 vaccines?

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

On Dec. 18, Americans received a second shot of optimism. One week after issuing an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fast-tracked the same step for Moderna’s treatment. “With the availability of two vaccines now for the prevention of COVID-19, the FDA has taken another crucial step in the fight against this global pandemic that is causing vast numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States each day,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in a statement.

OP-ED

Ramadan: The GOP needs a mea culpa

By DAVID RAMADAN, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

In December 1788, America held its first presidential election. Then, there were no nominating conventions, speeches, or rallies, and almost four months would pass before George Washington’s unanimous selection became official. Last November, America voted for a president for the 59th time, and it’s safe to say that our most recent election bore no resemblance to the first.

Ramadan is a former Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates (2012-2016) and an adjunct professor at the Schar School at George Mason University.


Vineyard: Good should resign

By DON VINEYARD, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Franklin County Democratic Committee to the events which took place Wednesday, Jan. 6, in the Joint Session of Congress and more specifically to the actions of our newly elected Rep. Bob Good. By now you have probably read the press release from Mr. Good which purports to justify his actions in objecting to the Certification of Electoral College votes.

Vineyard is chair of the Franklin County Democratic Committee.