Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

August 12, 2020
Top of the News

College towns fear super-spreader semester as students descend


Earlier this summer, students at the University of Virginia packed bars, rental houses, apartments and fraternity houses as part of Midsummers, a party and reunion tradition of students. Watching the surge in large gatherings on social media and hearing from concerned residents prompted Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker to call UVA's plan to bring students back to campus a "recipe for disaster."

VDH: Mechanicsville restaurant continues to operate despite having permit pulled


The Virginia Department of Health says a Calabash Seafood restaurant continues to operate even though its restaurant permit was suspended due to COVID-19 guideline violations. A spokesperson with VDH said the Hanover Health Department received about 25 complaints since May 14 regarding employees and customers violating Gov. Ralph Northam's executive orders by not wearing face coverings nor practicing social distancing at the restaurant located along Lee Davis Road.

COVID-19 testing turnarounds stretch to two weeks for some in the Roanoke region

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

Results for COVID-19 tests in the Roanoke region are taking anywhere from two days to two weeks, with the lag making it more difficult to curb the spread of the disease, Dr. Molly O'Dell said Tuesday. O'Dell said once the test turnaround time stretches beyond 48 hours, it is harder to identify others who many have come into contact with the person infected with the coronavirus. "The further out we get before starting [investigations], the more chance there is for more spread," she said.

Elite public schools in Virginia, elsewhere seek diversity

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

Virginia's Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology regularly finds itself at the very top of national rankings, an elite public school in the suburbs of the nation's capital for which families start preparing their children as early as kindergarten. For decades, though, Black and Hispanic students have made up just a tiny fraction of the school's student body.

MicroStrategy buys $250M in Bitcoin as CEO says it's superior to cash

By ANDY MEDICI, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)

The move came after the Tysons firm's CEO and founder, Michael Saylor, announced his intention to explore purchasing Bitcoin, gold or other alternative assets in an earnings call in late July. At the time he argued that that the returns from cash were fading and that the dollar was weakening. He reiterated these concerns in the announcement Tuesday.

Luray Council censures mayor for 'Aunt Jemima' comment

By RANDY ARRINGTON, Page Valley News

With most of his face covered by a surgical mask, Mayor Barry Presgraves kept his eyes focused on each speaker. "My grandchild came up to me and asked, 'What did he say?'" Maxine Tutt said at Monday's Luray Council meeting. "I told him, and he said, 'That's not too good.'" "How do you explain this to a little kid?" asked Melvin Tutt. "The main difference is you're the mayor; you're the leader. It's just a disappointment to me that we are at this point in 2020."

White supremacists made Charlottesville a symbol of racism. Black residents say it still is.

By IAN SHAPIRA, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Her whole life, Dorenda Johnson has endured racism in Charlottesville. Growing up in a city built with the help of enslaved people, she attended integrated schools but often found herself assigned to segregated classes. She spent years working as an administrative assistant in a University of Virginia hospital wing that — until last year — was named after a notorious white supremacist.

The Full Report
60 articles, 27 publications


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.


Va. AG Herring prioritizes mandatory bodycams, ban on rehiring bad officers


Virginia Attorney Gen. Mark Herring is pressuring state lawmakers to mandate body-worn cameras on all law enforcement officers, and to ban the rehiring of officers who were fired or resigned for misconduct. Herring has laid out his priorities for criminal justice and policing reforms ahead of the Virginia General Assembly's special session, scheduled to begin on Aug. 18.


Rich Anderson aims to transform Virginia's Republican Party

By KARI PUGH, Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

The Republican Party of Virginia will choose a new chairman this weekend from among three candidates, one of them former state Del. Rich Anderson, who represented eastern Prince William County for eight years. Anderson served four terms in the 51st District, chairing the House Science and Technology Committee and the General Assembly Military and Veterans Caucus. In 2017, he lost his seat to Democrat Hala Ayala in a blue wave that saw several districts across the state switch from Republican to Democrat. Anderson challenged Ayala last November and lost a second time, 55% to 45%.

Freitas stresses military service in first TV ads for 7th District congressional race

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

Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, is putting his military service and family values at the forefront of his first television ads in his campaign for Virginia's 7th District seat in Congress, a crucial race in Republicans' effort to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kanye West has 10 days to get on Virginia's ballot for president

By MARIE ALBIGES, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Kanye West, the singer and rapper who announced in July he was running for president of the United States, has yet to secure a spot on Virginia's ballot in November. But he still has time. The state Department of Elections said Tuesday West hasn't filed the necessary paperwork or collected the required number of signatures to be listed along with Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Virginia leaders on Biden's pick of Sen. Kamala Harris

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

Here's how prominent Virginians reacted to Joe Biden's choice of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as his vice presidential running mate. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016: "Joe Biden is running for President to offer Americans character, competence, and compassion — and his choice of [Harris] exemplifies those virtues.


State awards $278K to COVID-19 economic recovery projects

By SYDNEY LAKE, Va Business Magazine

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that the state has awarded $278,000 among 18 economic revitalization projects in Virginia as part of the state's COVID-19 economic recovery plan. "Downtown districts are the lifeblood of our communities and our local economies and they need our support now more than ever," Northam said in a statement.


On the Eastern Shore, locals hope a 49-mile rail trail will reinvigorate the economy

By WYATT GORDON, Virginia Mercury

Virginia's rural Eastern Shore has been losing residents for decades, but in one aspect of that abandonment, locals see opportunity. Last month, Canonie Atlantic, the company which owns the tracks on the Eastern Shore, petitioned the federal Surface Transportation Board to decommission a 49.1 miles long rail line from the town of Hallwood to Cape Charles.

Toano business apologizes after selling culturally offensive item

By ALEXA DOIRON, Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily (Metered paywall - 3 articles per month)

A Toano-based business has issued a formal apology for selling a mini skirt that featured a Hindu deity on the front. Enlighten Clothing Company started selling a skirt that featured the Hindu deity Lord Ganesh, who is regularly worshiped by those of the Hindu faith, across the middle portion of a wearer's pelvic area.

All Points Broadband, Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative partner to extend broadband in northern, western Loudoun

By STAFF REPORT, Loudoun Times

All Points Broadband and Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) announced Tuesday they have reached an agreement that company leaders say will support All Points Broadband's efforts to extend fiber-to-the-home broadband service to more than 1,000 homes in northern and western Loudoun County.

Comcast is expanding in Charles City County


Comcast is expanding its service to more than 2,300 homes and businesses in Charles City County. ..."I am very pleased that Charles City County, Comcast and the Commonwealth of Virginia have partnered to bring fiber-based internet connectivity to Charles City County," said Bill Coada, chairman of the Charles City County Board of Supervisors.


William & Mary leaders take pay cuts as colleges cope with COVID's fiscal impact

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

Three top leaders at the College of William & Mary are taking pay cuts, and the school is instituting a voluntary furlough program in an effort to increase financial flexibility amid COVID-19. The moves underscore that as students prepare to return to campus, colleges and universities across the state are juggling financial pressures as they prioritize safety precautions.

