Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

September 23, 2020
Top of the News

Bill to end mandatory jail time for assaults on police fails

By DENISE LAVOIE, Associated Press

Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday killed legislation that called for eliminating mandatory jail time for assaulting a police officer, a bill that drew heated opposition from Republicans who said it would send the wrong message at a time when law enforcement has come under attack during nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice. The bill proposed by Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell passed the Senate last month, but was rejected Tuesday after several Democrats on the House Courts of Justice Committee raised concerns about how certain terms were defined in the bill and whether juveniles should be exempted from the charge.


House committee kills two Senate bills that would have required greater Parole Board transparency

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

In a party-line vote, the Virginia House of Delegates' Courts of Justice committee effectively killed two Senate bills that would have required greater transparency of decisions made by the Virginia Parole Board, which has come under intense scrutiny in recent months for the controversial release of convicted killers.


Legislator who tested positive for coronavirus warned his church, but House colleagues say they weren't informed

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

The day after Thomas C. Wright Jr. tested positive for the novel coronavirus, his office sent an email to Victoria Christian Church, warning fellow worshipers that the Republican state legislator from Lunenburg might have unwittingly exposed them. "Because he was in church this past Sunday, he felt it necessary to inform you of his positive test results," Wright's legislative assistant, Tammy Brankley Mulchi, wrote on Aug. 26.


Officials: Most new virus cases occur when people relax precautions to be near others

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

Six months into the pandemic, people are craving time with others and are placing themselves at risk of getting the coronavirus. Dr. Molly O'Dell, who is leading the pandemic response for the Roanoke and Alleghany Health Districts, said most new cases can be traced to weddings, funerals, baby showers, parties and co-workers dropping their guard. "By and large people are getting exhausted from COVID behaviors. People are just tired of this, from the constraints. There is no question about that," O'Dell said Tuesday during her weekly update with the media.


U.Va. restricts gatherings to five people, prohibits travel and visitors for next two weeks

By EVA SUROVELL, Cavalier Daily

University President Jim Ryan announced further restrictions for students, faculty and staff living both on and off Grounds in the Charlottesville-Albemarle region in a University-wide email sent Tuesday. The guidelines — which go into effect Wednesday — prohibit gatherings of more than five people, reinforce constant use of face coverings and ban travel and visitors for at least the next two weeks. "Over the last few days, we've become more concerned about the spread of COVID-19 within the U.Va. community," Ryan said in the video message.


Trump schedules rally in Virginia to reach rural North Carolina

By ALEX ISENSTADT, Politico

President Donald Trump is slated to hold a Friday evening rally in Virginia — but the trip is really about the next state over. Advisers say the idea behind Trump's event in Newport News at the end of the week is to woo voters in neighboring North Carolina, a key battleground where absentee balloting has begun.


A Virginia City's Playbook for Urban Renewal: Move Out the Poor

By CALEB MELBY, Bloomberg News

The contours of inequality in Norfolk, Va., a city of 240,000-plus people at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, are clearly visible from atop the 26-story Dominion Tower. The tallest building in town houses its economic development office, a choice spot for officials to show off their city and to encourage visitors to envision its future. Look west, and you see a 300-room Hilton, a hockey arena, corporate offices for PNC Financial and payment processor ADP, restaurants and bars, a light rail station, and a one-million-square-foot mall. To the east is St. Paul's, a 200-acre area north of the Elizabeth River that's home to three public housing developments dating from the 1950s.

The Full Report
45 articles, 17 publications

FROM VPAP

VPAP Visual In August, Biden Outraised Trump 4:1

The Virginia Public Access Project

Last month, Biden raised almost $4M in Virginia, four times the amount Trump reported. Caveat: Trump's total may be under-counted because of a joint fundraising agreement with the Trump Make America Great Again PAC, which files its next quarterly report in October.


From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

Our COVID-19 dashboard makes it easy to track the latest available data for tests performed, infections, deaths and hospital capacity. There's a filter for each city and county, plus an exclusive per-capita ZIP Code map. Updated each morning around 10:30 a.m.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Northam proposes saving colleges $300 million by restructuring higher education debt

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

Gov. Ralph Northam is throwing a lifeline to Virginia's public colleges and universities, which would save $300 million over the next two years through the proposed restructuring of their debt for capital projects as they struggle with the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Northam unveiled the plan at George Mason University on Tuesday.


With costs up and revenue down for public colleges during coronavirus, one governor has a plan: Refinance

By SUSAN SVRLUGA, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam offered relief to public colleges and universities in the state Tuesday with a refinancing plan that could save the institutions more than $300 million over the next two years. With colleges across the country battered by the increased cost of operating during a pandemic, public schools in particular are bracing for government funding cuts that could further damage their finances. By using the state's AAA bond rating to obtain favorable interest rates, Virginia is using an innovative approach to helping to ease the strain.


