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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