Blacksburg Town Council passes 50-person gathering limit, restaurant curfew

By YANN RANAIVO, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The town's reopening was scaled back Tuesday night as its leaders aim to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among the locality's biggest population group — Virginia Tech students. An emergency ordinance approved unanimously by the town council limits public and private gatherings to no more than 50 people and requires that food and drinking establishments not remain open to the public after midnight, among other conditions.

City Council Bans Gatherings Over 50 People

By IAN MUNRO, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Harrisonburg City Council approved a proposed ban on gatherings of more than 50 people at its Tuesday meeting. "This is something I have been talking to the city attorney about," Mayor Deanna Reed said during the virtual meeting. "I feel like we know that in the next 10 days, we're going to have a tremendous amount of people in the city, so this is just a little guideline for people to still feel safe."

Racial equity requires time, money and resource commitment, UVa report says

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

The University of Virginia Racial Equity Task Force is recommending a sweeping set of changes at the school, including removing Confederate and racist symbols, funding scholarships and endowments for minority students and faculty and rooting out procedures and policies perpetuating prejudice.

College history shapes student action, demands for change


After 60 years as a Williamsburg native, Shelia Ward still remembers the feeling of abject fear when at the age of five, her parents sat her down and explained what it meant to be a Black woman in America. Recalling her childhood, Ward recounted a Williamsburg where members of the Ku Klux Klan would openly gather on Oak Tree Road near Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que for local Klan meetings, or times where her brother and other neighbors would come home in tears after being chased with sticks and other items by white residents.

Hampton University sues accreditor over fate of pharmacy program

By MATT JONES, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

After months of appeals, Hampton University has sued the American Council for Pharmacy Education over the university's pharmacy doctorate program. The ACPE withdrew the Hampton University School of Pharmacy's Pharm.D. accreditation earlier this year, citing low performance on licensing exams and high student attrition. The accreditor put the withdrawal on hold after the university appealed.


Virginia reports nearly 1,000 new coronavirus cases, 17 deaths Tuesday

By MOSS BRENNAN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health reported 996 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing the state's tally to 101,745. At least 2,344 Virginians have died from the virus as of Tuesday morning, up 17 from Monday.

ICA-Farmville accepted 74 transfers June 2. Next came the largest COVID-19 outbreak in a U.S. immigrant detention center.

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

His cough is hollow, a raspy effort he said feels like blades scraping his lungs. Whispering into the phone — his one vehicle to the outside world as he grapples with a reality he calls "a hell we're living in" — he recites the horrors he's come to know well at Farmville's immigrant detention center: bugs in food, beds less than 6 feet apart, dust particles in vents he fears will kill him if COVID-19 doesn't, and medical attention that's delayed because nearly everyone at the center has tested positive.

Judge orders ICE to stop transfers into Virginia facility hit hard by coronavirus

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

A federal judge on Tuesday barred the Trump administration from transferring more undocumented immigrants into a Virginia detention center that is home to the nation's largest novel coronavirus outbreak inside such a facility. U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema also said she would decide whether to allow an independent health expert to inspect the Farmville facility after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention delivers a report Friday on testing being conducted there this week.

CDC team is at federal immigration facility to address virus

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

A federal judge has ordered immigration authorities to halt any transfers into a Virginia detention center that has seen the worst coronavirus outbreak at any such facility in the nation. Government lawyers argued unsuccessfully against the injunction at a hearing Tuesday, saying they have no plans to transfer anyone into or out of the complex at Farmville, where a detainee died last week and more than 80% of the center's 300 detainees have tested positive for the virus.

COVID-19 Continues to Disproportionately Affect Some Areas of Prince William County

Bristow Beat

Prince William localities continue to have some of the highest COVID-19 positive numbers in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and minority neighborhoods have been the hardest hit. As the Governor warns of increases in COVID-19 cases along the eastern shore, Northern Virginia still leads the state in COVID-19 cases.

Galax has less than 10,000 residents. Why was it leading the state in new COVID-19 infections?

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

Around 30,000 people crowded downtown Galax last year during the first week of August, gathering in Felts Park for the city's annual, internationally known Old Fiddlers' Convention. The same week this year, the streets of the small Southwestern Virginia city are quiet. Many of the local businesses, especially the antique shops and art galleries, are closed. The 2020 Old Fiddlers' Convention — its 85th year — was canceled for the first time since World World II.

Reston Hospital Center Sees Decline in Patients During Pandemic


At the Reston Hospital Center, staff members are seeing a decline in both COVID-19 and non-COVID-related patients. Compared to August of 2019, Reston Hospital Center Emergency Room admissions are down 20 percent and the hospital only had six COVID-19 patients currently, which is the lowest number since May, according to David Jacobs, the chairman and medical director for Reston Hospital Center's emergency department.

On the Peninsula, there's help with substance abuse during the pandemic

By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

COVID-19 has sent many people on the Peninsula into relative isolation, but one group of people is still going out plenty: dealers with heroin and other opioids. That has the substance abuse treatment team at Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board worried.


Downtown Richmond buildings vandalized during 'Solidarity with Chicago' protest


Windows were broken at multiple buildings in Richmond on Tuesday night, leaving a trail of property damage behind protesters that circled the downtown area. Protesters dressed in all black gathered at around 9 p.m. in a parking lot at Broad and Crane streets in the East End. VCU sent an alert regarding a "public assembly" off of the MCV campus at 9:39 p.m.

Unofficial historical markers on Monument Avenue are removed by city officials

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

City officials on Tuesday removed two unofficial historical markers near the Robert E. Lee statue, as law enforcement continues to more actively enforce city ordinances near the site of protests on Monument Avenue. Around midday Tuesday, about a dozen police officers and city workers arrived in white pickup trucks, dislodged the signs from the ground and removed them, according to videos shared on social media.

Newport News will remove Confederate monument in Denbigh

By JOSH REYES, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

The Newport News City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to remove the Confederate monument that stands in Denbigh. Members of the council called it long overdue and the right thing to do, and most of the 13 speakers at a public hearing agreed. Councilwoman Pat Woodbury was the lone vote against removing the monument. She equated removing the monument to erasing history and said it should remain so that people can learn the history of the Confederacy and never repeat it.

Fredericksburg police ticket five protesters for blocking streets

By KEITH EPPS, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Five people who participated in a protest in downtown Fredericksburg Monday evening have been ticketed for refusing to get out of the road, police announced Tuesday, and three of them also face a misdemeanor charge. City police spokeswoman Sarah Morris said police received numerous complaints Monday when demonstrators blocked lanes of traffic during a protest that lasted about two hours. Morris said charges against other protesters are pending.

