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VaNews
November 26, 2020
Top of the News

College students are ‘drop in the bucket’ for COVID-19 spread, experts say

By HENRI GENDREAU, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The headlines are alarming: College campuses are clearing out. Will students take the coronavirus home with them? Several local experts in public health and disease modeling say they aren’t too concerned. “Do I think our college students are all of a sudden going to take it home to their communities? No,” Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District, which covers Virginia Tech and Radford University, said last week. “Pretty much everywhere is having significant community spread.”


Hopes for 'orderly session' run into election-year politics in General Assembly

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

Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar hopes the General Assembly learned the value of a "procedural resolution" after failing to adopt one at the beginning of a special session that began in mid-August and extended beyond Election Day. The customary agreement between the House of Delegates and Senate on the operating rules for General Assembly sessions defines the boundaries of legislative action.


New law reforms early sentence credit program in Virginia

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

Jade Clark has been in and out of jail a few times for theft in the Roanoke and New River valleys, but this go-round has been the most challenging. So he’s determined to make this the last time he’s behind bars. After being sentenced to several years in prison for shoplifting, Clark has participated in numerous classes intended to get him to change his behavior and improve as a person. He’s been reading self-help and financial literacy books. He’s figuring out how he can attend community college once he’s released.


VPAP Visual Virginia's Presidential Bellwethers

The Virginia Public Access Project

When President Trump carried Westmoreland County earlier this month, it snapped the Northern Neck community's streak of correctly picking the presidential winner that had started in 1964. This interactive visual shows how often each Virginia locality has aligned with the national winner in presidential elections since 1956. If you look closely, you can find the locality with the current longest streak of six correct picks in a row.


Farmers Feel Impact of Changing Holiday Demand During Pandemic

By PATRICK SZABO, Loudoun Now

Thanksgiving 2020 went on as planned and provided Loudoun’s poultry farmers with just as much business as ever. But with less family and friends seated around dinner tables, those farmers will have to reconsider their business models for next year. As for the Christmas tree industry, outlook for this season is still up in the air. The COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent government-mandated restrictions and effects on societal norms have actually helped the farmers who raise turkeys for Thanksgiving and other meat year-round, contrary to what it’s done to other industries.


Beekeepers seek political signs

By STEPHEN FALESKI, Suffolk News Herald

Now that the Nov. 3 election is over, Dr. Elizabeth Ward is hoping her neighbors will donate their political yard signs to a far less divisive cause: beekeeping. The signs are made of thick, weather-resistant cardboard, which, when trimmed down to fit beehives, can be used in a variety of ways to help honeybees survive the winter.


Why doesn't Virginia like green bean casseroles?

Franklin News-Post Editorial

We come before you today, on the eve of a great national holiday, with a matter of deep concern. . . . Turn off the Twitter and put down the TV. Or maybe it’s the other way around. We’re so confused we hardly know which is which. But here are the unpleasant facts: A survey by The Harris Poll found that the second-most despised dish on the Thanksgiving table is green bean casserole.

The Full Report
35 articles, 21 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. There's 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

Mattaponi and Pamunkey Tribes Give Tribute to Northam

By CONNOR SCRIBNER, WCVE-FM

The chiefs of the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Indian Tribes met Wednesday with Gov. Ralph Northam to present him with two deer as part of the annual Indian tax tribute ceremony. The ceremony dates back to the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation. British King Charles II signed the treaty with various indigenous tribes from Virginia, recognizing their right to live, hunt and fish on their homelands. In exchange, the tribes were to present tribute to the Crown.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Marijuana legalization now a possibility for Virginia

By SARAH WADE AND LEIF GREISS, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced that he’s planning to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana when the General Assembly meets in January. “Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to be the first state in the South to take this step, and we will lead with a focus on equity, public health, and public safety,” Northam said in a Nov. 17 news release about his support for the move.

STATE ELECTIONS

Amanda Chase says she will be ready to lead the state back to the constitution

By WILLIAM SEIDEL, Smith Mountain Eagle

Republican candidate for Virginia governor and current state senator Amanda Chase made a stop at The Glenwood Center in Huddleston on Nov. 13 for a meet and greet. This comes almost two months since then-Republican candidates Daniel Gade and Bob Good visited Smith Mountain Lake during an event hosted by the Proud Patriots of SML. Known as “Trump in heels” in Virginia, Chase, who is a graduate of Virginia Tech, has been a well-known political candidate not only in the state but across the country.