State refinancing plan could save Virginia Tech $40 million, Radford University $5 million

By SAM WALL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Gov. Ralph Northam unveiled a plan Tuesday that will allow the state's public universities to potentially save more than $300 million over the next two years. Northam announced the plan from George Mason University in Fairfax. It will allow the state to refinance education bonds due to the record low interest rates that are advantageous during the COVID-19 pandemic — and comes at a time when state institutions are trying to figure out ways to deal with that impact.


Virginia's first lady visits Fredericksburg during Back to School tour

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

Virginia first lady Pamela Northam's annual Back to School tour of the state is a little different this year. "We're usually bringing books to schools and this time we're bringing PPE—masks and hand sanitizer," Northam said. Northam made two stops in Fredericksburg on Tuesday, one at Kids' Station, a day care, preschool and after-school facility on the Mary Washington Hospital campus, and the other at Downtown Greens, a community garden on Charles Street. The purpose of the tour is to highlight the importance of early childhood education, Northam said.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Bill that would have eliminated automatic felony for assaulting officers fails in House committee

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

A House of Delegates committee on Tuesday killed a bill that would have eliminated a law that makes assaulting a police officer an automatic felony. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, would also have eliminated the minimum 6-month sentence for such an assault. The proposal was part of a slate of public safety reforms introduced in a special session of the General Assembly in recent weeks.


House Democrats kill Senate's parole board transparency bills

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

Two bills aimed at bringing more transparency to the Virginia Parole Board won bi-partisan support in the Senate but died Tuesday at the hands of Democrats in the House of Delegates. The bills, proposed by GOP senators upset by the board's recent parole decisions, would have required board members to begin voting publicly and begin releasing monthly reports detailing who the board considered for release and why they decided to grant or not grant parole.


Va. Senate panel votes to keep public hearing rules for Confederate statue removals

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

A proposal to eliminate the legal hoops Virginia cities and counties have to go through before taking down Confederate monuments failed in a state Senate committee Tuesday after several Democratic legislators said they were uncomfortable rewriting the law to make public hearings optional. The bill, which had already passed the House of Delegates, was presented as a way to give local governments more flexibility to remove Confederate statues quickly in response to public safety concerns.


House speaker faults 'troubling' lack of transparency on delegate's reported illness, absence

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

House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, slammed House Republicans and Del. Tommy Wright, R-Lunenburg, on Tuesday for failing to disclose that he had reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 a week after the House met in Richmond to open a special session on responding to the pandemic. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Wright, 72, in his 20th year representing a Southside district in the House, had returned to his legislative duties on Monday after a publicly unexplained absence that began a week after his aide notified his church in Victoria that he had tested positive for COVID-19.


State delegate joins several business owners in lawsuit against Virginia's workplace safety regulations

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

A state delegate joined the Virginia Manufacturers Association and other business owners to challenge emergency COVID-19 safety regulations adopted by the state's Safety and Health Codes Board in July. In a Sept. 15 filing with the Richmond Circuit Court, Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun, argued that he has been "uniquely harmed" by executive actions taken by the board, Gov. Ralph Northam, and state Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver.

STATE ELECTIONS

Local Democratic, GOP committees split on redistricting amendment

By DANIEL BERTI, Prince William Times

The Prince William and Manassas Democratic committees are asking Democrats to vote "no" on "Constitutional Amendment 1," while the local Republican committee is encouraging voters to vote "yes." The amendment, which will be on ballots in November, aims to address Virginia's history of political gerrymandering by creating an independent redistricting commission.

FEDERAL ELECTIONS

Trump to visit blue Virginia — but advisers say he's eyeing North Carolina

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

President Trump, who lavished time and money on Virginians as he sought the White House four years ago, will make his first 2020 campaign appearance in the state Friday night — largely to court North Carolinians. Trump's rally in Newport News is intended to reach voters in the swing state next door, according to a Trump campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy.


Trump to hold campaign rally in Newport News on Friday

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

President Donald Trump will be in Newport News Friday, holding a rally as part of his re-election campaign. The rally will be at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. The president's stop in Newport News will come in between campaign stops in two battleground states: Jacksonville, Florida, on Thursday and Middletown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday.


Good, Webb polar opposites in closely watched 5th District race

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

The 5th Congressional District race between Republican Bob Good and Democrat Cameron Webb is expected to attract political excitement as the GOP fights to keep the seat red. The two are seeking to succeed Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Nelson, after Good defeated him in a convention earlier this year.


