Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

August 5, 2020
Top of the News

Northam joins 5 other governors in interstate pact to buy rapid coronavirus tests for Virginia

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

Citing efforts from the federal government that are making it harder on states to test for the coronavirus, six governors, including Virginia's Ralph Northam, said they are banding together to purchase antigen tests that deliver quick results. The governors from Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, Ohio and Massachusetts announced Tuesday that they are already in talks with two companies authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to manufacture the antigen tests — which can produce results in 15 to 20 minutes — and if the talks are successful, the governors will purchase 500,000 tests for each state.

U-Va., in shift, will open online for undergraduates and start in-person classes after Labor Day

By NICK ANDERSON, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The University of Virginia announced Tuesday that it will delay the return of undergraduates by about two weeks, a further sign of the tumult in higher education brought on by the rising threat of the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, undergraduate students were invited to come this month to the Charlottesville campus known as the Grounds for a fall term with a mix of in-person, remote and hybrid classes.

Radford bans gatherings of more than 50 as college students return

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

Radford City Council on Tuesday banned gatherings of more than 50 people through August in anticipation of a spike of COVID-19 cases as Radford University students return to campus. The emergency ordinance that council members adopted at a special meeting comes as thousands of students are moving into the city, which has seen COVID-19 cases increase from 11 to 34 in the last 30 days.

Virginia waives school accreditation for second school year

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

The closure of schools this past spring because of the pandemic means that Virginia schools will keep their same accreditation until at least 2022. State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane waived the process for the 2021-2022 academic year on Tuesday, citing the lack of standardized tests from the spring that would've been part of the ratings.

Virginia will require tracking codes on all absentee ballot envelopes

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

All Virginia voters who cast absentee ballots will send their forms back in envelopes marked with tracking codes, according to a new rule adopted Tuesday by the State Board of Elections. The regulation, approved in a unanimous vote, requires local election officials to print a 65-character U.S. Postal Service Intelligent Mail barcode on both the outgoing envelopes sent to voters and the included return envelopes voters use to mail completed ballots back.

1,102 people were denied purchase of gun during first month of Va.'s new one-handgun-per-month law

By MARK BOWES, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Virginia's new one-handgun-per-month restriction resulted in 1,102 people being denied the purchase of a firearm during the law's first month — by far the largest percentage of the 1,877 denials issued in July by the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center. The high number of denials is due in part to confusion among firearms dealers and their customers about how the monthly or 30-day restriction period is calculated.

Mountain Valley, DEQ reach agreement on environmental fines

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

The latest problems with muddy runoff streaming from construction sites along the Mountain Valley Pipeline's route through Southwest Virginia have been resolved, with the company paying $58,000 in fines. The agreement, reached after several months of negotiations with the Department of Environmental Quality, marks the troubled pipeline's latest penalty for violating erosion and sediment control regulations.

The Full Report
42 articles, 22 publications


VPAP Visual In-Person or Remote? Virginia's Back-to-School Plans

The Virginia Public Access Project

With the pandemic on the loose, Virginia's public school districts will start the 2020-21 school year with a variety of instructional models. VPAP maps this fluid situation, with 20 districts at last count still determining if students will return to the classroom this fall.

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.


Supreme Court of Virginia is silent on Northam's request to renew eviction moratorium

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

Gov. Ralph Northam wrote to Supreme Court of Virginia Chief Justice Don Lemons at the end of last month asking that he renew a moratorium on evictions that expired at the end of June. A little over a week later, Northam's spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, says the governor hasn't received a response.

There's no national testing strategy for coronavirus, so Va. and 6 other states banded together to make one

By ERIN COX, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

In the absence of a national testing strategy for the novel coronavirus pandemic, seven governors have formed a first-of-its-kind purchasing compact they hope will pressure companies that make rapid-detection tests to quickly ramp up production. The governors, three Republicans and four Democrats, say that other states and cities may join them and that talks have already begun with one of the two companies approved by the Food and Drug Administration to sell point-of-care antigen tests that can detect the virus in less than 30 minutes.


Virginia waives accreditation ratings for 2021-22 school year

By JUSTIN MATTINGLY, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Virginia schools won't receive normal accreditation ratings from the Department of Education again in 2021-22. Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced Tuesday that he is waiving annual school accreditation for the 2021-22 academic year, a move a state-appointed panel recommended to the K-12 schools chief earlier this year.


Housing contractor, senator disagree over what prompted $50M Fort Lee project

By BILL ATKINSON, Progress Index (Metered paywall - 10 articles a month)

A long-awaited upgrade to on-post military housing is set to begin this month, but the management firm overseeing it says pressure from Capitol Hill, specifically Virginia Sen. Mark R. Warner, had nothing to do with its timing. The senator says he is not buying that.


