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VaNews
April 20, 2021
Top of the News

'Exciting new phase': Northam urges all Virginians 16 and older to seek COVID-19 vaccine

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

Smartphones buzzed Monday morning with an emergency alert from Virginia health officials: All Virginians age 16 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, a group that includes about 3 million people. Gov. Ralph Northam called the news an “exciting new phase” for the state’s vaccination program against the COVID-19 virus 14 months after it began to spread around Virginia.


Vaccine waits remain for some in Va.

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

While all adults in Virginia are now eligible to make coronavirus vaccine appointments, supply constraints mean it could be weeks before residents in Fairfax and other areas with high demand are able to make appointments, officials said Monday. An additional 3 million people became eligible for the vaccines on Sunday in Virginia, with Gov. Ralph Northam (D) saying the state is on track to get first doses to all adults who want them by mid- to late May.


Virginia public defenders face resistance in push for pay parity with prosecutors

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

In many Virginia courtrooms, commonwealth’s attorneys charged with prosecuting crimes continue to earn significantly more than the government employees responsible for defending the accused. It’s an imbalance that bakes inequity into the criminal justice system, say public defenders, whose state-funded offices represent poor defendants who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford an attorney.


Alexandria Passes First Collective Bargaining Ordinance in Virginia

By JAMES CULLUM, Alx Now

After months of fine-tuning, the Alexandria City Council unanimously passed a collective bargaining ordinance on Saturday. Its passage was praised by Alexandria’s employee unions as a step forward in employee rights....The city is now the first Northern Virginia jurisdiction to pass the measure for employee rights and wages since Governor Ralph Northam announced a statewide implementation of the law will go into effect on May 1. It resembles the Federal Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act in scope, which is a common model for collective bargaining in the region.


Former Fairfax County police officer fired in Florida after past misconduct revealed by Washington Post

By ALESSANDRO MARAZZI SASSOON, Florida Today

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey fired deputy Jonathan A. Freitag earlier this month after he became aware that the officer had a long history of misconduct allegations which, according to the sheriff, were not provided to his agency during a background investigation. The story of the deputy's history and that the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia failed to inform the Brevard County Sheriff's Office about the allegations were broken by the Washington Post.


UVa Health to release liens, judgments as part of new billing policies

By BRYAN MCKENZIE, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

The University of Virginia Health System will release liens and judgments filed against most middle- and lower-income patients and limit patients’ financial liability for catastrophic medical care as part of new billing policies that focus on a patient’s ability to pay. Health System officials also will create an ombudsman position to assist patients with disputes and redesign intake and appointment scheduling to inform patients about insurance coverage limits and financial assistance prior to treatment.


Arlington Co. EMS crews will now take some patients to urgent cares instead of hospitals

By JACK MOORE, WTOP

Emergency medical crews in Arlington, Virginia, can now start transporting some patients to urgent care centers instead of hospital emergency rooms and could, later this year, start treating some patients at home via telemedicine under an “innovative” program to lower costs and streamline EMS operations. . . . The county’s EMS department is one of 250 nationwide selected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to roll out the Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport program, known as ET3.

The Full Report
34 articles, 18 publications

FROM VPAP

VPAP Visual Who is funding the Governor's Race?

The Virginia Public Access Project

VPAP has parsed campaign finance disclosures to show the percentage of money that each candidate for Governor raised from eight types of sources, including donors who gave $100 or less and those from out of state. We've added a self-funding filter and analysis of candidates for Lt. Governor and Attorney General. The amounts shown are for 15 months through March 2021.


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 announces 3 million more Virginians eligible for COVID-19 vaccine under Phase 2

By SIERRA JENKINS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

About 3 million more Virginians are eligible to get a vaccine under Phase 2 of the state’s vaccination rollout, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday. The commonwealth moved to vaccinate people age 16 and older Sunday, after vaccinating those who are considered high-risk since December. Northam formally announced the state’s shift to the next phase of the rollout during a COVID-19 briefing at the new Tysons Community Vaccination Center in Fairfax.


Get vaccinated, Northam says, as state opens up eligibility

Associated Press

Gov. Ralph Northam urged Virginians to continue getting vaccinated against the coronavirus Monday, a day after the state opened up eligibility for a shot to everyone 16 and older. “The sooner that we can get people vaccinated the better and the sooner we’ll get to herd immunity,” said Northam, who spoke with federal and local elected officials at a vaccination site in northern Virginia.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Va. Republican leaders ask for special session to investigate parole board after release of recording

By PATRICK WILSON, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Republican legislative leaders called for lawmakers to begin an investigation of misconduct at the Virginia Parole Board following coverage in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this weekend of a meeting between the governor’s office and a state watchdog agency. Democrats who control the General Assembly have already dismissed GOP calls for an investigation by the legislature.