Rep. Wexton's virtual town hall focuses on pandemic relief

By NATHANIEL CLINE, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Americans are watching Congress and the Trump administration closely as many feel the need for further federal assistance is heightening with the coronavirus pandemic about to enter its eighth month. Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.-10th) addressed this and other issues during a virtual town hall meeting with constituents Sept. 18. Joining Wexton for the call were Dr. Alison Ansher, health director in Prince William County, and Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large).


In debate, Rashid accuses Wittman ad of 'tying him to Islamic terrorism'

By JILL PALERMO, Prince William Times

Rep. Rob Wittman and his Democratic opponent Qasim Rashid sparred on climate change, Social Security, rural broadband and other issues during a sometimes contentious debate Monday night. But the exchange became most heated when Rashid accused Wittman of a campaign ad "attacking" his Muslim faith and "tying him to Islamic terrorism," a claim that Wittman denied. Rashid, 38, a human rights lawyer who lives in Stafford County, was referring to a 30-second television spot Wittman, 61, released last week that criticizes six of Rashid's tweets, two of which dated back to 2015.


Almost a million Virginians have already asked for a ballot — far more than voted absentee in 2016

By RYAN MURPHY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Virginia voters aren't waiting around to make their picks for the 2020 election. While Election Day is still technically not until Nov. 3, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic prompted state elections officials to clear the way for early and mail-in absentee voting for all voters in an effort to stave off potential outbreaks related to busy polling places.

STATE GOVERNMENT

Virginia and North Carolina reach settlement over 2014 Dan River spill

By CAROLINE KEALY, WSET

Virginia and North Carolina have reached a settlement over the Duke Energy Spill that dumped tens of thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan River in 2014. On February 4, 2014, a stormwater pipe underneath the primary coal ash basin at the Duke Energy Dan River Steam Station failed, which resulted in the spill of approximately 27 million gallons of coal ash wastewater and between 30,000 and 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.

CONGRESS

McEachin casts doubt on Census Bureau's plans for population count data

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

Rep. Don McEachin, D-4th, is asking the Census Bureau to reconsider its plans for analyzing data from the 2020 population count, echoing concerns from researchers at the University of Virginia that argue the agency's mathematical procedure will distort the data.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS

Huntington Ingalls to build manufacturing facility for undersea drones in Hampton, create 250 jobs

By JOSH REYES, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Huntington Ingalls Industries plans to build undersea drones at a facility in Hampton, anticipating greater demand for the unmanned submarines by the Navy. Tuesday, officials from Hampton and Huntington Ingalls, along with Gov. Ralph Northam, broke ground on the Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence near the intersection of Commander Shepard Boulevard and North Campus Parkway.

TRANSPORTATION

Metro has made some progress in correcting safety lapses, commission says

By JUSTIN GEORGE, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Metro has made "substantial progress" in addressing some of the more than two dozen safety issues identified in an audit of its rail operations center, the panel responsible for safety oversight said Tuesday. The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission said it has approved two of the transit agency's corrective action plans in response to a withering review by the panel that found that Metro's Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) was a "toxic workplace" where procedures put riders and employees at risk.


Amtrak, which shrunk service to 2 roundtrips in Norfolk and Newport News, has revived routes

By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Amtrak, which went from offering four roundtrip train routes out of Hampton Roads before the pandemic to just two since April, has revived its Northeast Regional routes. Earlier this month, Amtrak restored an additional round trip to route 47 out of Newport News and route 50 out of Norfolk, bringing service back to pre-pandemic levels

HIGHER EDUCATION

UVa Pres. Ryan announces new COVID-19 restrictions at university

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

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan on Tuesday announced three new COVID-19 restrictions that will begin Wednesday, which inlcude limiting travel and reducing gatherings to no more than five people. In a video, Ryan addressed students and reassured them that the new restrictions are mostly preemptive. Students have, for the most part, been doing the right thing, Ryan said, though the university has received some reports of large gatherings.


Hancock residents selected for prevalence testing following positive case, wastewater indicators

By SEVY VAN DER WERF, Cavalier Daily

Residents of Hancock dormitory were sent an email Tuesday informing them that all residents are required to participate in asymptomatic prevalence testing Wednesday. There is currently one confirmed case of COVID-19 in the residence hall, but wastewater indicators suggest other possible infections. . . . This comes less than a week after the detection of possible COVID-19 outbreaks in Balz-Dobie, Lefevre, Echols and Kellogg dorms.


Petition to save W&M swim team raises more than $1 million just weeks after the program was cut

By JULIA MARSIGLIANO, Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily (Metered paywall - 3 articles per month)

After the William & Mary announced the decision to cut seven varsity sports because of budgeting concerns during the coronavirus pandemic, at least one sports team is raising money to save their program: The men's and women's swim team.


