Thursday, August 6, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

August 6, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia's mental health reforms may be paused for lack of funding

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

Virginia lawmakers charged with reforming the mental health system learned Wednesday that $135 million worth of new programs have been placed on hold. The funding was part of a $154 million package of reforms intended to build services to prevent people from having crises that require hospitalization, and to reduce hospital re-admissions. It was included in the two-year budget that lawmakers worked on just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virginia first to roll out pandemic app from Apple, Google


Virginia has rolled out a smartphone app to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus, becoming the first U.S. state to use new pandemic technology created by Apple and Google. But hopes for a nationwide app that can work seamlessly across state borders remain unrealized, and there are no known federal plans to create one.

Virginia House of Delegates to meet online and at VCU's Siegel Center

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

A special session scheduled for later this month will see House lawmakers gather both online and in person to address the impact of COVID-19 and police reform. Delegates will gather on Aug. 18 at VCU's Stuart C. Siegel Center to kick off the special session but might pivot online for portions of the gathering, which could last two weeks or longer, according to the office of House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax.

Supervisors explore opening schools for private use

By JIM MCCONNELL, Chesterfield Observer

Following the School Board's vote last month to begin the 2020-21 school year in a 100% virtual format, the county government wants to identify available space in Chesterfield's more than 60 school buildings and provide it for temporary use by parents and "private childcare and educational institutions." That's according to a July 27 letter from Chesterfield Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Leslie Haley to Debbie Bailey, her counterpart on the School Board.

Menhaden decision marks a new era in Atlantic fisheries management

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

Once again, a little fish that has loomed large in Virginia politics is causing big waves. This time, though, the Atlantic menhaden is at the forefront of a change in how officials up and down the coast are looking at and managing fisheries.

Feds demand sweeping change at Hampton Roads Regional Jail

By GARY A. HARKI, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a consent decree agreement in federal court with the Hampton Roads Regional Jail that, if approved, would force the jail to better care for its detainees, increase staffing and adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The action comes after a lengthy investigation into the jail's practices.

State of Virginia halts Hillsville gun show

The Mount Airy News

The state of Virginia has intervened on one of the biggest draws in Southwest Virginia. A classification change by the Virginia Department of Health has left the town of Hillsville unable to issue permits for the Grover King VFW Post 1115 Labor Day Flea Market and Gun Show.

The Full Report
41 articles, 23 publications


VPAP Visual Virgnia tweaks vote-by-mail procedures

The Virginia Public Access Project

In June, one in five Virginia primary election voters cast ballots by mail. But election officials in some localities predict that voters' desire to avoid crowds during the pandemic will make mail the preferred way to vote in November. This illustration shows how the process works and explains the two key changes the State Board of Elections adopted earlier this week.

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.


Northam calls coronavirus trends in Hampton Roads "encouraging"

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

Although he said it's too early to lift more stringent restrictions in Hampton Roads, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that trends in the region's coronavirus cases are "encouraging." At a press conference in Richmond, he said the eastern region's rate of positive tests has decreased slightly to around 10% since spiking up to 12.2% in mid-July. The region's seven-day average of positive cases has also been "leveling off somewhat," Northam said.

Northam launches primary care task force

By SYDNEY LAKE, Va Business Magazine

As primary care physicians report that the pandemic has caused financial stress and layoffs at their practices, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday the creation of a primary care task force in partnership with the Virginia Center for Health Innovation (VCHI) and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey.


State budget freeze poses challenge in public safety, behavioral health

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Faced with an "austere" state budget outlook amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia legislators are looking for ways to provide more compensation to state police to reverse a rapid increase in turnover among sworn officers, while pushing for better training of law enforcement officers in how they deal with the public. At the same time, lawmakers are grappling with a crisis in state mental hospitals, with two institutions closed to new admissions because of coronavirus outbreaks that have killed six patients and overcrowding that has worsened since Virginia began reopening its economy after the pandemic nearly shut it down.


Chase on Cox: 'Nice guys don't win in 2021'

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

State Sen. Amanda F. Chase on Wednesday stepped up her social-media criticism of Del. Kirk Cox's possible run against her for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, calling the former House of Delegates speaker a "nice guy" but added he could not win back the Executive Mansion for the party.