STATE GOVERNMENT

From Dave Grohl to Edna Lewis, Virginians suggest replacements for Lee statue at U.S. Capitol

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

The panel charged with recommending a replacement for Virginia's Robert E. Lee statue at the U.S. Capitol says the designee can be someone known for "significant ideals, writings, and/or intellectual thought." A Fairfax County resident suggests a Grohl model - as in Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters front man who first gained fame with Nirvana. Grohl was born in Ohio, but grew up in Springfield.


Retired judges will take citizen applications for Virginia redistricting commission starting Monday

By ANDREW CAIN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Five retired circuit court judges on Wednesday signed off on a detailed application process for selecting citizen members of Virginia’s new redistricting commission. In a 90-minute virtual meeting, the judges voted to take applications for the eight citizen members of the panel from Monday, Nov. 30 through Monday, Dec. 28.

CONGRESS

Virginia food banks fear Congressional inaction could increase demand as donations are down

By JACKIE DEFUSCO, WJHL

Donations are down as food banks in Virginia face their highest demand in recent memory. Now, a bigger problem is on the horizon. The Federation of Virginia Food Banks oversees seven Feeding America sites and a network of 1,500 partner agencies throughout the state. Executive Director Eddie Oliver said more than one million Virginians are expected to be food insecure when 2020 comes to a close. That’s an estimated increase of more than 30 percent during the coronavirus pandemic.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS

Amazon Web Services outage hobbles businesses

By JAY GREENE, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Amazon's widely used cloud computing service suffered a major outage in its eastern U.S. operations Wednesday, hampering everything from services for Web-connected security cameras to software applications that businesses use to design products. Starting midmorning, a variety of Amazon Web Services applications began to fail, including ones that deliver data and authorize users to access that data. . . . The outage appeared to be limited to the collection of data centers Amazon runs that are scattered over a handful of Northern Virginia cities, according to the AWS status webpage.


EVMS leaders fear Sentara is trying to force the school to merge with ODU, emails show

By ELISHA SAUERS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Eastern Virginia Medical School has appeared to be on board with a study of how it could combine with Old Dominion University and Sentara Healthcare. But in private, top leaders of the medical school have expressed frustration with the closed-door process, fearing Sentara is trying to force the 47-year-old institution into giving up its independent power and merge with the university. Internal emails show EVMS leaders believe the merger would mean massive layoffs, especially if their affiliate EVMS Medical Group were folded into Sentara.


National Conference Center to lay off majority of its employees come January

By KATISHI MAAKE, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)

The National Conference Center in Leesburg is expected to lay off more than 70% of its 250-person workforce early next year as Covid-19 continues to devastate the hospitality sector. The 40-acre hotel and conference center filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification with Virginia on Nov. 18 referencing 180 layoffs. Those are set to take effect on Jan. 18.


Fund gives grants to 750-plus small Va. businesses including 53 in the Richmond area

By GREGORY J. GILLIGAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Richard Kent couldn’t believe it when he got a phone call this month telling him that his Shooter’s Indoor Sportsplex had received a $3,000 grant. “It came at the perfect time,” he said, to help with payroll and to help cover some of the continuing costs to disinfect the facility. Revenue at the indoor roller hockey facility in Chesterfield County fell about 83% in the spring compared with last year. Business has improved since then but it is still struggling with revenue down about 20% to 25%, he said.


Alexandria power plant along the Potomac to become mixed-use project

By LOLA FADULU, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

A development company with a history of transforming obsolete facilities has purchased one of the largest industrial sites in Alexandria and plans to build housing, office space and retail, granting residents new access to a large swath of the Potomac River. The Potomac River Generating Station, a shuttered, 71-year-old coal-fired power plant, was decommissioned in 2012. Hilco Redevelopment Partners bought the site last week for an undisclosed amount after a three-and-a-half year pursuit. Pepco will continue to own part of the site in order to operate an electrical substation.


Amid pandemic, Floyd holds on to musical roots

By KATE ANDREWS, Va Business Magazine

The town of Floyd has long been known for its musical offerings, particularly Friday night jamborees at the Floyd Country Store and the annual world folk music-focused FloydFest. So, what happens when public events are called off by the coronavirus pandemic? Dylan Locke, co-owner of the Floyd Country Store, has hosted online streaming of old-time string music live performances, but it’s tough when the performers are playing to empty rooms, he acknowledges.