The New York Times files to dismiss Liberty University's defamation lawsuit

By RICHARD CHUMNEY, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

The New York Times is asking a Lynchburg judge to dismiss a defamation suit filed by Liberty University over the paper's coverage of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the school. In July, the conservative religious institution sued the outlet, accusing the paper and a reporter of crafting a "clickbait" story intended to mislead the public about an outbreak on the school's sprawling campus.


Virginia college Greek life changes in the face of COVID-19

By MEGAN LEE, Capital News Service

There are no dodgeball games, cookouts or other rushing events at Virginia Commonwealth University's campus in Richmond, but fraternities and sororities are still recruiting new brothers and sisters. The Greek chapters at VCU, and many other Virginia schools, are using Zoom to recruit new members. Some fraternities and sororities believe the challenge of social distancing has strengthened bonds amongst each other as well as their philanthropy efforts.

CORONAVIRUS

Virginia health care workers reminded to wear masks

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

Seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia Health Commissioner Norman Oliver has a message for health care workers slacking on a critical new rule: Masks aren't just for patients. In a letter sent to clinicians Friday, Dr. Oliver stressed that face coverings are required by law. Numerous citizen complaints, some of which pertained to health care practices licensed by the Department of Health Professions, prompted the reminder.


Virginia COVID-19 cases increase by 872 from Monday

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported Tuesday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 142,010 — an increase of 872 from the 141,138 reported Monday.


Caroline's ICE facility has 25 detainee and 12 staff COVID cases

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

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is withdrawing its motion to lift the ban on transfers into the Farmville Detention Center following a spike in COVID-19 cases at the ICE facility in Caroline County, where the federal agency proposed to isolate Farmville transfers for 14 days prior to intake as part of its response to an ongoing lawsuit. The agency also requested the cancellation of an Oct. 6 court hearing meant to discuss lifting the ban on transfers.

VIRGINIA OTHER

SAT test centers cancel dates, frustrating students and parents

By MELISSA HOWELL, WTOP

Preparing for college during the pandemic has already presented a number of challenges for students, and now, access to SAT testing is limited, as test centers close — some without notice. According to the College Board, test centers have closed or rescheduled at the last minute in some cases, which has made rescheduling difficult for students. Thirty Maryland test sites listed on the College Board website for Saturday's testing are closed. In Virginia, 29 of the 40 listed locations are closed.

LOCAL

Fairfax's top prosecutor says staffing 'crisis' will hurt county's ability to seek justice

By JUSTIN JOUVENAL, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Fairfax County's top prosecutor said Tuesday that his office is facing a staffing "crisis" that will keep it from carrying out basic functions needed to put criminals in jail and ensure justice for victims unless many more prosecutors can be hired. Commonwealth's Attorney Steve T. Descano told a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors committee that staffing is so short, his office won't be able to prosecute some lower-level crimes, properly review evidence, handle juvenile offenses or ensure cases are resolved in a timely fashion without approval of new positions.


Fairfax Co. votes to allow some in-person classes starting in October

By SCOTT GELMAN, WTOP

The Fairfax County School Board voted Tuesday night to allow some students in the Virginia county to resume in-person learning in October. The plan, which Superintendent Scott Brabrand introduced, calls for about 3.5% of students and teachers to participate in what the county is calling in-person "cohorts."


Loudoun County students urge education officials to reopen schools soon

By DICK ULIANO, WTOP

Loudoun County, Virginia, students implored education officials to reopen classrooms at a school board meeting Tuesday night, invoking the stresses of distance learning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the kids needed step stools to reach the microphone during the school board's public comment period, but their words were clear and their pain apparent.


School Board Backs Expanded In-person Learning Plan

Loudoun Now

Many of Loudoun's youngest grade-school students should be headed back to class on Oct. 27. The School Board on Tuesday night was presented with the next phase of the school division's back-to-school plan. Members unanimously backed a proposal by Superintendent Eric Williams to allow kindergarten, first and second graders to begin hybrid learning by late October. Administrators envision third, fourth and fifth graders beginning hybrid classes by early December.


Families stage 'Honk for Back-to-School' protest outside LCPS building

By JOHN BATTISTON, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Dozens of cars blared their alarms for nearly an hour outside the Loudoun County Public Schools administration building Tuesday afternoon as part of a "Honk for Back-to-School" protest demanding immediate, more specific plans for returning students to in-person learning. "We collectively thought that enough is enough and we wanted to do something different," Jonathan Buckley, one of the event's organizers, told the Times-Mirror.


Stoney to pitch Richmond City Council on dedicated revenue for affordable housing

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

To meet growing needs, Mayor Levar Stoney said Tuesday that he will pitch the City Council on dedicating millions more annually to Richmond's Affordable Housing Trust Fund. If approved, his proposal would lockbox new tax revenue from properties with expiring real estate tax abatements. The mechanism would generate $2 million to start, and rise to a projected $10 million annually by 2025, Stoney said.