Reinstalling signs stirs school board, NAACP leader

By JIM RIDOLPHI, Mechanicsville Local

Less than two days after the Hanover County School Board voted to remove the names of two county schools named for Confederate leaders, outdoor signage and nameplates were removed from the two campuses. According to a statement issued Monday, Aug. 3, by the Hanover County School Board, those signs will be going back up "for a brief period of time."


August Has Been a Deadly Month for Opioid Overdoses in Arlington


Arlington County police are again sounding the alarm about opioid abuse and its dangers. In a press release, ACPD says that it is seeing a new "spike" in drug overdose deaths. "In the month of August, the Arlington County Police Department has investigated five deaths as possible drug-related overdoses," the department said in a press release Tuesday.

F.C. Council Votes 6-0 to Adopt Firearms Prohibition Law

By NICHOLAS F. BENTON, Falls Church News-Press

Culminating a grueling 5 hour, 15 minute virtual meeting Monday night, the Falls Church City Council voted unanimously, 6-0, to enact a "Firearms on City Property and Events" ordinance that will go into effect Nov. 1. It prohibits the possession of firearms, open or concealed, in official City-owned locations such as buildings (including City Hall and the Community Center), parks, facilities and streets when City-sponsored events are occurring.

School Board approves inequity-combating changes to Academies of Loudoun admissions process

By JOHN BATTISTON, Loudoun Times

At the recommendation of Loudoun County Public Schools senior staff, the Loudoun County School Board on Tuesday approved changes to the Academies of Loudoun admissions process. The action, which the board previously discussed as a potential method to combat systemic racism within the division as well as a means to "promote geographic and socioeconomic diversity," comes following years of concern regarding the underrepresentation of certain racial and economic groups at the Academies.

Richmond's superintendent said that police don't belong in schools; teachers remain divided on the issue

By KENYA HUNTER, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

When Richmond schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said last month that he's going to ask the School Board to remove police from schools, Armstrong High School teacher Graham Sturm was distressed. Sarah Hunter, a teacher at Chimborazo Elementary, thought it was the right decision. Where Sturm, who was a sophomore at Virginia Tech in April 2007 when a gunman murdered 32 people, sees protection, Hunter sees a structural problem that cannot be solved without wholesale change.

Richmond Mayor Proposes Broad Gun Ban, Drawing Concerns


Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is proposing a ban on firearms at public gatherings in the city. The proposal comes after months of Black Live Matter protests where some demonstrators have been openly armed. The ordinance proposed by Mayor Stoney would ban the possession of guns on public roads, sidewalks and parks "when a permitted event, or an event that should be permitted, is taking place."

Stoney wants state lawmakers to legalize marijuana

By MARK ROBINSON, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney wants state lawmakers to legalize marijuana when they take up criminal justice reforms during a special legislative session scheduled next week. Marijuana was decriminalized in Virginia beginning last month, after the Democratic-controlled General Assembly stopped short of legalizing the drug earlier this year. In a letter sent to Gov. Ralph Northam a week before the Aug. 18 special session, Stoney said state lawmakers "need to take it a step further."

Henrico school system says it needs $15M more for upcoming school year because of COVID-19

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

With Henrico County schools preparing to begin the school year online next month, the school system has requested an additional $15.1 million over its adopted $509.9 million budget for this year. The additional money, which officials said the federal CARES Act would cover, is needed for extra cleaning supplies, substitute teachers, laptops, overtime costs and other expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students won't be back in class. But some Hampton Roads teachers will have to be.

By MATT JONES AND GORDON RAGO, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

When Erin Stephens-Royster heard school board members in Chesapeake voted to start the year off virtually, she was thrilled — both as a teacher and a parent. She assumed that meant she'd be leading her classes online, too, just as she had in the spring when governor orders closed schools down due to the coronavirus pandemic. But when she got an email a short time later, she learned that wasn't the case. She'd be required to report to work, along with many other teachers in the city.

Virginia Beach parents have until midnight on Wednesday to choose between in-person and virtual learning

By PETER COUTU, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Parents of students attending Virginia Beach schools have until midnight on Wednesday to decide whether they want to commit to virtual learning for a semester or have their children return for in-person instruction when health conditions improve. If families don't make a choice by the deadline, students will automatically be placed in the face-to-face instruction option.

Virginia Beach Correctional Center has a new medical provider

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

The Virginia Beach Correctional Center has a new medical and mental health care provider. The sheriff's office awarded Richmond-based MEDIKO Inc., a contract earlier this summer paying $6.42 million a year. On Aug. 1, the company began offering medical, mental health, dental services and more to the jail's more than 1,000 inmates. MEDIKO is owned and operated by physicians.

Hampton to receive $800,000 in federal and state to aid homeless during pandemic

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

Hampton is on tap to receive $800,000 from federal and state sources to aid people without homes during the pandemic. The Hampton City Council expects to approve the COVID Homelessness Emergency Response Program funds Wednesday to cover costs for emergency shelters and rehousing incurred from April 2 through Sept. 20, 2022. Hampton's social services department will receive $560,000 from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sources and $240,000 from Virginia.

Journalist groups renew push for Newport News to record, broadcast work sessions

By JOSH REYES, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Two Virginia journalism groups are urging the Newport News City Council to begin recording and broadcasting its work sessions, a topic that's been simmering among members of the council. Newport News is the only Hampton Roads city or Peninsula locality, including Gloucester and Isle of Wight counties, that does not post video recordings of work sessions. Most localities in the region broadcast their work sessions live, either online or on a public-access television channel.

Poquoson votes unanimously for hybrid start for students from Pre-K to third grade

By MATT JONES, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The School Board voted Tuesday to bring some of Poquoson's youngest students back to school buildings starting Sept. 8, putting the city in rare company in eastern Virginia. Almost every district in Hampton Roads, including all of Poquoson's neighboring districts, has elected to start the year virtually.

Stafford residents fed up with poor mail delivery

By JAMES BARON, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

After five days of waiting, Brenda Murray finally got mail delivered to her home last Friday. "It was not as much as I expected," Murray said. "And I tell you, we usually get tons of mail every day." Murray, like other residents in southern Stafford County, has experienced a lag, or in some cases, a total lack of mail over the last week or so.

Snow days the latest victim of COVID-19

By BRIAN BREHM, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Brace yourselves for some bad news, kids: There will be no snow days this year in Clarke County Public Schools. In fact, it's possible that snow days for schools throughout the commonwealth could vanish, possibly forever. Blame it on COVID-19. Starting in March, the novel coronavirus forced schools statewide to switch to an online learning model to complete the 2019-20 school year. Now, it's wreaking havoc with the 2020-21 school calendar, as school divisions across the state struggle with offering in-person classes, online instruction or a combination of the two when schools reopen in the fall.

Luray Town Council Censures Mayor Over 'Aunt Jemima' Post

By REBECCA ARMSTRONG, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Mayor Barry Presgraves was formally reprimanded by his colleagues Monday night following a 90-minute meeting that drew more than 30 speakers, most calling for his resignation. In a 5-to-1 vote, Luray Town Council voted to censure Presgraves for an Aug. 2 post to his personal Facebook page that read "Joe Biden has just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick."