TRANSPORTATION

2 Virginia Metro stations to close until March

By SCOTT GELMAN, WTOP

A pair of Northern Virginia Metro stations on the Blue Line will be closed until March while the mass transit agency repairs a control system that’s more than 40 years old. The Franconia-Springfield and Van Dorn Street stations will close Friday. The work is scheduled to be finished March 14, the City of Alexandria said.


Jefferson Davis signs are coming down from U.S. 1, but not until 2022

By STAFF REPORTS, Prince William Times

The street signs won’t get changed until 2022, but Prince William officials received the state’s blessing Tuesday to remove the name of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from one of the county’s most traveled thoroughfares. In a unanimous vote, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the Prince William Board of County supervisors’ request to rename the 12 miles of U.S. 1 that run through Prince William County to “Richmond Highway.”


During COVID-19, Virginia Capital Trail becomes 'a lifeline'

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

When his late wife was diagnosed with advanced cancer several years ago, Terrence Walker grabbed a cup of coffee and took his fears and worries to the Virginia Capital Trail. Walking alone helped him come to terms with what was to come. He still takes to the trail almost daily to clear his head and unwind.


‘Notes’ Post Leads to Removal of Fake Sign

ArlNow

A recent Morning Notes post on ARLnow has resulted in a fake road sign being removed in Arlington. ARLnow published the photo above, taken along N. Glebe Road near Chain Bridge, on Nov. 5. Though the construction sign in the foreground gets top billing, eagle-eyed readers might have noticed the “Adopt-a-Highway” sign behind it, which says — in the space reserved for the adopting organization — “PLEASE JUST RAISE TAXES.”

HIGHER EDUCATION

Why human corpses will soon fill a Northern Virginia field not meant to be a gravesite

By TIMOTHY BARBER, WJLA

Five acres in Northern Virginia will soon be filled with human remains, but it's not a graveyard. George Mason University is working on a cutting-edge forensic science program that will help investigators solve crimes.

CORONAVIRUS

Virginia COVID-19 deaths surpass 4,000 as total cases rise by 2,718 from Tuesday

By STAFF REPORT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health reported Wednesday that the state’s cumulative total for COVID-19 cases during the pandemic is now up to 226,300 — an increase of 2,718 from Tuesday. The 226,300 cases consist of 202,426 confirmed cases and 23,874 probable cases. There are 4,008 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 3,679 confirmed and 329 probable. That’s an increase of 29 from the 3,979 reported Tuesday.


A day after hospital's warning, COVID-19 picture in West Piedmont Health District gets worse

By STAFF REPORT, Martinsville Bulletin (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The worsening picture for COVID-19 in the West Piedmont Health District that moved Sovah Health to send out a memo to the community on Tuesday got a little worse on Wednesday. There is another death reported by the Virginia Department of Health, and the number of cases surged by 93, as one health official said that people in the community continued to pass the virus in small gatherings. This latest death was in Franklin County – the 17th there and the fifth in the district in the past two days – and was a white male between the ages of 70 and 79.


Prince William shatters its daily record for new COVID cases, adds 2 more deaths

By STAFF REPORTS, Prince William Times

The Prince William Health District shattered its one-day record for COVID-19 cases on Thanksgiving Eve, adding 345 new cases and two additional deaths. It marked the first time ever that the number of new cases reported in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park exceeded 300 and beat the last one-day record, set on May 26, by about 50 cases.


Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office announces reduction in inmate COVID-19 cases

By SALEEN MARTIN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday a reduction in COVID-19 cases since its last testing date on Nov. 9. The sheriff’s office said in a release that it worked with the Virginia Department of Health to test 1,532 inmates, deputies, civilians and contractors for COVID-19 on Nov. 20.


Health Officials Make Final Pleas for Safe Holiday Gatherings as Hospitalizations Rise

By DAVID SEIDEL, WVTF

Health officials are making one final plea for people to follow recommendations about Thanksgiving gatherings with people outside your household. Dr. Noelle Bissell with the New River Health District said we tend to let our guard down when we gather with friends and family. And those small gatherings are fueling the spread of COVID-19 right now.


Area health officials prep for vaccine rollout

By CATHY DYSON AND CLINT SCHEMMER, Culpeper Star Exponent (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

As Americans wait for COVID-19 vaccines to be deployed, health officials in the Culpeper and Fredericksburg areas are offering a glimpse of what lies ahead. In the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District, which serves the Culpeper area, Health Director Wade Kartchner said the initially limited vaccines will be distributed according to a tiered system of priorities.