GRTC to launch special shuttle service for early voting in Richmond,

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

Starting Wednesday, Richmond residents will be able to board GRTC shuttles to access the city's new election office where early voting for November's election already is underway. The public transit company announced the new free shuttle service Tuesday in response to concerns about accessibility to the new election office in a remote industrial area at the end of West Laburnum Avenue near the Acca rail yard.


Hanover County reports new cases of COVID-19 among school teacher and on two school buses

By ABBY CHURCH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Two people on two Hanover County school buses tested positive for COVID-19, according to school district public information officer Chris Whitley on Tuesday. The school system also confirmed that a teacher at John M. Gandy Elementary School tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an email from the school's principal, Leigh Finch.


Hackers Zoom bomb WJCC high school classes with porn

By JULIA MARSIGLIANO, Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily (Metered paywall - 3 articles per month)

Some high school students at Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools were exposed to "inappropriate content" during a Zoom class on Friday.


Lawyers suing Stafford over cemetery setback blast recent revision to ordinance

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

The U.S. Justice Department says a recent change to Stafford's cemetery ordinance does not resolve the federal government's lawsuit accusing the county of violating a Muslim group's religious freedom rights. The Justice Department and the All Muslim Association of America filed amendment complaints last week in their suit over the county's handling of the association's plan for a proposed new cemetery on Garrisonville Road.


Botetourt to push federal coronavirus aid toward broadband expansion in rural areas

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

The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors has been steadily beating the drum about the need for more broadband coverage, and the call got louder when the coronavirus pandemic resulted in households handling business matters, health consultations and school work remotely. The federal aid known as Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding, intended to help localities cope with pandemic-related costs, has given Botetourt the opportunity to get ahead in its broadband goals.

 

OP-ED

Larkins: Stand strong, Virginians, and vote 'Yes" on Amendment 1

By FRAN LARKINS, published in Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Every ten years following the U.S. Census, Virginia's Constitution mandates that legislative districts are redrawn by the General Assembly. More specifically, it's done by the party in power. Politicians in the majority have free rein to pick their own voters, protecting incumbents or ousting political opponents. No wonder our representatives are unable to work together across the aisle.

Larkins is a volunteer for OneVirginia2021 and FairMapsVA


McAuliffe: A federal privacy law Is essential to economic recovery

By TERRY MCAULIFFE, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

COVID-19 has hit the U.S. economy hard, and the road to recovery will not be easy. The worst might still be ahead. Congress must do everything in its power to help the country recover from this crisis, and that includes passing a federal data privacy law. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated America's digital transformation, moving more commerce and other activity online than ever before. We're using data-driven online services not only for essentials like shopping, work and education, but also increasingly for our social interaction.

Terry McAuliffe is global strategy adviser at the Center for Information Policy Leadership at Hunton Andrews Kurth and was the 72nd governor of Virginia

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

September 22, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia COVID-19 deaths surpass 3,000; nearly half at long-term care facilities

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported Monday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 141,138 — an increase of 2,436 from the 138,702 reported Friday. The 141,138 cases consist of 134,301 confirmed cases and 6,837 probable cases. The VDH defines probable COVID-19 cases as people who are symptomatic with a known exposure to COVID-19, but whose cases have not been confirmed with a positive test.


Clemons Library closed early Sunday following low face mask compliance

By ZACH ROSENTHAL, Cavalier Daily

Clemons Library was closed Sunday afternoon and Monday morning following low compliance with the University's face mask policy as outlined in SEC-045. Policy SEC-045 mandates that students wear masks in indoor spaces except when they are alone and in their private spaces, such as their dorm rooms or apartments. According to an email statement from Elyse Girard, director of communications for the University library system, face mask compliance was low on Sunday afternoon with "75 percent of the occupants in Clemons not wearing their masks throughout the afternoon."


Fuente hopeful that Tech will have enough healthy players for Saturday's game

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

Virginia Tech announced a depth chart on Monday for its season-opening football game against N.C. State. Tech coach Justin Fuente put together the two-deep as if he would have his full roster available, but he expects an unspecified number of players listed won't be available on Saturday as the program continues to grapple with COVID-19 related issues. "We will not have a full roster," Fuente said. "I hope we are able to play. We still have three more tests this week, I mean we have one today, we got one Wednesday and we got one Friday. Taking it day by day."