Audio shows Northam administration criticizing watchdog

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

In a combative meeting last year, members of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration criticized the state inspector general over his ongoing investigation into the parole board and made clear they wanted to keep subsequent findings from being made public, according to an audio recording of the conversation.


Virginia’s main appeals court is mostly white men, many former prosecutors. But there’s a new push for more diversity.

By MARGARET MATRAY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Groups including the NAACP are calling for greater diversity on Virginia’s second-highest court as it adds six new judges. Of the Court of Appeals’ 10 current members, only three are women and only one is a person of color — and most of the judges are former prosecutors and private attorneys.


Former Virginia Beach deputy city manager, retired police officer join state’s 2019 mass shooting investigation panel

By ALISSA SKELTON, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Questions about conflicts of interest arise yet again after a former Virginia Beach deputy city manager has been appointed to a 21-member commission tasked with independently investigating the Virginia Beach mass shooting. The Senate Rules Committee added Steve Cover to the commission. Cover retired from the city in 2020 but oversaw the Virginia Beach Police Department while the city was conducting its own investigation into the mass shooter who shot 16 people, killing 12, before also dying in a shootout with police on May 31, 2019.

STATE GOVERNMENT

New weed law closes gray market loophole, attempts to counter vertical integration

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

It’s never too early for prospective marijuana entrepreneurs to start looking at the new legalization law and start preparing to submit an application for a license to sell or cultivate the plant, according to one Hampton Roads lawyer. “Businesses should think about what type of license they might want to obtain, then position themselves to be ready for when applications are available,” said Jonathan Gallo, a lawyer with Vandeventer Black in Norfolk who specializes in cannabis law.


How the pandemic has affected the area’s criminal justice system

By RANDI B. HAGI, Harrisonburg Citizen

People reported fewer crimes overall in Harrisonburg over the last year. And fewer defendants stayed in jail as they awaited trial. At the same time, though, many of those trials have been delayed, forcing the courts to put in overtime in order to catch up on the backlog of cases. Harrisonburg and Rockingham County’s criminal justice system — like many facets of life — has operated a little differently since the pandemic began, in some cases prompting prosecutors and judges to adapt and make exceptions they wouldn’t normally do.

CONGRESS

Sen. Tim Kaine reintroducing bill to allow Dept. of VA to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans

By JULIUS AYO, WAVY-TV

Senator Tim Kaine is reintroducing a bill that would allow VA hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans. The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act allows doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in states that have established medical marijuana programs.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS

Dominion Energy is not planning to build a second office tower in downtown Richmond

By GREGORY J. GILLIGAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Dominion Energy has scrubbed plans to construct a second office tower in downtown Richmond. The Richmond-based energy giant said it was not pursuing plans “at this time” for what would have been called 700 Canal Place. That planned 17-story building would have been built on the site where the company’s One James River Plaza office tower had stood since 1978 until last May when it was demolished.

TRANSPORTATION

Times News investigates wildlife strike data for Tri-Cities Airport

By HANK HAYES, Kingsport Times News

Over the course of eight days in the summer of 2018, Allegiant Flight No. 841 twice struck birds during takeoff from Tri-Cities Airport. . . . The same flight struck several birds the morning of July 9 during takeoff. Moments before departure, an airport employee had tried to disperse the birds with a pyrotechnic device that makes a loud bang. July is the month with the greatest number of strikes, with 36 reported over the past five years, according to a Times News analysis of the FAA’s Wildlife Strike Database.

HIGHER EDUCATION

UMW keeping tuition level for third consecutive year

By ADELE UPHAUS, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Tuition rates will hold steady at the University of Mary Washington for the third year in a row. The UMW Board of Visitors on Friday approved President Troy Paino's recommendation to prioritize "student affordability over other budgetary considerations" by keeping tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students level, the university announced in a press release.


Former Virginia Tech soccer player sues coach, claiming she was forced off team for refusing to kneel before games

By MIKE BARBER, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Former Virginia Tech women’s soccer player Kiersten Hening has filed a federal lawsuit against Hokies women’s soccer coach Chugger Adair, alleging that after she refused to join her teammates kneeling before games this season, the coach engaged in a “campaign of abuse and retaliation” that led her to leave the program. . . . Adair, who just completed his 10th season at Virginia Tech and is the program’s all-time winningest coach, declined to comment. He is being represented by university attorneys.