Roanoke schools will be online only for most students for first quarter

By CLAIRE MITZEL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Roanoke City Public Schools will be online only for the majority of students through the first nine weeks of the 2020–21 school year. The Roanoke School Board voted 6-1 late Tuesday to approve the district's recommended phased reopening plan, following a four-hour meeting including two hours of rigorous questioning and discussion.

Salem schools modify reopening plans

By RALPH BERRIER JR., Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Salem schools will use a "soft opening" when classes resume later this month. All students who opt for in-person attendance will be in school one day a week, rather than two, for the first two weeks after schools open Aug. 31. Assistant Superintendent Curtis Hicks told the school board during a Tuesday work session that the district decided to reduce the number of in-person days after following guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health.

Roanoke County public safety employees to receive hazard pay

By ALISON GRAHAM, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Roanoke County has allocated more than $1.4 million to provide employees with hazard pay and bonuses after cutting salary increases from the fiscal year 2021 budget. The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize the additional pay. Most of the funding comes from the county's share of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which Congress passed in March to help state and local governments pay for COVID-19 related expenses.

Dan River Region school administrators commit to swift notification of positive tests once in-person learning resumes

By PARKER COTTON, Danville Register & Bee

Among the many contingencies that school districts must plan for in the coming school year is the response to a student testing positive for COVID-19 once in-person instruction resumes. That scenario is viewed by some as an inevitability, but school leaders across Danville and in Pittsylvania County believe in a forthright reporting process that alerts parents and the wider school community as soon as they learn of a positive case.



5 lessons from Falwell's departure from Liberty

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

There is much that can be said about Jerry Falwell Jr.'s abrupt and indefinite departure from the presidency of Liberty University, surely far more than the 47 words in the university's terse formal announcement late Friday afternoon. This being 2020, a lot of those things got said pretty instantaneously on social media.

Long Bridge is still a good investment

Free Lance-Star Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

The good news is that the coronavirus pandemic has not derailed one of the region's most important transit projects: the construction of a second Long Bridge over the Potomac River reserved exclusively for Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express passenger trains. The bad news is that due to revenue shortfalls directly related to the pandemic, the $3.7 billion, 10-year project may be significantly delayed.

Include developmentally disabled Virginians in COVID relief measures

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

Group homes for adults with developmental disabilities are struggling to survive as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to wipe out their already inadequate financial resources. Their plight, and their frustration with Richmond's unresponsiveness, serve as a reminder that lawmakers have a daunting challenge ahead of them next week, and that protecting our must vulnerable residents remains elected officials' most important charge.

Richmond should help businesses damaged during protests

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Six months ago, downtown Richmond was bustling. Restaurants were full and sidewalks were crowded. The stretch of Broad and surrounding streets was lined with open storefronts with such offerings as shops, galleries and theaters. In a diverse economy, a cross-section of small businesses brought even more people into RVA, providing a multitude of fulfilling, competitive jobs.


Skaff: Police legislation endangers lives

By WILLIAM SKAFF, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Open Letter to the Virginia General Assembly: I respectfully ask that you vote against prospective State of Virginia legislation that will (1) decrease state funding for local police departments and (2) substantially curtail the ability of police to do their job. The first will result in fewer police on the job or reductions in training and equipment and the second in limiting tactics and protections that will prevent police from engaging promptly and effectively.

Skaff is a retired director of policy analysis for a policy organization in Washington, D.C. He lives in Roanoke County.

Hess: VEC is providing a helping hand to jobless

By ELLEN MARIE HESS, published in Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Six months ago, the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic would have been unimaginable. Today, nearly everyone has been touched in some way by the crisis, and the last thing anyone needs is something else to worry about. For the more than 1 in 5 working Virginians affected by the pandemic, the need for unemployment benefits has never been greater.

Ellen Marie Hess is commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission.

Locke: Virginia Democrats propose sweeping justice reform agenda

By SEN. MAMIE LOCKE, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have given Americans the full picture of the far-reaching problems with policing in America — primarily, the policing of people of color. Many of us are all too familiar with the obstacles and racial disparities of the justice system. The stories of violence against people of color are dominating the news cycle, social media and, for some, the conversations that we have with family and friends.

Locke represents the 2nd District, which includes parts of Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth and York County.

Brabble, Ludwig and Ewing: Wearing a mask in Virginia — historical lessons from 1918

By JESSICA BRABBLE, ARIEL LUDWIG AND E. THOMAS EWING, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

In October 1918, Virginia's first lady, Marguerite Inman Davis, worked as a volunteer nurse fighting the flu in an emergency hospital in Richmond. A photograph published in the Roanoke World-News on Oct. 19, 1918, and republished widely across the United States, depicted Davis "wearing a mask to protect herself from the disease germs." This historical example is relevant today as Virginians deal with requirements to wear face coverings in public for the first time in more than a century.

Brabble is a second-year graduate student in history at Virginia Tech. E. Thomas Ewing is a professor of history at Virginia Tech. Ludwig recently received her doctoral degree in Science and Technology in Society (STS) from Virginia Tech.

Warner: Can summer camps survive?

By ANN M. WARNER, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

...While camps have been able to weather world wars, the Great Depression and even other pandemics, COVID-19 has presented unique challenges that are a direct threat to the continued existence of summer camps. Without diminishing the hardships visited on so many businesses, overnight camps in Virginia have been uniquely and profoundly affected, perhaps more so than any other industry in the state. First, we are the only trade that specifically has been prohibited from operating, regardless of reopening phase.

Warner is owner and director of Camp Mont Shenandoah in Millboro Springs.

Robinson: After the statues come down, let's build a more equitable society

By DAWONE ROBINSON, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

The fall of the Confederate statues reminds us that no nation forever can be shackled to symbols that defy its values, subvert its purpose, and cause its people anguish and pain. Removing these statues, though, also creates an opportunity, and focuses us on what we must do to build a just and equitable society. Part of the answer must be to confront the ways systemic racism has put Black people on the front lines of environmental hazard and harm far too often, and for far too long.

Robinson is the northeast/mid-Atlantic director of energy affordability at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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Virginia Public Access Project · P.O. Box 1472 · Richmond, VA 23218 · USA

Monday, August 10, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

August 10, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia's gun-control debate shifts to newly empowered localities

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

At a virtual Alexandria City Council meeting in June, a state legislator explained why he signed onto a new state law giving local officials the authority to ban guns in some public spaces. Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, recounted how Richmond-area gun enthusiasts made a point of walking around Alexandria's Old Town Farmer's Market last fall with rifles, alarming some vendors and shoppers.