Child welfare calls have plummeted during the pandemic

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

Beginning in April, child welfare calls from Virginia schools — usually the state's top reporter for cases of suspected abuse or neglect — dropped by about 98 percent. The Virginia Department of Social Services traced the sudden decline to statewide school closures in late March, which limited face-to-face interactions between students and teachers. Since then, calls have increased incrementally, but still haven't returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to Kristin Zagar, director of the agency's Division of Family Services.


Nonfatal opioid overdose ER visits increased by 123% in Richmond area during pandemic

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

While overall emergency room visits are down nearly 30% from last year, nonfatal opioid overdose visits at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center are up 123%, according to data from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Published Friday, the paper compares nonfatal opioid overdose visits at VCU Medical Center's emergency department between March and June of both 2019 and 2020. In 2020, visits increased from 102 to 227; nearly half of all patients were uninsured and 73% were male; 80% of patients were Black - up nearly 20% from 2019.


Pittsylvania County native announces bid for lieutenant governor

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

A Pittsylvania County native is running for lieutenant governor of Virginia. Xavier Warren, 32, a business owner who lives in Arlington, announced his bid Monday. "I'm not a politician," Warren told the Danville Register & Bee on Monday. "I'm not here to add to my career as a politician. I'm just a concerned Virginian like everyone else."


Planned BLM Road Mural Pulled After Anti-Abortion Mural Proposed

By ROBERTO ROLDAN, WCVE-FM

Organizers have abruptly called off a planned "Black Lives Matter" road mural on Richmond's East Grace Street. The non-profit Venture Richmond got approval from the city to paint a nearly 200-foot-long street mural last month. It would have been similar to other yellow "Black Lives Matter" murals that have been painted in places like Washington, D.C., Seattle and a host of other cities. But Mike Dickinson, a right-wing candidate for Richmond City Council, countered with an application to have a "Baby Lives Matter" mural painted in front of the Richmond Planned Parenthood on North Hamilton Street.

The Full Report
28 articles, 15 publications

FROM VPAP

From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

Our COVID-19 dashboard makes it easy to track the latest available data for tests performed, infections, deaths and hospital capacity. There's a filter for each city and county, plus an exclusive per-capita ZIP Code map. Updated each morning around 10:30 a.m.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Reported positive for COVID-19 in August, delegate returns to assembly after absence

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

Del. Tommy Wright, R-Lunenburg, reported positive for COVID-19 in late August, returned to the General Assembly on Monday after a publicly unexplained absence. The House has met intermittently, so Wright missed four floor sessions between Sept. 4 and Sept. 11. The House did not hold any full floor sessions last week. House Republican Caucus leaders have declined to answer questions about Wright's absence or medical status.

STATE ELECTIONS

Xavier Warren, a lobbyist for nonprofits and an NFL player agent, announces Dem run for LG

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

Xavier Warren, a partner in a lobbying firm that seeks grants for nonprofits, and an agent for NFL football players, is the latest Democratic candidate to join the running for lieutenant governor in 2021. Warren, 32, who was born in Danville and raised in Pittsylvania County, played football at Dan River High School, and at Hampton University, where he graduated cum laude before earning a master's degree in sports management from Georgetown University. He now lives in Arlington County.

FEDERAL ELECTIONS

Warner says he takes nothing for granted; challenger Gade confident he can win

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

Public opinion polls suggest a comfortable advantage for Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in his bid for re-election this fall, but after a close call in 2014 that saw the incumbent barely eke out a victory, his GOP challenger this time, Daniel Gade, is confident he can prevail. Gade, a U.S. Army veteran and public policy professor, is seeking to deny the former governor a third Senate term.


Pandemic Shifts Spanberger's Playbook on Door-Knocking

By BEN PAVIOUR, WCVE-FM

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th) and her allies seemed to be in every nook and cranny of Virginia's 7th Congressional District in 2018, when she bested Republican Dave Brat by less than 7,000 votes. The campaign knocked on tens of thousands of doors in an effort to mobilize voters and energize volunteers; one supporter knocked 6,000 doors on her own. The coronavirus has dashed any plans to repeat that effort this year, with the campaign citing the pandemic-related risks of the tactic. Pundits say that could give an opening to Republicans like Spanberger's opponent, Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper).


Trump encourages voters to turn out for Bob Good, lays into Cameron Webb as 'radical Democrat'

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

In a call with Republican congressional candidate Bob Good and his supporters Sunday night, President Donald Trump blasted opponent Cameron Webb as a "radical Democrat puppet" and sought to generate excitement for Good's campaign. "Bob is going to help very much, and we need strong warriors like Bob," Trump said in a seven-minute phone call. Webb has been outraising Good and enjoying unified Democrats after a four-person primary, while Good has been struggling to raise money and still dealing with the fallout from an unusual drive-thru convention, where he ousted first-term Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Nelson.