CORONAVIRUS

Vaccine focus in Virginia shifts from pre-registering to simply making appointments

By CATHY DYSON, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

As Virginia has moved into the second phase of COVID-19 vaccines, people are able to simply schedule their own appointments instead of answering various questions and providing personal information. A pre-registration process was needed for the first four months of the rollout to verify that people signing up for shots were eligible, according to health officials. The first phase was designed to give vaccines to the most vulnerable, such as nursing home residents and elderly adults, those age 16 to 64 with qualifying health issues, and those most at risk, such as frontline essential workers who’ve dealt with the public throughout the pandemic.


New Tysons COVID-19 vaccination site will administer 3,000 doses a day

By JAMES JARVIS, Inside NOVA

The new COVID-19 vaccination center opening in Tysons on Tuesday will have the capacity to administer up to 3,000 vaccine doses per day, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management has contracted with a private emergency management company called AshBritt, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla., to manage the vaccination site -– formerly a Lord & Taylor store at Tysons Corner Center. AshBritt is one of the companies that also manages the vaccination site at the former Gander Mountain store in Woodbridge, which opened late last month and has a similar capacity.


City Council repeals city COVID ordinance; area vaccination rates among highest in state

By VIRGINIA BIXBY, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Charlottesville’s City Council voted 4-1 Monday to repeal the city’s COVID-19 ordinance. The city now will defer to state guidelines. Mayor Nikuyah Walker was the only councilor to vote against the repeal. In July, both the city and Albemarle County issued similar ordinances with more restrictive measures than the state’s executive order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and have updated them multiple times over the last eight months.


Much of region lags in vaccination rates

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

Much of this region lags behind state and national rates of residents vaccinated against COVID-19, which health officials say could prolong the pandemic still surging locally. About 30.7% of all adult residents of 10 Northeast Tennessee counties have received at least one dose of vaccine against the novel coronavirus while about 21.5% of its residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.


Variants in Virginia: What to know about the coronavirus mutants

By KATHERINE HAFNER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Mutant strains of the coronavirus are spreading through the world’s population even as we vaccinate more people. It sounds scary, and there are reasons to be worried about coronavirus variants. But how is it all playing out in Virginia? The Virginian-Pilot took a dive into what we know about variants in our state right now.


Libraries, small-scale events in Hampton are a go; community centers, large festivals still on hold

By LISA VERNON SPARKS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Since January, staffers with Hampton’s libraries, community centers and other city facilities have been moonlighting as city COVID-19 vaccinators. It’s one reason why these facilities haven’t reopened since late February, when the state lifted its more stringent social distancing guidelines. “We have been able to vaccinate approximately 35% of our Hampton residents through our vaccination efforts. We would not have been able to do that, frankly, if we didn’t have the staff to support those planning operations,” City Manager Mary Bunting said ...


Signs of hope: Nursing homes begin to reopen

By JARED FORETEK, Inside NOVA

Jean Belton moved into the Tribute at the Glen in January 2020, expecting to comfortably settle into her new retirement home and make new friends. “I was hoping to meet new people and share new experiences, new ideas and that sort of thing,” Belton said about her move into the Woodbridge facility.

LOCAL

Alexandria City Council expands worker’s rights for city employees

By CHRISTY MATINO, WDVM-TV

The Alexandria City Council passed an ordinance expanding rights to city workers on Saturday. It’s a historic ordinance, the first the Commonwealth has seen in over 40 years. The mandate was created to promote orderly relationships between the city and its employees.


Arlington board rejects historic designation for what remains of Rouse estate

By SCOTT MCCAFFREY, Sun Gazette

They had known for weeks – probably months – of the likely outcome, but for preservation advocates, the Arlington County Board’s April 17 decision to deny historic-district status to the Rouse estate still had a sting to it. “The whole thing was really a needless waste,” sighed Historical Affairs & Landmark Review Board (HALRB) chairman Richard Woodruff, who blamed “a complete failure of leadership” during a five-month-long preservation fight that ended with century-old, if dilapidated, structures bulldozed into a pile of rubble.


Infighting threatens county’s new racial justice commission

By DANIEL BERTI, Prince William Times

A newly formed Prince William County commission whose goal is to examine racial inequities in local schools and government services is off to a rocky start this year as partisan infighting among commissioners continues to escalate. Conflict has sprung up between several Democratic-appointed commissioners and Republican-appointed Commissioner Charles “Mac” Haddow over actions and statements they say suggest Haddow wants to “derail” the commission’s work, a claim Haddow denies.