Kings Dominion not reopening this year

By GREGORY J. GILLIGAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Kings Dominion won't be open this year. The theme park in northern Hanover County said late Tuesday that it will remain closed for the rest of 2020 because of the challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kroger Mid-Atlantic to leave Roanoke for Richmond area

By CASEY FABRIS, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Kroger Mid-Atlantic announced Tuesday it will move its division office from Roanoke to the Richmond area. Spokeswoman Allison McGee said in an email that the office on Peters Creek Road is expected be closed by the end of the year. Approximately 100 associates will be affected. All employees will be offered opportunities to remain with Kroger. The company is working to identify local jobs for those who do not want to relocate to Richmond, McGee said.

Kroger relocating regional headquarters to the Richmond area from Roanoke

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

The Kroger Co., the nation's largest traditional supermarket retailer, is moving its regional headquarters to the Richmond area. Kroger's Mid-Atlantic division — which operates the chain's 18 local stores as well as about 100 other locations elsewhere in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio — will move to western Henrico County by the end of the year.

Smithfield ends lawsuit it filed to stop OSHA from getting its COVID-19 case data

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

Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, has ended its legal fight to prevent the release of information about an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among workers at its South Dakota plant and agreed to give the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration documents it had sought. The company, owned by China-based WH Group and headquartered in the city of Smithfield, had filed a federal lawsuit as Smithfield Packaged Meats Co. in South Dakota to stop the OSHA records request.

Christiansburg to be part of national aviation history

By TONIA MOXLEY, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The drone that carried the first commercial residential delivery of its kind in the U.S. will soon be displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Wing, a Google sister company with a delivery hub in Christiansburg, announced Tuesday that it had donated aircraft A1229 to the national museum.


Pandemic caused $26.1M hole in GRTC's budget

By JACK JACOBS, Richmond BizSense

The economic disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic burned a $26.1 million hole in GRTC's budget for its current fiscal year. And while that damage, which was equal to almost half of the regional bus authority operations budget, was repaired with federal funding, GRTC is uncertain how it will make up the expected shortfall of $10 million to $12 million in its fiscal year 2022 budget.

Prince William County supervisors reject Route 28 bypass

By EMILY SIDES, Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

After securing $300 million and spending years developing a bypass for busy Va. Route 28, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors rejected the proposal Tuesday night, leaving any fix for Manassas-area commuters in limbo. The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted 8-0 at its meeting to deny staff's recommendation to move to the design phase of the project.

New Virginia Breeze bus lines connect Dan River Region to Richmond, D.C.

By PARKER COTTON, Danville Register & Bee

Thanks to an expanded set of intercity bus routes, Dan River Region residents will soon have more commuting and travel options through other parts of Virginia. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which already offered a popular Blacksburg-to-Washington, D.C., route called Valley Flyer, has expanded its operations to include other rural communities that are underserved in their transportation options.


Nearly 100 VCU faculty members call for virtual fall semester as UVA, other colleges delay in-person classes

By JUSTIN MATTINGLY, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Nearly 100 Virginia Commonwealth University professors are formally asking the school to switch to a fully virtual fall semester. In a resolution approved Tuesday, the VCU chapter of the American Association of University Professors called on President Michael Rao to "immediately declare that classes for the Fall 2020 semester should be held exclusively online, except in cases where in-person education is deemed absolutely necessary."

UVa delays start of classes by two weeks

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

The University of Virginia is pushing back the start of in-person classes to Sept. 8 and delaying move-in day for undergraduates following an increase in COVID-19 cases in the state and nation. UVa leaders announced the change Tuesday in an email that also cited supply chain disruptions that have affected the availability of testing materials. The decision comes after elected officials and community members have criticized the decision to bring students back.

U.Va. delays in-person instruction, move-in for undergraduates by two weeks

By NIK POPLI, Cavalier Daily

The University announced Tuesday that it is delaying the start of undergraduate in-person instruction and the opening of residence halls by two weeks in response to an increase in local and national coronavirus cases. All undergraduate courses for the fall semester will now be completely online until Sept. 8, when in-person instruction becomes available. The semester will still start Aug. 25 as originally planned, but the University is urging students who plan to live off-Grounds to delay their return until in-person courses resume.

Lynchburg-area college presidents outline reopening plans in meeting with city leaders

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

Lynchburg-area college presidents outlined plans for fall instruction at a virtual Town and Gown meeting Tuesday with Lynchburg city leaders, with some moving forward with in-person classes and others sticking with remote education as coronavirus cases continue to climb in the region. Thousands of college students at three local institutions — Liberty University, University of Lynchburg and Sweet Briar College — are preparing to return to their respective campuses in the coming weeks.