Wittman, Rashid exchange barbs in Monday night debate

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

Republican 1st District Rep. Rob Wittman and Democratic challenger Qasim Rashid exchanged barbs on numerous occasions Monday night during an hourlong virtual debate, hosted and organized by the University of Mary Washington. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the two candidates, each vying for Virginia's 1st Congressional District seat, participated remotely and addressed questions submitted online.

STATE GOVERNMENT

Virginia expands criteria for small business loans to help more businesses

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

A new grant program to help struggling small Virginia businesses is expanding its criteria in an effort to help more small businesses. Virginia launched the program called Rebuild VA last month to provide grants to small businesses that may not have had access to money from previous federal coronavirus relief programs.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS

Solar array planned for top of Dominion Energy garage in Richmond

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

Dominion Energy wants to put a solar array on top of the parking garage at its Tredegar Street office complex along the north bank of the James River in downtown Richmond. Plans call for adding 1,400 solar panels on top of the five-story, 400-vehicle parking garage that is part of a complex of three office buildings at 120 Tredegar St. that the company has used as its corporate headquarters for the past 21 years.


Wintergreen Resort lays out plans for 2020-21 ski season

Nelson County Times

Hitting the slopes at Wintergreen Resort is going to look different this season, with social distancing, capacity limits and a mask mandate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter from General Manager Rod Kessler posted to Wintergreen's website, the resort is tentatively planning to open for the winter season Dec. 11 and will follow all local and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations.

HIGHER EDUCATION

College Town Economies Suffer as Students Avoid Bars, Football Tailgating

By JUSTIN BAER, Wall Street Journal (Subscription Required)

College students came back to Blacksburg, Va., last month, but so far many remain reluctant to fill the restaurants, shops and other local businesses that have helped insulate this southwestern Virginia town from past downturns. It is a bad sign for Blacksburg and other college towns that rely heavily on spending by students, alumni and their families. The coronavirus pandemic, which emptied out Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University along with hundreds of other U.S. colleges in March, still weighs on these local economies.


William & Mary criticized for copying Stanford's wording in announcing cuts of 7 sports

By MARTY O'BRIEN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

William & Mary's announcement on Sept. 3 that it was cutting seven of its 23 sports is being criticized for its similar, and in places verbatim, wording to a July letter from Stanford University announcing it was cutting 11 sports. W&M Director of Athletic Samantha K. Huge acknowledged in a statement on Friday that the Sept. 3 communication from her, W&M President Katherine Rowe and W&M Provost Peggy Agouris "clearly fell short of William & Mary's community standards" because it did not meet the goal to "emulate best practices, not imitate."


UVa athletics department reports 22 positive COVID-19 tests in latest round of testing

By BENNETT CONLIN, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

The University of Virginia athletics department announced a COVID-19 testing update Monday, sharing that there were 22 positive tests out of the 703 tests administered to student-athletes and staff members last week. That's a positivity rate of 3.1%. UVa did not specify which sports the positive tests came from. Head football coach Bronco Mendenhall shared Monday that none of those positives come from within Virginia's football team.


JMU Students Not Optimistic About School's Reopening

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

By the second week of classes at James Madison University, sophomore Dylan Kellum of Burke tested positive for COVID-19. "I did everything I was supposed to," Kellum, 20, said outside JMU's D-Hall dining facility Monday. "I wore a mask everywhere, I tried not to eat inside and I still got it," the recovered COVID-19 patient said. "I don't think there's anything JMU can do in-person to stop [the virus] from spreading."


Despite pandemic, enrollment is up at Germanna Community College

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

Germanna Community College is continuing to see its enrollment numbers climb, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Enrollment for the current fall semester is up 4 percent over last fall's numbers, Germanna announced Monday. Summer school enrollment was up 25 percent. This comes at a time when colleges and universities, many of which have seen declining enrollment for several years, are now struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

CORONAVIRUS

Va. COVID-19 positivity rate falls to 5.7%

By SYDNEY LAKE, Va Business Magazine

The Virginia Department of Health reported 6,567 new COVID-19 cases last week and an increase of 278 deaths from the virus — a larger number than most weeks because of a backlog of death data that was entered since last Tuesday, VDH said. The state now has 141,138 cases and 3,021 fatalities, as of Sept. 21. The state's positivity rate is 5.7%, a significant decrease since Sept. 14, when it was 7.2%.

VIRGINIA OTHER

Norfolk Naval Shipyard's commanding officer relieved for loss of confidence

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

Norfolk Naval Shipyard's commander, Capt. Kai Torkelson, has been relieved of his post due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command, Naval Sea Systems Command announced Monday evening. The announcement gave no further details. But NAVSEA spokesman Rory O'Connor told Navy Times that Torkelson's relief reflected a loss of confidence in his ability to fix underlying performance issues. Those performance issues affected Norfolk Naval Shipyard's ability to meet ship maintenance schedules, O'Connor added.