Interest in 2020 elections is high and voting options plentiful in 'Historic Triangle'

By MARTY O'BRIEN, Virginia Gazette (Metered Paywall - 4 Articles per Month)

If you think discussions about the 2020 election are intense around your dinner table, try taking some of the phone calls Dianna Moorman is getting. Moorman, James City County's director of elections, says that numerous voters have complained angrily that there is no sample ballot on the county website. Never mind that President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence haven't formally been renominated yet, or that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden hasn't even announced his running mate.

Newport News shipyard offers unpaid leave for parents trying to arrange care for children

By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

With almost all area public schools opting for an online reopening, the Peninsula's biggest employer has decided to offer parents one month of unpaid leave in September to make arrangements for their kids. Newport News Shipbuilding is offering leave to parents with children who are younger than 15 or have special needs.

Albemarle safety ambassadors begin work this week

By ALLISON WRABEL, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Albemarle County's COVID-19 safety ambassadors will start visiting local businesses this week to make sure they understand the county's new regulations to help stem the virus's spread. The Board of Supervisors in July passed an ordinance that makes masks mandatory in public, limits restaurants to 50% occupancy indoors and restricts certain public and private in-person gatherings to a maximum of 50 people.

No clear rules on telling parents about COVID cases in schools

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

If your child's classmate becomes infected with the coronavirus, you will not be notified by the health department unless the sick child was closer than 6 feet to your son or daughter for more than 15 minutes. Dr. Molly O'Dell, who is leading the pandemic response for the Roanoke and Alleghany Health Districts, said schools are supposed to develop plans that allow each child, teacher and staffer to spend the day in a 6-foot bubble.

After Falwell Stumbles, His Hometown Sees a Leader in Need of Redemption

By AISHVARYA KAVI AND RICK ROJAS, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

At the Tree of Life Ministries, down the road from Liberty University, the senior pastor, Mike Dodson, did not have to look very far for sermon material about sin, redemption and what's expected of a Christian. "You have watched one of the most influential leaders of this city, of the country and the world, the Christian community, go down," Mr. Dodson said, bent with passion. "The Christian community is being laughed at."

Virginia ABC had its first cyber sale during the pandemic; its website crashed before the day was done

By JOHANNA ALONSO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority had one of its regular 20%-off "cyber sales" last week — its first during the COVID-19 pandemic — and the website for state-run alcohol monopoly crashed before the day was done. Ah, pandemic times. The sale — ABC's first "Summer Cyber sale" — took place Wednesday from midnight to 11:59 p.m. By 5 p.m., the liquor authority had to shut it down.

The Full Report
61 articles, 25 publications


VPAP Visual Line Forming for Mail Ballots

The Virginia Public Access Project

Early voting in Virginia doesn't begin until mid-September, but many voters already have requested an absentee ballot by mail. In the congressional district that includes Arlington County and Alexandria, the number of mail applications already exceeds the final total during the last presidential election. The numbers from the Virginia Department of Elections were updated overnight.

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.


Lawmakers Split on Proposal to Allow Citizens to Sue Police For Misconduct


As lawmakers finalize criminal justice reform proposals for the upcoming special session, Virginia Democrats appear divided over whether the Commonwealth should do away with qualified immunity. The protection bars the public from suing law enforcement officers for alleged misconduct when their actions fall short of criminal prosecution.

Democratic Legislators Call For Another Mountain Valley Pipeline Delay


A group of Virginia legislators has sent an open letter to Gov. Ralph Northam and state health officials requesting a further halt on construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the project's parent company, Equitrans Midstream Corporation, the 303-mile pipeline is 91% complete. But a federal stop-work order for environmental violations has delayed progress for months.


Wiley wins Republican nomination for 29th District House of Delegates race

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

Winchester City Councilor Bill Wiley on Saturday won the Republican nomination to run for the 29th District House of Delegates seat in the Nov. 3 general election. Wiley secured the nomination with 969 votes to Richard Traczyk's 301 votes during a firehouse primary held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Millwood Station Banquet Hall in Frederick County.


Danville, Pittsylvania County registrars preparing for onslaught of early voting, absentee ballots

By CALEB AYERS, Danville Register & Bee

Between sweeping changes in election laws and measures instituted to slow the spread of COVID-19, the upcoming general election in November will be different than years past, and the local registrars are already preparing for it. "We're going to have 45 days' worth of elections," said Pittsylvania County Registrar Kelly Keesee said. Added Danville Registrar Peggy Petty: "We don't know exactly what to expect. We've got the new law plus the pandemic. It's just buckle up and hang on."

Ballot forms 'created vast confusion'

By TRACY AGNEW, Suffolk News Herald

The Suffolk voter registrar says a recent mailing from a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit has caused confusion for local voters, but that they can use the mail-in ballot request forms if all the information pre-printed on them is correct. Susan Saunders, Suffolk's voter registrar, said she and her staff have answered a lot of phone calls about the forms, many of which arrived in local mailboxes Aug. 6-7.

Gooden: Third-Party Absentee Applications Valid

By JESSICA WETZLER, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Residents across the state have received mailed-in absentee ballot applications, but not from the Virginia Department of Elections or local registrar offices. Instead, a third-party organization called the Center for Voter Information has been flooding mailboxes and raising questions with registered voters. Lisa Gooden, director of elections for Rockingham County, said Friday the phone at the office has been ringing with people asking about the mail they received.


States on hook for billions under Trump's unemployment plan

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

Whether President Donald Trump has the constitutional authority to extend federal unemployment benefits by executive order remains unclear. Equally up in the air is whether states, which are necessary partners in Trump's plan to bypass Congress, will sign on. Trump announced an executive order Saturday that extends additional unemployment payments of $400 a week to help cushion the economic fallout of the pandemic.

'Skill machines' get stay of execution to raise funds for COVID-19 relief

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

As skill machines return to Charlottesville, thousands of machines across the Commonwealth are raising millions of dollars for COVID-19 relief, including 100 at a single Downtown Mall location. The proliferation of the machines follows a decision by Gov. Ralph Northam to allow the machines to legally operate in the commonwealth for a year.


Battle lines forming over Appalachian Power's bid to increase rates

By LAURENCE HAMMACK, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A legal battle is brewing over a proposed rate increase that would boost the bills of Appalachian Power Co.'s residential customers by 6.5%. In deciding whether to approve the request, the State Corporation Commission must navigate new laws on utility regulation while considering questions and objections from businesses, environmental groups, advocates for low-income customers and others.


Major NoVa projects stay on track as questions linger about pandemic commuting

By JARED FORETEK, Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

Northern Virginia transportation officials painted an uncertain picture of what the region's mobility tendencies will look like in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but reasserted their commitment to a number of big-ticket projects whose fates could be complicated by falling state and local revenues.


At UVa-Wise, students see disparity in handling of COVID-19 tests

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

Two days before students at University of Virginia's College at Wise were to begin arriving on campus, the college announced it would delay classes by two weeks. And another surprise: All students would get at-home COVID-19 test kits before returning. While the college's parent University of Virginia promised tests for its Charlottesville students back in July, the announcement on Monday was the first time roughly 1,400 UVa-Wise students learned they, too, would be required to test negative for COVID-19 before arriving on campus.