1,145 new coronavirus cases reported in Virginia on Tuesday; 6 new deaths reported in Hampton Roads

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported 1,145 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing the state's tally to 94,251. At least 2,244 Virginians have died from the virus as of Tuesday morning, up 26 from Monday.

Efforts To Hire Spanish-Speaking Contact Tracers Continue


On June 5, Chesterfield-County resident Karen Chacón started to experience some symptoms of COVID-19, like what felt like a mosquito in her throat. "Physically, I felt tired," Chacón said. "I felt sleepy, like my battery wasn't full." About a week later, she decided to get tested. The next day, she noticed her sense of smell was gone. "I called my husband and I started crying and I told him 'That's it. Definitely. It's the virus,'" she said.

Virginia Beach employees must self-report symptoms after 39 test positive for COVID-19

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

Virginia Beach city employees are required to report if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms each day before they start work. Soon employees will be able to upload that information to a digital platform so city leaders and department heads can easily track the data. The rollout of this technology comes after at least 83 employees contracted coronavirus.

Warrenton clinic's COVID rapid tests exceed 14,000

By DON DEL ROSSO, Fauquier Now

They come by the hundreds each day to the Piedmont Urgent Care "rapid-test" site in Warrenton to learn if they have the coronavirus. From Maryland, Pennsylvania and beyond, people travel great distances because the clinic — using technology unavailable today in many communities — can provide test results in as little as two hours, said Dr. Steve von Elten, who oversees the operation.

$500,000 in rental, mortgage help available for Danville residents affected by COVID-19

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

Not many Danville residents have taken advantage of more than $500,000 in mortgage and rental assistance available for those affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Monday, just more than a tenth of that amount — $58,936 — has been spent by the city to help residents pay for their rent or mortgage, said Chasta White, senior account clerk with Danville's Department of Community Development.


Tens of thousands still without power in Hampton Roads after Tropical Storm Isaias rips through region

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

Tropical Storm Isaias pummeled Hampton Roads on Tuesday morning with heavy winds and rain — officials and meteorologists believe tornadoes affected the region as well. More than 122,000 Dominion Energy customers in Hampton Roads were without power as of 9:30 p.m. At times Tuesday, the total outages in the area neared 300,000. Dominion crews have begun making repairs and clearing fallen trees.

Tropical Storm Isaias hit eastern Virginia hardest during brief but destructive journey

By JOHN BOYER AND ALI SULLIVAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Tropical Storm Isaias hit the eastern third of Virginia hardest on Tuesday morning during its brief but destructive journey up the Eastern Seaboard. Several hours of torrential rain flooded dozens of roads, while winds gusting past 45 mph downed trees and put hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the dark.

One killed, 400,000 lost power in Va. and Md. as Isaias spawns tornadoes and drenches the D.C. region

By DANA HEDGPETH, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Tropical Storm Isaias left hundreds of thousands without power Tuesday in the greater Washington region and one person died after a tree fell onto a moving vehicle. But the nation's capital avoided the brunt of the waterlogged storm as it barreled up the East Coast.

Small Demonstration at Arlington Intersection Yields Loud Response


Bold posters inscribed with "Black Lives Matter" prompted a raucous symphony of honks from passing traffic at a busy Arlington intersection. The conductor directing the clamor at Wilson Blvd and George Mason Drive on a weekday evening last week was Bob Edgar, who is no stranger to advocacy.

Commission to Vote on Plans to Help Menhaden Fish Bounce Back


Regulators in charge of Atlantic Coast fisheries will vote Wednesday on a long-awaited plan to manage the menhaden fish population. Virginia is the largest harvester of menhaden along the Atlantic coast. The nutrient-dense fish is critical to the Chesapeake Bay's food chain, but their population has declined over the last two decades.


Loudoun Supervisors to Consider Revitalization Incentives

By RENSS GREENE, Loudoun Now

Loudoun County supervisors have ordered a study of a program to offer zoning and regulatory flexibility and lower fees on targeted properties to attract redevelopment and revitalization. State law allows the county to create Economic Revitalization Zones, where government user and permit fees may be reduced and tax liens waived, as well as zoning rules relaxed, to incentivize development in that area. County staff members will evaluate whether those zones might be right for Loudoun.