Round Hill under mandatory water conservation following system failure

By KAREN GRAHAM, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Round Hill residents are being instructed to restrict their water usage for at least the next three weeks following a system failure at one of the town's water treatment facilities forced the system to be shut down. Officials said water should not be used for washing cars, watering lawns, filling swimming pools or other activities until the order is lifted.


Richmond officials approve back-to-school plans for fall

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

The Richmond School Board unanimously approved a plan Monday for Richmond Public Schools students to return to school for five days a week next school year, striking an alternative plan for hybrid instruction. After feedback from families, Superintendent Jason Kamras’ administration ultimately said that it was possible to meet the CDC’s guidance for 3 feet of social distancing in classroom settings, and there was no need to provide a hybrid option.


Richmond buys back historical Black burial grounds on Shockoe Hill

By CHRIS SUAREZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Richmond has completed its purchase of a parcel of land it sold more than 60 years ago without regard for its history as a burial ground for freed African Americans 200 years ago. The city announced the acquisition Monday after closing on a $145,000 deal of the privately owned 1.2-acre property at 1305 N. 5th St. last week. . . . City officials said they plan to begin work with archaeologists and historians to decide how best to memorialize the site and incorporate it into Richmond Slave Trail programming.


School system mistakenly releases names of students, staff with COVID

By JIM MCCONNELL, Chesterfield Observer

The local school system failed to properly redact personal information from a document requested through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, inadvertently releasing to a parent last week the names of all Chesterfield County Public Schools students and employees who have reported testing positive for COVID-19. Chesterfield resident Grace Olsen, the mother of a CCPS student, had asked for the number of students who have been required to quarantine as a result of exposure to the coronavirus in Chesterfield schools.


About 1,000 Chesterfield Schools students and staff members names compromised in FOIA request

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

Nearly 1,000 names of Chesterfield County Public School students and employees were erroneously provided in a recent Virginia Freedom of Information Act request. The school system became aware of the error last week after a citizen submitted an FOIA request for the district’s coronavirus contact-tracing list. The names on the list, approximately 575 students and 400 staff members who were potentially in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, were incorrectly not redacted.


King George's proposed budget includes $4 million from new cigarette tax

By CATHY DYSON, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

King George County’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year is up 10 percent from its current spending plan, but that doesn’t mean taxes are rising by the same degree. While the Board of Supervisors is recommending a 3-cent increase in real estate taxes—to 73 cents per $100 of assessed value—the county hopes to gain more revenue from a new funding source. Starting July 1, it plans to impose a 40-cent tax on every pack of cigarettes sold throughout the county, particularly in the outlets that dot U.S. 301 between Dahlgren and the Potomac River.


Albemarle schools won't be adding more in-person days this academic year

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

The Albemarle County school division is not planning to add more days of in-person instruction for the rest of this school year; however, all students will have access to five days per week of in-person classes next school year. “What we’re saying is that’s the default unless something drastic changes between now and then,” schools Superintendent Matt Haas said of the five-day plan during a media briefing at Baker-Butler Elementary School on Monday.

 

EDITORIALS

Which counties might vote down marijuana stores? A rough guide.

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

Today is the 20th day of the fourth month, or 4-20, which makes today 4-20 Day. If you think that’s just a chronological reference, you may not be ready for what’s about to come. The phrase “4-20” has become pop culture shorthand for smoking marijuana, which dates back to five high school students in San Rafael, California, in 1971 who met at that time every day to smoke their weed. Now Virginia is in the process of legalizing marijuana, something that would have been unthinkable in 1971 or, for some, even 2021.

OP-ED

Koch: Tunnel deal remains an anchor on Hampton Roads

By JAMES V. KOCH, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

As I was driving through the Downtown Tunnel recently, I was reminded that former Gov. Terry McAuliffe labeled the financial arrangements behind this tunnel as the worst transportation deal in the history of the commonwealth. He was referring to the agreement Virginia made in 2012 with private developers Skanska USA and the Macquarie Group to enhance the Downtown and Midtown tunnels and develop the Martin Luther King Boulevard extension to I-264. The advertised total cost of the project was $2.16 billion, of which it is reported that public entities supplied $1.66 billion and Skanska/Macquarie $500 million.

Koch is Board of Visitors Professor of Economics Emeritus and president emeritus at Old Dominion University.