JMU suspends fall football season, looks to explore spring options

The Breeze

On Friday, Assistant Athletics Director of Communications Kevin Warner announced that JMU had postponed its fall sports season and is open to the idea of playing in the spring. This announcement comes after more than 50% of FCS schools suspended their fall seasons, and major conferences such as the Big Sky and the Pioneer league are opting out of fall football. It also comes before the expected announcement that FCS football will be moved to the spring.

W&M launches daily health app

By ALEX PERRY, Virginia Gazette (Metered Paywall - 4 Articles per Month)

More information was released this week on the technology, data and other resources that will guide the College of William & Mary through the COVID-19 pandemic this fall as students return to campus. The college announced its new "Daily Health Check" application on Wednesday, which students and faculty will use to monitor their physical health. This will be on the university's mobile application and website as part of its Healthy Together module.


Virginia's coronavirus case total tops 100,000

By PETER COUTU, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health reported 897 new coronavirus cases Sunday, bringing the state's tally to 100,086. At least 2,326 Virginians have died from the virus as of Sunday morning, up four from Saturday.

Tiny Galax becomes the epicenter of COVID-19 in Virginia

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

Measured on a per capita basis, Galax, population about 6,500 and slipping, by far, would be the epicenter of COVID-19 in Virginia. It has lost more of its residents to the coronavirus than elsewhere in Virginia. As of Sunday, 347 of its residents have tested positive. Two of its nursing homes have dealt with widespread infections. And so far, 24 people have died, a count that rose again by two this past week.

With 73 new COVID-19 cases, Pittsylvania-Danville Health District sets record

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

The Pittsylvania-Danville Health District set another record for the most reported COVID-19 cases in a single day. The Virginia Department of Health reported 73 new cases in Danville and Pittsylvania County as of Sunday morning. Ten were in Danville and 63 were in Pittsylvania County, according to health department figures.

Virginia's nursing homes prepare for sweeping new testing requirement

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

The news release raised more questions than it answered. On July 22, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced "new resources" to help nursing homes combat the ongoing spread of COVID-19. Between the announcement of an additional $5 billion in funding and plans to deliver rapid antigen tests to facilities, CMS made an unexpected declaration: All nursing homes in states with a percent positivity rate of 5 percent or higher would be required to conduct weekly testing of all staff members.

Loudoun County health director urges continued caution into fall, winter


Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Loudoun County Health Department, spoke with the Times-Mirror on Monday about the county's ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are some key takeaways. As of Aug. 8, Loudoun had 5,254 confirmed COVID-19 cases, an increase in 240 cases from one week earlier. The local death toll related to the virus stood at 115, a three-death increase from July 29. The most recent figure for percent positivity in testing was 6.4 percent, a gradual uptick from the previous few days.

An early indicator of where the coronavirus will strike next? In Hampton Roads, it could be your wastewater.

By MARIE ALBIGES, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A week before the Virginia Department of Health reported a spike in coronavirus cases coming from Hampton Roads at the beginning of the summer, the increase was being detected not through nose swabs, but in our pipes and sewers. Jim Pletl, the water quality director at the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, saw genetic material from the virus surge in the wastewater being produced by hundreds of thousands of Virginians when he analyzed samples from the utility company's nine plants.

Parents of disabled children at Norfolk's St. Mary's Home say they were unable to visit for months

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

For the past six years, Crystal Ton has spent just about every day at St. Mary's Home for Disabled Children in Norfolk, visiting her son, Jackson. Jackson, 13, has complicated cerebral palsy and a host of corresponding medical issues, Ton said. He can't speak — he communicates through an eye gaze device — and is fed through a gastronomy tube.


Spotted Laternflies Descend Upon Winchester

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

Just because something is pretty doesn't mean you want it around. Such is the case with the spotted lanternfly. With its yellow and black body, and its red, white and black wings and dark spots, it's eye-catching. "Unfortunately, these are beautiful insects," said Mark Sutphin, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agriculture and natural resources horticulture agent based in Frederick County. But this invasive species is destructive to trees, crops and other plantings.

The Black, Millennial Mayor Who Tore Down His City's White Monuments


At noon on June 2, more than a thousand people thronged the plaza outside City Hall to hold the young mayor to account. The night before, protesters had gathered in front of an equestrian statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the city's famous Monument Avenue, demanding that it come down. . . . Police officers had responded with tear gas, claiming the demonstrators were violent, and now the people gathered in front of City Hall blamed the mayor, Levar Marcus Stoney, for an assault they saw as unprovoked.

Cuccinelli: Some protesters are terrorists

By EVAN GOODENOW, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security says some people peacefully protesting police brutality are aiding violent protesters who he accused of "terrorism" and trying to overthrow the U.S. government. "Let's not kid ourselves, some of those peaceful protesters are the shield. You don't show up at a protest with an umbrella to hide people behind you if you're going to be peaceful," Kenneth T. Cuccinelli told about 150 people at a police appreciation picnic in Chet Hobert Park on Saturday. "Maybe you intend to be peaceful but aid and abet violence."

A press association dedicated a plaque to a journalist who supported slavery. Now it wants it removed.

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

In the 19th century, John Mitchel advocated for Irish freedom in his native land, escaped from a British prison, fled to America and soon became a high-profile advocate for slavery — writing for Richmond-based newspapers during the Civil War. That last part is why a plaque remembering him hangs at Fort Monroe, where he was locked up after the war ended in 1865 — the same time as former Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Police pull out of 'Conversations at the Monument' appearance

By EDUARDO ACEVEDO, Commonwealth Times

Richmond residents, local elected officials and community organizers gathered on the medians around Marcus-David Peters Circle on Saturday afternoon to discuss citywide issues, including public safety and criminal justice, mental health and healthcare, housing, and education. . . . VPM reported Friday that Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith and Richmond Sheriff Antoinette Irving were slated to take part in the event. The officials did not attend due to a water balloon fight scheduled at the same time within MDP Circle, according to a tweet by the Richmond Police Department.

'Conversations at the Monument' vows to bridge disconnect between community and officials

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

On Saturday afternoon, the grounds around the Robert E. Lee statue shifted into a different type of community gathering than it's seen in the past 72 days, where the state barred entry after sunset, police launched chemical agents and flash bangs, officers arrested protesters and tore down tents and people began calling the area Marcus-David Peters Circle. The event, Conversations at the Monument, was a push for unity — an attempt to bridge the disconnect between decision makers and the people they're supposed to serve.


Released prisoner accused of raping, killing Virginia woman has died

By TOM JACKMAN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

A man accused of murdering an Alexandria woman, who had accused him of sexually assaulting her last fall, died Saturday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound that occurred as police tried to arrest him again on Wednesday. The man's family issued a statement Saturday night saying they were grieving the loss of both lives. Ibrahim E. Bouaichi, 33, had reportedly been in a relationship with Karla E. Dominguez, 31, before an allegedly violent incident in Dominguez's Alexandria apartment on Oct. 10.