Warner accepts three invitations to debate Gade

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

Virginia's candidates for U.S. Senate will debate at least three times in advance of the November election. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., announced Wednesday that he's accepted invitations to three general election debates, two fewer than his Republican opponent, Army veteran Daniel Gade, challenged him to.

Freitas Faces Criticism for Anti-China Coronavirus Masks


A progressive group is calling for Republican Congressional hopeful Nick Freitas' campaign to stop selling masks that they say exacerbate discrimination against Asian Americans. The masks say "COVID 19: Made in China" and list Freitas' campaign website. The Republican delegate is hoping to unseat Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th) this November in a race that the Cook Political Report rates as a toss-up.


Hillsville can't issue flea market permits for 2020

By DAVID BROYLES, Carroll News

If the show does indeed go on, it won't look like any show Hillsville has put on in decades. A classification change by the Virginia Department of Health on the Grover King VFW Post 1115 Labor Day Flea Market and Gun Show has left Hillsville unable to issue permits for the event.

Feds propose consent decree to ensure care at Virginia jail

By MICHAEL BALSAMO, Associated Press

The Justice Department proposed Wednesday that a Virginia jail comply with a consent decree requiring officials to improve medical treatment for inmates, marking one of the first times the department has proposed such a resolution in the Trump administration. The rare action follows a multiyear investigation into the practices at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Virginia, which prosecutors said uncovered unlawful conditions for the inmates housed there. Federal officials allege, in part, that the jail "fails to provide constitutionally adequate mental health care to prisoners," according to court documents.

Legislators to get full report on Virginia Parole Board

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

The Office of the State Inspector General will provide to state legislative leaders an unredacted copy its recently released report that substantiated several allegations against the Virginia Parole Board, after top Republican lawmakers repeatedly demanded that it be made available to them. During Gov. Ralph Northam's press briefing Wednesday on COVID-19, Chief of Staff Clark Mercer announced that the parole board and the Inspector General's Office have been working with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to have the full report released to House and Senate majority and minority leaders.

Virginia caught more than 3,000 fraudulent jobless claims, stopped $50 million in payments

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

About 3,000 fraudulent claims doesn't seem like much when it's less than three-tenths of a percent of all the unemployment applications that have been filed in Virginia. The Virginia Employment Commission had handled 1,008,797 initial unemployment claims between mid-March and July 18, an unheard of number that would have normally taken years to amass, not months.


Grassley, Warner keep up pressure for information in Park Police slaying of Bijan Ghaisar

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

As the three-year anniversary approaches of the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar by two U.S. Park Police officers, Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) revealed this week they have received briefings from the National Park Service, the Fairfax County police chief and two from the Justice Department. But the senators said they still have not been told why the officers fired 10 shots into Ghaisar's Jeep Cherokee while he was slowly driving away from them.


Cruise ships docked in Portsmouth during pandemic sail out of Virginia

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

Three cruise ships that were docked at Portsmouth Marine Terminal have left Hampton Roads as a no-sail order in the industry continues through the summer. Norwegian Cruise Line docked the ships — the Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Spirit and Norwegian Encore — at the berth of the Portsmouth terminal in May, giving boaters and residents along the waterfront an up close look at their towering decks. None of the ships had passengers.

First phase of the Facebook data center in Henrico County is now operational

By JOHN REID BLACKWELL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Nearly three years after it was announced, a data center built by social media giant Facebook has become operational in eastern Henrico County. Company officials said Tuesday that the data center started serving online traffic a few weeks ago.


Regional group forms to fund road, transit goals

By JIM MCCONNELL, Chesterfield Observer

Officials from Chesterfield County and eight other Richmond-area localities are working to form the regional body that will administer millions of dollars in new transportation taxes approved earlier this year by the Virginia General Assembly. The Central Virginia Transportation Authority, or CVTA, is expected to meet for the first time this month, at which time its 16 members will select a chair and vice chair and finalize its operating bylaws.


Randolph-Macon delays start of in-person classes

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

Randolph-Macon College is the latest Virginia school to push back the start of in-person classes. President Robert Lindgren announced Tuesday that classes will still start Aug. 24, but will be completely virtual until Sept. 7, citing COVID-19's continued spread in Virginia. Other colleges in the state, including William & Mary, the University of Virginia and Virginia State University, have made similar changes in the past week.

Roanoke College announces staggered return to campus housing

By JEFF STURGEON, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Roanoke College will stagger the arrival of most students over three weeks to better cope with the continuing virus threat. The new game plan was announced Wednesday.