Prince William students to take SAT, ACT tests in person

By GIANNA JIRAK, Potomac Local (Subscription Required)

Students in Prince William County Public Schools will not be returning to school for in-person learning in August — but they will line up for the SAT. In August, September, October, November, and December, Prince William County high schools will be hosting the SAT and ACT tests in-person, with 'guidelines for safety to include cleaning procedures, physical distancing, and the use of face coverings,' according to Diana Gulotta, Prince William County Schools Director of Communications Services.

Resource officers to stay in Hburg schools this year — but with a more limited role

By RANDI B. HAGI, Harrisonburg Citizen

The five police officers stationed in Harrisonburg City Public Schools will be charged with focusing only on protecting schools and the people in them as opposed to monitoring student culture or "morality" this academic year, as the division works to revise its memorandum of understanding with the Harrisonburg Police Department. The Harrisonburg School Board is expected to approve the memorandum, just for one year, in an upcoming meeting.

Predicting 45,000 absentee ballots, James City to hold hearing to discuss Rec Center becoming voting center

By DAVID MACAULAY, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

James City County expects an unprecedented rush of early voters before the Nov. 3 presidential election, prompting a special public hearing to designate the James County Recreation Center as an absentee voting center. Under a new law in Virginia, voters will be able to show up to the registrar's office to cast their ballot as long as 45 days before an election without a stated excuse.

City Council police listening session focuses on mental health services

By NOLAN STOUT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Speakers overwhelmingly told Charlottesville city councilors to better invest in mental health services over law enforcement. The council held a three-hour virtual listening session on policing Tuesday to get feedback from the community on the future of law enforcement, and nearly everyone who spoke called for more investment in mental health services. A handful of people spoke favorably of the department and didn't support taking funding away from it.

Lynchburg City Schools go all virtual until October

By JAMEY CROSS, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

Lynchburg City Schools students will return to school 100% remotely Aug. 24, and will not transition to in-person learning until at least after the first nine weeks of school. The Lynchburg City School Board voted 7-1 in favor of delaying in-person learning until after the first nine weeks of school due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the area.

Calls For Luray Mayor's Resignation Continue

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

After opening the door to the Luray town office, a long hall leads directly to Mayor Barry Presgraves' office, where the lights have yet to be turned on this week. "He has not been in," Town Manager Steve Burke said Tuesday afternoon.

Danville council passes resolution requesting casino referendum on November ballot

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

Danville City Council voted to pass a resolution requesting that a referendum be held in November on whether a casino will be allowed in the city. Council voted 6-0 for the resolution during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

Bristol schools expect to open on Aug. 20

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

City schools are expected to open Aug. 20 with about 60% of students attending in person and the balance online, following a Monday vote by the city School Board. Following a lengthy discussion, the board voted 4-1 to approve a recommendation to open schools on schedule Aug. 20 unless local health metrics regarding COVID-19 deteriorate in the coming days.



Uranium extraction is still unsafe

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

It was significant that a report on a court decision denying uranium mining in Virginia appeared in The Daily Progress on the same day as a front-page story warning about rains — including possible flash flooding — from Hurricane Isaias. It is precisely because of the hydrology of our ground and surface water and our vulnerability to hurricanes and other storms that uranium mining is dangerous for Virginia.

Tackle housing disparity to address racial inequality

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

It is, sadly, not news that the color of one's skin is often a deciding factor in getting a loan to buy a house. If you're Black, you're likely to have to jump over higher hurdles than others to get a mortgage, if you can get one at all. But the renewed awareness of racial injustice and its devastating effects means that the time has finally come to end that pervasive disparity.

As COVID-19 spreads, young people are far from invincible

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

This past weekend in Scott's Addition, the brewery scene showed signs of life. Groups of young people roamed the streets with day drinking essentials in hand: cellphones, IDs and newest of all, masks. Once inside (or outside) an establishment and seated at a table — or at a private home gathering — masks have to be off to consume a beverage. Conversations continue. How responsibly are drinks being consumed?

Keep the Confederate names off Hanover schools

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

We thought the Hanover County School Board voted this past month to remove the names honoring Confederate leaders from two public schools. Appropriately, the signage for Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School promptly was taken down from the buildings. But then on Monday, Hanover Schools announced that the signage would temporarily be reinstalled while the system works through the renaming process.


Woll: Workforce investment key to wind power project's success

By EILEEN WOLL, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

In June, Virginia became the first state in the nation to stand offshore wind turbines in federal waters. And with its larger adjacent Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, Virginia is in line to be home to the nation's largest project — bringing 2,600 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2026, enough to power more than 650,000 homes. Virginia must now ensure that offshore wind is done right — meaning it is brought online in a way that is fair, equitable and beneficial for all Virginia communities.

Woll is the Offshore Energy Program Director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, located in Norfolk.

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