Virginia Beach tourists, city officials react to scathing column about mask wearing at the Oceanfront

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

On a slightly overcast August morning during a pandemic, the Virginia Beach Boardwalk is only mildly crowded. Couples from out of town stroll leisurely down one side of the 3-mile path. Families with young children dart across it on their way to the beach. Runners wipe sweat from their foreheads while mentally tallying the blocks behind them. Very few people are wearing masks. A similar scene was the subject of a recent travel column on And it wasn't flattering.

Renovations to Virginia Beach building where mass shooting took place have stalled

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

Renovations to the Virginia Beach building where a mass shooting took place last year have been delayed. Due to the pandemic, city officials don't have enough money to pay for it right now. In a letter this week, the mayor of Virginia Beach asked the General Assembly to consider allocating $10 million toward the renovations of Building 2.

Gloucester sales tax vote could be precursor for broader changes across Virginia

By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Gloucester County supervisors took some first steps this week toward raising tax revenue, authorizing a referendum on a local sales tax to fund school construction, signaling an emerging trend in how Virginians pay for big public projects. The supervisors also voted to delay next year's real estate reassessment by a year, in part to give real estate prices time to recover from the shock of the pandemic.

Surry solar firm setting up wi-fi hotspots to help bridge digital divide

By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

sPower, a solar energy firm hoping to develop a 240-megawatt project in Surry County, is helping the county schools set up 10 Wi-Fi hot spots. Surry school officials believe that as many as 70% of students don't have access to reliable online service. That's become a major worry as they work on final plans for the 2020-2021 school year.

Area school divisions working to provide strong internet service to students

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

The Albemarle County school division has redefined internet access as it prepares to start the school year mostly online. The division is focusing efforts on ensuring students have internet capable of streaming video and audio at the same time, which will be required for virtual learning and online classes that will be taught live. Those who don't have that level of internet service will have the option to go inside school buildings for online classes.

Educators try to fill void of digital divide as schools prepare to reopen

By CLAIRE MITZEL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Three-tenths of a mile. That's how far the Harless family is from reliable broadband in northern Roanoke County. "Comcast runs, I think, the first 10 or 15 houses down the road," Bobby Harless said. "And then after that, it's nothing." Harless lives near Hanging Rock, one of the pockets in Roanoke County where portions of residents report poor broadband access.

Blacksburg proposes stricter gathering limits, midnight curfew for restaurants

By YANN RANAIVO, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Town officials are proposing measures that would scale back some reopening plans and aim to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among Virginia Tech students. The Town Council has been asked to approve an emergency ordinance that would generally limit public and private gatherings to no more than 50 people and require that food and drinking establishments not remain open to the public after midnight.

Questions, doubts linger over Montgomery County school year

By YANN RANAIVO, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

When it came time for the routine Montgomery County School Board reports during a meeting last week, Sue Kass decided to read out loud a series of messages sent to her about the upcoming Sept. 8 reopening. The correspondences included concerns about COVID-19's potentially fatal consequences and whether new measures such as required spacing between students and increased sanitation practices will be effective in containing the spread of the virus in the schools.

100 Attend Peaceful Protest Calling For Luray Mayor To Resign

By IAN MUNRO, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

In 1944, Audrey Tutt Smith of Luray attended her first day of school at the age of 6. On Saturday, over 75 years later, Smith stood waiting outside the old schoolhouse-turned-community center for a protest calling for Mayor Barry Presgraves' resignation to begin. "Who would have thought how many years later, we're back in the same place," Smith, 81, said.

March against Presgraves also serves as political rally for Luray Council Member Pence

By RANDY ARRINGTON, Page Valley News

While the venue and much of the message on Saturday mirrored two prayer vigils held in early June — this one had a different feel; as well as its share of unique circumstances. The crowd was smaller than expected, and yet, about the same as the two gatherings at the West Luray Rec Center two months ago. The racially-mixed crowd heard speeches and sang songs; people held signs, chanted and marched. The overriding theme has always been racial equality, but recent events have sharpened the focus.

Amid furor from mayor's racist post, lifelong Black resident on slow change in Luray


Fred Veney is a member of a small club — he's one of 236 Black residents who call Luray, Virginia, home. The historic town of Luray, which sits just across Virginia Route 340 from the popular tourist attraction Luray Caverns, is in the midst of a flurry of unwanted scrutiny, after a Facebook post by longtime Mayor Barry Presgraves. In the post, he joked, "Joe Biden has just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick."

Creative child care options arising for Pittsylvania County students

By CALEB AYERS, Danville Register & Bee

Under the hybrid reopening plan for Pittsylvania County Schools, one of the biggest difficulties that has arisen is child care. Grades K-three will attend in-person classes four days a week, but grades four-12 only have two days of in-person instruction every week. Superintendent Mark Jones acknowledged this leaves working parents, especially those with upper elementary and early middle school students who would require some level of adult supervision, in a difficult position.

Local schools work to provide internet access for all students

By ROBERT SORRELL, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

Local school districts in Southwest Virginia — which plan to offer both in-school and virtual school programs this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic — are working to provide internet access for all students. Earlier this summer, parents in Smyth County were surveyed to determine the number of students who do not have internet access, according to Dennis Carter, the county's school superintendent. The district found that about 7% of the student population does not have access.

Casino mailer arrives in city mailboxes

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

A colorful four-page flyer extolling the benefits of the proposed Hard Rock Bristol Hotel and Casino arrived in city mailboxes this week. It represents one of the first steps of the effort to convince city voters to approve the casino question that will appear on voting ballots this fall.



Trump pledged to bring back coal. He didn't.

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

Four years ago today, then-candidate Donald Trump campaigned in Abingdon. With coal miners in hard hats behind him, many holding signs that read "Trump Digs Coal," Trump promised to revive the Appalachian coalfields if he became president. "We are going to put the miners back to work," he declared.

Transportation center takes shape at last in Newport News

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

It's been a long time coming, but the recent groundbreaking ceremony for the new transportation hub in Newport News is good news not only for that city but also for the entire Peninsula region. With the groundbreaking, the project, already 10 years in the making, finally looks as though it will become reality.

Public is still owed facts about police in 2017

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

The judge says to the state police: You didn't fully follow the law. The police reply: Oh, yes we did. And so the argument continues unresolved — years after a lawsuit was filed contending that the Virginia State Police should release its plan for handling 2017's deadly rally in Charlottesville and subsequent arguments were made that the plan was overly redacted upon release, thus denying the public a chance to determine what went wrong in that disaster.

Why are so many school board members elected unopposed?