LOCAL

Loudoun Supervisors Look to Hurry Western Broadband

By RENSS GREENE, Loudoun Now

County supervisors have voted to hurry plans to expand broadband into western Loudoun as rural residents struggle with virtual learning and teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic. "We've kind of reached a critical point, and an untenable impasse," said Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin), who led the initiative together with Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).


Manassas Tells Veteran to Remove American Flags He Put on Utility Poles

By CORY SMITH, NBC4

A Virginia man who thought he could boost morale during the pandemic was ordered to remove American flags he put on utility poles. Greg Neiss took it upon himself to put American flags on utility poles up and down his street in Manassas. "Before you know it, people were dropping money in my mailbox so I could go buy some flags," he said. Neiss put up more than a dozen flags before the city told him to stop and take them down.


Richmond families, teachers share concerns about length of virtual school day

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

Families and teachers who largely described feeling drained and concerned by a virtual school day they said stretches on too long wrote en masse to the Richmond School Board, ahead of Monday's meeting, hoping to affect change. School leaders prepared draft revisions after hearing an earful last week from families adjusting to classes that put children in front of screens while buildings remain closed to due to COVID-19, but the board did not vote.


Getting a grocer into Norfolk food desert hasn't been for lack of trying, broker and city say

By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

It was pre-pandemic and Neal Sadler, a broker with S.L. Nusbaum, knew that the Save A Lot grocery store in the Norfolk shopping center he leased was on its way out, taking with it the only fresh food market option for many residents nearby. Sadler said he was close — this close — to having a new grocer move in when COVID-19 upended the world earlier this year.


Roanoke County elementary school classroom temporarily closes due to COVID-19

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

A single classroom at Oak Grove Elementary School in Roanoke County has temporarily closed "out of an abundance of caution" due to at least one positive COVID-19 case, according to letters notifying staff and families. The shutdown began Monday. One student and one staff member have tested positive, Roanoke County Public Schools spokesman Chuck Lionberger confirmed. He declined to say whether both cases were connected to the affected classroom.


Danville NAACP membership surges after visit from Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, more visibility in community

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

Membership in the NAACP's Danville branch has more than doubled since early July. President Tommy Bennett attributes the rapid increase to a visit from Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and more community outreach. The branch had 93 members when Bennett became president in June. "We're up to 257 as of today," Bennett said Monday.

 

EDITORIALS

Has the sheriff of Culpeper County just given criminals an 'out'?

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

This would be a really good time to be a criminal in Culpeper County. Suppose you get caught — always a hazard of the criminal trade. There you are in court where an investigator from the Culpeper County Sheriff's Office is testifying about all the circumstantial evidence that led from the crime scene to you. You think you're done for; you're just a verdict away being sent to the big house.


Legislators abdicated power during pandemic

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

When there's an emergency—defined in the dictionary as a "serious, unexpected and often dangerous situation"—it's time for immediate action, not thoughtful reflection. But when does an emergency stop being an emergency and become a chronic condition that has to be managed instead? The General Assembly, or more specifically the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions, had a chance last week to answer that question while reasserting the legislative branch's duty and prerogative to govern by curbing the executive branch's power to declare open-ended emergencies by passing a bill that would time-limit them to a maximum of 18 months.


Time to wash hands of fight

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

Gavin Grimm has moved on with his life in the six years since his use of the boys bathroom at Gloucester High School prompted the local school board to rule that school restrooms and locker rooms were reserved for students of the "corresponding biological genders." Now that a federal appeals court has affirmed a lower court's ruling that the board's policy is an unconstitutional violation of Grimm's rights, it's time for the Gloucester County School Board to let this controversy become history as an affirmation of equal rights for transgender Americans.


Community colleges continue to lead in setting expectations during COVID-19

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

For students and families, fall 2020 learning remains a work in progress. K-12 divisions across the Richmond region still are seeking the normalcy of full classrooms. Per a Virginia Public Access Project map, the city of Richmond and Henrico, Chesterfield and Goochland counties are among the localities with virtual learning for the first nine weeks.

OP-ED

Kilgore: The public option would be harmful to Virginians

By TERRY KILGORE, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Throughout Virginia, families are facing challenges few could have imagined. This is a time when the connection between the economic well-being of our communities and the health of our families is very clear. I believe that all Virginians deserve access to affordable health coverage, and in representing the 1st legislative district in Virginia's House of Delegates, I have supported commonsense steps to expand coverage and make care more affordable for people throughout the commonwealth.

Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, represents the 1st District in the Virginia House of Delegates

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