COVID-19 screening tool is part of new app rolling out at Virginia Tech


Virginia Tech is moving ahead with plans to have students return to campus, and said it is rolling out a smartphone app to screen students and staff for COVID-19. The safety app and screening tool is called "Hokie Ready."


New app lets Virginians know if they have been exposed to COVID-19

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

If, while scrubbing your hands upon returning home, you have wondered whether a stranger you encountered while running errands has COVID-19, there's an app for that. Virginia on Wednesday launched COVIDWISE, an app developed jointly by Apple and Google that lets users know whether they've been exposed to someone with the virus without having to know who you are or where you have been.

Virginia launches new public health app letting you know if you've been exposed to coronavirus

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

Virginia health officials, hoping to use technology to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, have launched a new smartphone app that notifies users if someone near them tested positive for COVID-19. Virginia is the first state to launch the free app, called COVIDWISE, using software developed by Google and Apple. On a call with reporters Wednesday, public health officials stressed that the app, which Virginians can download voluntarily, doesn't track the user's location or identify them.

Virginia rolls out virus-alert app for smartphones

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Virginia officials on Wednesday launched a smartphone app that uses Bluetooth technology to alert people when they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Use of the app, designed to help contain the spread of the virus as public activity increases, is voluntary and would require that individuals download the software on their phones, activate notifications and self-report a positive COVID-19 test.

Ballad: Cases, hospitalizations continue rising

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

Nearly 2,900 new cases of COVID-19 were reported during the past 14 days across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, and, with that sharp rise, Ballad Health is working to expand its capacity to treat those patients.

Henrico Jail COVID-19 Outbreak Under Control, Sheriff Says


The Henrico County Sheriff says a July COVID-19 outbreak at the Henrico jail is under control. Nearly 200 positive cases were recorded at the facility through the month of July. Sheriff Alisa Gregory told VPM those inmates and staff who tested positive were quarantined and monitored for symptoms and are now in recovery. She said on Wednesday, the jail had seven new positive cases that were detected when the offenders were recently booked into the jail.

Sovah Health hospitals seeing more COVID-19 patients; Pittsylvania-Danville Health District adds 137 new cases in a week

By CHARLES WILBORN, Danville Register & Bee

Sovah Health hospitals in Danville and Martinsville were treating a total of 40 COVID-19 patients — that amount evenly split amount between the two facilities — as of Wednesday, according to a company update. That's an overall increase of 10 patients from last week.


Campbell supervisors approve broadband expansion

By SARAH HONOSKY, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

Wireless broadband is about to spread into more of Campbell County. In four to six months, unserved areas of the county — such as those surrounding Evington, Red House and Brookneal — should see increased internet accessibility. The Campbell County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved B2X Online's $1.4 million proposal to install wireless internet transmitters with the potential to provide more than 1,400 county residents with internet access.

Fairfax County school superintendent says school system has not focused enough on equity


The superintendent of Fairfax County public schools in Virginia said he is committing to hiring more teachers of color, changing the system that has consistently resulted in more African American students than others getting in trouble at school and addressing overall equity issues made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. During a live Facebook town hall Wednesday night sponsored by the Fairfax County NAACP, Superintendent Scott Brabrand admitted that Fairfax County has not done all it can when it comes to issues of race, saying, "Fairfax has had many focuses, on many things, and equity has not been the No. 1 focus."

FCPS Superintendent Defends Rationale for Virtual Start to School


Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand says that the decision for a virtual start to school on Sept. 8 was largely motivated by the health risks associated with COVID-19. In a letter sent to parents Tuesday, Brabrand said that while cases are relatively stable in Fairfax County, precautionary steps are necessary to ensure the safety of staff and students. FCPS initially planned a hybrid approach of in-person and virtual instruction — a decision that was reversed by Brabrand in late July.

Prince William County to double absentee voting locations for presidential election

By DANIEL BERTI, Prince William Times

Prince William County will double its number of satellite early voting locations for the upcoming Nov. 3 election under a measure the board of supervisors approved Tuesday. In past years, the county's electoral board made absentee in-person voting available at only four locations throughout the county. This year, the electoral board recommended adding four additional sites due to expected higher turnout because of the presidential election and the need for social distancing.