'What We Were Meant To Do' Medical Reserve Corps Preps for Vaccinations

By MALLORY NOE-PAYNE, WVTF

More than 12,000 volunteers have stepped up to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic, but officials say more will be needed before it’s all over. Since March the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps has seen a 50% increase in its rolls. Just over half of those volunteers have a medical background.


VCU Health workers describe ‘heartbreak’ in ICU as COVID-19 cases mount

By ALEJANDRO ALVAREZ, WTOP

With coronavirus cases surging ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, medical workers at Virginia Commonwealth University are offering a behind-the-scenes look at the frontline fight against the pandemic. In a five-minute video released Monday as part of a VCU public service campaign, doctors and nurses describe the burden of a pandemic that is still shattering records more than eight months since it began.

VIRGINIA OTHER

Woman with deep appreciation for African American history helps restore Hampton cemeteries

By DAVE JOHNSON, Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily (Metered paywall - 3 articles per month)

Janie Porter Barrett deserved better. So did Mary Smith Peake, George Washington Fields and hundreds more whose tombstones in Bassett and Elmerton cemeteries were obscured by waist-high grass and weeds. Someone needed to do something, and someone is. Ghana Smith, a financial system specialist at William & Mary, has been coordinating the Barrett-Peake Heritage Foundation’s restoration project of the two Hampton cemeteries for nearly 18 months.


Unite the Right organizer Kessler denied concealed handgun permit

By TYLER HAMMEL, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler was denied a concealed handgun permit following a filing from the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney. According to court documents, Kessler filed to obtain a concealed carry permit in September in Albemarle County Circuit Court.


Grave Is Found at Site of Historic Black Church in Colonial Williamsburg

By KWAME OPAM, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

Archaeologists working in Colonial Williamsburg to unearth what life was like for the original congregants of one of the oldest Black congregations in the country have uncovered one and possibly two graves and more than 12,000 artifacts, including an ink bottle, doll fragments and coins. Digging beneath a parking lot in the Virginia city, the researchers were able to find the foundations for a brick church built in 1856, what may be an even older church building and a grave or graves potentially for members of the congregation, the Historic First Baptist Church of Williamsburg, Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of archaeology, said Tuesday.

LOCAL

Former Arlington County Police Chief Cites County Board As Reason for Early Departure

ArlNow

Arlington’s former police chief says disagreements with the County Board led him to seek an early retirement. M. Jay Farr, who retired in September, wrote a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette, which was published online today. In it, he refuted claims that he left amid agreements with Arlington’s new, reform-minded prosecutor.


County Focuses on Rent Help as End to Eviction Moratorium Approaches

By JO DEVOE, Reston Now

About 250 more people are using Fairfax County’s emergency homelessness services this November over last November, and there are enough beds for just over half of them. That number could increase as the federal ban on evictions draws nearer.


In police chief pick, supervisors cite Newsham’s experience despite his tensions with D.C. Council

By DANIEL BERTI, Prince William Times

In a move that surprised residents in both Prince William and Washington D.C., county officials hired current D.C. Metro Police Chief Peter Newsham to be the county’s next police chief despite rising tensions between Newsham and the Washington D.C. City Council. The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted 7-1 to hire Newsham during a closed session meeting Tuesday and announced the decision in a press release later that night. Supervisor Margaret Franklin, D-Woodbridge, was the sole vote against Newsham’s hiring.


Chesterfield schools to reverse course on school reopening plan

By JESS NOCERA, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Chesterfield County Public Schools will pull students from classrooms beginning Monday and return to remote learning until at least Jan. 29. Wednesday’s decision comes as the county’s seven-day average of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people reached 26.5. Earlier this month, Chesterfield schools Superintendent Merv Daugherty said in an email to staff that once the seven-day average hit a threshold of 25, the division would return to full-time virtual learning.


Virginia Beach adjusts library services due to coronavirus numbers

By SALEEN MARTIN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Starting Monday, the Virginia Beach Public Library will offer lobby and drive-up services only, according to a news release from the city. Library spokeswoman Christine Brantley wrote in an email Wednesday that libraries are currently providing limited in-person services where customers can come into the branches, use computers and browse for books and other materials.


Albemarle County school division sets thresholds for returning to all-virtual classes

By KATHERINE KNOTT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

If Albemarle County’s COVID-19 case numbers move into the “higher” or “highest” risk categories, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the school division would return to all-virtual classes. The division announced the thresholds Tuesday, the last day of classes before the Thanksgiving holiday. Over the last several months, teachers and community members have been requesting clear benchmarks for each stage of the division’s reopening plan.