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

The controversy over whether and how schools should reopen during a pandemic misses one curious thing: Most of the school board members making this decision — perhaps the most important of their lifetimes — were elected without any opposition. Let's start in Roanoke County, where the decision has generated perhaps the most controversy: Every single member of the current five-member school board was elected unopposed in their most recent election.

Beach plan could be model for reopening Virginia schools

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

School officials across the commonwealth struggled with how to restart schools safely in the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly all reached the same conclusion, that beginning the year with online instruction was the best way to protect public health. In Virginia Beach, however, school leaders adopted a plan that sets clear guidelines to welcome students back to the classroom — a blueprint that could well be a model for other systems in Virginia and across the country.

As we confront school realities for the fall, we must adapt with grace

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

For the first time in living memory, Virginia students will be starting the year on very different footings. The first day of school will be in the classroom for some and at home for others. A map created by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) shows the diversity of reopening approaches across the commonwealth. Dozens of school divisions are starting with virtual learning, while others have some hybrid mix of in-person and remote classes.

Who should Lynchburg be named for?

News & Advance Editorial (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

An online petition surfaced this summer calling for Lynchburg to change its name, arguing the name is reminiscent of the verb for the death sentence carried out by angry mobs in white cloaks during the Civil Rights era. The petition gained a little more than 5,700 signatures, and the attention of Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., who called the name an "embarrassment."


Vargas: With new app, Virginians could help contain virus cases. Will they succeed?

By THERESA VARGAS, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

In February, back when we could still stand next to each other as we waited to use the office Keurig and hold doors open for strangers without worrying if they might brush against us, I found myself talking on the phone to an American who was in China. Coronavirus cases were raging in that nation, and the person sounded unworried. "It's actually quite incredible," he told me. "I am required to wear a mask. People take their temperatures three times a day. There is no one on the streets. It's incredible to see a country come together like this to protect their fellow citizens."


Berger: Make health care pricing more transparent

By KEITH BERGER, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

If you have ever tried to find out ahead of time how much a medical procedure would cost you and couldn't get a straight answer, or have been unpleasantly surprised by a medical bill, welcome to health care in America. In this advanced day, when retail giants such as Amazon can tell you the prices of just about everything before you buy, you would think consumers could get the same information about medical services. In every other industry we can find out the price of a product or service before we buy it, so why not in health care?

Dr. Keith Berger is a practicing gastroenterologist in Virginia Beach and a member of the Association of Independent Doctors.

Parnell: Voting compact would serve Virginians badly

By SEAN PARNELL, published in Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Imagine Virginia's U.S. senators announcing a plan to ignore Virginia's interests and instead casting their votes based on national public opinion polls, supporting whatever a majority or plurality of the country wanted. Most, if not all residents of the Old Dominion would be outraged over effectively losing their representation in the Senate. While this scenario is absurd, something like it is being considered in the Virginia legislature regarding our state's electoral votes for president.

Parnell is senior legislative director of Save Our States, an organization dedicated to defending the Electoral College. He lives in Alexandria.

Abraham: My coronavirus lightbulb moment

By MICHAEL ABRAHAM, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

It was a conversation I'll never forget. I was riding shotgun in Margie Lee's van as she drove us to Greensboro on a cold day in early February to pick up her new motorcycle. She's my frequent riding partner, an avid sport-bike rider with a penchant for fine wines and exotic Italian machines. Her day job is professor and department head at Virginia Tech's Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and she has a string of academic letters following her name.

Abraham is Owner/Manager of The Threshold Center. in Christiansburg and author of books, articles and essays from the central Appalachians.

Cline: New trade deal is critical for economy

By BEN CLINE, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Last month, the long-awaited United States-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA) finally went into effect. Negotiated by President Trump to replace the antiquated NAFTA trade agreement, the USMCA will be a critical program for our country. The agreement has the potential to raise our GDP by $235 billion, and add close to 600,000 jobs across the nation, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. In key industries here locally and across the country, the USMCA will be a massive success for our American manufacturers.

Cline represents the 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a Republican from Botetourt County.

Miyares: Time to fix a broken system

By JASON MIYARES, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Do you trust politicians to do what's right? If you're like the vast majority of Virginia voters, the answer is likely a resigned 'no.' Democrats and Republicans spend so much time fighting each other to score points that they seldom compromise and do the right thing. And for the most part, there's nothing the average citizen can do about it. Until now, that is.

Miyares represents part of Virginia Beach in the House of Delegates. He is a Republican.

Crawley: Thomas Jefferson: Paragon of democracy or racist hypocrite?

By WILLIAM B. CRAWLEY, published in Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

In recent years, as biographers have reinterpreted the lives of significant historical figures, there has been a tendency toward denigrating the reputations of a number of previously hallowed individuals. In this process—referred to, sometimes derisively, as "revisionism"—perhaps no figure in American history has suffered a greater decline in stature than Thomas Jefferson.

William B. Crawley is professor emeritus of history at the University of Mary Washington, and is the founding director of the Crawley Great Lives Series.

Morse: Virginia colleges face prospect of financial ruin due to pandemic

By GORDON C. MORSE, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

It's upon us: Virginia higher education's well-considered, carefully planned, but essentially faith-based leap into the virus-defined fall semester. We may know the outcome quickly. One major state university has told its students to pack only for two or three weeks. Such are the uncertainties involved.

Morse began his writing career with the Daily Press editorial page in 1983, then moved across the water to write opinion for The Virginian-Pilot. He later joined the administration of Gerald L. Baliles as the governor's speechwriter and special assistant.

Askew: When storms strike, communities of color face greater risks

By DEL. ALEX ASKEW, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Adding another crisis scenario to the mix of events right now in our country seems unthinkable. More than 159,000 American lives have been lost to COVID-19. Decades after the Civil Rights Act, somehow, there are still people who don't recognize the sanctity of Black lives. While there are good people of all races working together to cure the coronavirus and root out systemic racism, data and science and facts tell the unfortunate and unfair story of how people of color continue to bear a disproportionate share of so many of today's burdens — including the impacts of severe weather and hurricanes.

Del. Alex Askew represents the 85th House District in Virginia Beach.

Oliver: Virginia launches COVIDWISE app

By M. NORMAN OLIVER, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Virginia is launching a new smartphone app that can alert you when you've been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The app is named COVIDWISE, and it is a major addition to the public health tools we are using to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia. The app was developed through an unprecedented partnership between tech giants Google and Apple, and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

M. Norman Oliver, M.D., is Virginia's state health commissioner.

Stoney: Virginia's localities finally get to take action on gun violence

By LEVAR M. STONEY, published in Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

July 1 was a historic day in Virginia. Common-sense gun-safety laws went into effect, and local officials across Virginia are all better equipped to protect our communities. Included in the slate of gun-safety legislation signed by the governor in April is a law that empowers local officials to keep guns out of places they shouldn't be. It's our responsibility as public servants to take action and push for measures that will keep our cities, towns and counties safe from gun violence.

Levar M. Stoney, a Democrat, is the mayor of Richmond.

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