Prince William Supervisors to Consider Eliminating Board Proclamations

By STACY SHAW, Bristow Beat

Controversial proclamations that divide citizens may soon be a thing of the past for the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland (R) proposed, Tuesday, that the Prince William Board of County Supervisors no longer hold votes on board proclamations, explaining they have become too political, causing strife among board and community members.

Leaders of a private school near the Robert E. Lee monument have concerns about reopening

By KENYA HUNTER, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

COVID-19 has upended the school year for many public school students, but in Richmond, there's one private school that might not reopen for concerns outside of the spread of the novel coronavirus. The administration of the Orchard House School, on North Allen Avenue near the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue, told parents in an email late last month that the school might not reopen over fears about activity in the adjacent circle.

Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson to Lead RPS Diversity Effort


Richmond Public Schools has appointed Rodney Robinson -- 2019's national teacher of the year -- as senior advisor for the district's new initiative to recruit and support male teachers of color. The male teachers of color initiative is part of the district's larger anti-racism policy agenda that was drafted in June. Robinson taught at several schools in Richmond for 19 years -- most recently at Virgie Binford Educational Center inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center.

WJCC School Board gives support to supe's virtual plan but questions board's non-involvement in the decision

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

A majority of the members of the Williamsburg-James City County School Board stood by the decision to reopen the schools virtually for the first nine weeks. Board member James Beers was absent at the Tuesday meeting — his home lost power during Tropical Storm Isaias. Many of the parents who called in during the public comment section did not support online learning for the first nine weeks with a few citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Newport News school board approves virtual start for first 9 weeks

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

Students in Newport News will start the year online. The school board voted 6-1 to approve the recommendation of Superintendent George Parker in a virtual meeting Wednesday afternoon. The district will reevaluate a hybrid option after the first quarter, but district leaders want more public health data and information about which students and staff want to return before that decision.

Fredericksburg's school system offers child care options for parents, staff

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

Fredericksburg City Public Schools is lining up child care options for its students and its employees' children when it reopens virtually Aug. 17 for the fall semester. The School Board voted unanimously Monday to approve a contract with Minnieland Private Day School to provide child care for students in kindergarten through fifth grade at the city's two elementary schools for the 2020–21 school year.

Culpeper County swiftly passes another resolution opposing "any law" restricting gun rights

By ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Culpeper County has approved another resolution stating its opposition to any infringement of gun rights for local citizens and visitors alike. At its meeting Tuesday morning, the Board of Supervisors almost unanimously approved the document recommended for adoption last month by Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins.

Supreme Court of Virginia denies appeals from two men convicted in rally beating

Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Two men convicted in the beating of a counterprotester following the violent 2017 Unite the Right rally were denied appeals by the Supreme Court of Virginia Wednesday. In May 2018, Jacob Goodwin and Alex Ramos were both found guilty in Charlottesville Circuit Court of malicious wounding and later sentenced to eight years and six years in prison, respectively. Both men appealed the verdicts.

Luray Mayor Apologizes

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

Luray Mayor Barry Presgraves has made another Facebook post generating a lot of attention, this time issuing an apology. "I posted a picture 8-1-20, I am sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings. Lesson learned. It was not my intent to hurt anyone. I took it to be humorous. SORRY," Presgraves posted Tuesday evening. In a screenshot obtained by the Daily News-Record, the post had received more than 100 comments by 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.



Will distance learning bring an end to snow days?

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

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has an interesting take on distance learning, most school districts' main tool for dealing with the effects of COVID-19. "Maybe," she said not too long ago, "it's the end of the snow day." The governor said it with a smile, but she has a good point. The logic is as unassailable in Virginia as it is in Rhode Island.


Schapiro: '21 could be a reality check for Va. Democrats

By JEFF E. SCHAPIRO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

In all but declaring for governor — an idea he's been considering for several months — Republican Kirk Cox said he would wait until after the presidential election to announce whether he will actually run. That was the most telling line in the former House speaker's written statement. It was not just the customary bow to the current cycle's candidates. It might have been Cox's way of signaling he would prefer Donald Trump is defeated.


Romanello: Investing in the community

By ANTHONY J. ROMANELLO, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

On Wednesday, Facebook announced that the long-awaited Henrico Data Center officially is online, and Henrico County and the Economic Development Authority (EDA) couldn't be happier to have Facebook at Henrico's White Oak Technology Park. This is an important investment in our community and something Henrico worked hard to make happen.

Romanello is executive director of the Henrico Economic Development Authority.

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