Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

September 8, 2020
Top of the News

Anxiety and hope for Virginia Beach teachers and parents

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

In Virginia Beach, students in most grades could be sauntering through hallways, with their pens, notebooks and backpacks in tow, in just a few weeks — ahead of many schools throughout the region. For families throughout the city — and teachers preparing for the year — the possibility of returning for in-person learning has brought excitement, a hope that school could restart and be as normal as possible, given the circumstances.

Ahead of Tuesday's start of in-person classes, Ryan says UVa keeping close eye on situation

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

As the University of Virginia is set for an unusual fall semester, officials are continuing to add and refine measures to try to keep students and the community safe. Last week, as students moved into university housing, officials clarified the limits on gatherings and how mask requirements and other coronavirus-related restrictions would be enforced, and they announced random, mandatory COVID-19 testing for students.

How Jerry Falwell Jr. mixed his personal finances with his university's


After parting ways with President Jerry Falwell Jr in the wake of personal scandals, Liberty University has hired a firm to investigate "all facets" of Falwell's tenure, including the school's financial and real estate operations. There may be much to untangle. Falwell, who took over as president of Liberty in 2007 after years as a lawyer handling its real estate interests, intertwined his personal finances with those of the evangelical Christian university founded by his father.

Residents, health workers hope flu shots stave off 'double whammy' of flu, coronavirus

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

Worried about "the double whammy that may be coming," Diane Powell wasted no time getting a flu shot this year. The Stafford County woman has been following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both for COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. When the CDC said "getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever" and that September and October are the best times to be vaccinated, Powell went to a pharmacy on Tuesday—the first day of September—and got a shot in the arm.

For one Danville restaurant, road to reopening illuminated with disease-zapping technique

By AMIE KNOWLES, Danville Register & Bee

With some restaurants, it's just the food that commands attention. For others, it's the decor or the location. With the Schoolfield Restaurant in Danville — especially in the time of the coronavirus — it's the disease-zapping ultra-violet lighting. One of the first restaurants in the country to utilize UV lighting, the eatery recently received acclaim on a European television network program featuring an interview with a co-owner's physicist father, who proposed the idea and used the Danville establishment as a model.

Metro's rail control center a 'toxic workplace' where procedures put riders at risk, safety report says

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

A scathing new report describes Metro's rail operations center as a "toxic workplace" where employees are bullied, racially and sexually harassed, and told by managers to ignore authorities and operating procedures, creating chaos during emergencies and threatening passenger safety. The 50-page audit by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) notes deep cultural, communication and organizational flaws in the agency's Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC), dating to the 1980s and persisting despite repeated calamities, federal investigations, reviews and mandates for changes.

Virginia's vanishing bee: State works to save rusty patched bumblebee

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

In 2019, the bee met the bulldozer, and the bee won. In July of that year, a federal appeals court in Richmond for the second time yanked a permit for the now-cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline. And the decision brought into the spotlight a small creature that for years has been retreating into Virginia's shadows: the rusty patched bumble bee.

The Full Report
30 articles, 20 publications


From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

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


Sen. Mark Warner, Republican challenger Daniel Gade launch first major ad buys

By MEAGAN FLYNN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and his Republican opponent, Daniel Gade, released their first major television ad buys of the campaign over the holiday weekend, as Gade tries to boost his name recognition against the two-term senator and popular former governor. Gade, a 25-year Army veteran who lectures in public affairs at American University, faces a steep climb in his bid against Warner, with political analysts calling the race a safe win for Democrats.

Gade sees parallels between uphill race for Senate in Virginia and military service in Iraq

By DAVID SHERFINSKI, Washington Times

Daniel Gade says he doesn't see his Senate bid in Virginia this year as all that different from his military service, which included losing his right leg after he survived an explosion in Iraq in 2004. "When I was blown up, I was at a fork in the road. I was given an opportunity to either continue to serve or to get out and feel sorry for myself, and I continued to serve," the Republican candidate said. "I don't view this as a jump or as anything different than I've always done. It's the same thing I've always done, which is to serve America, serve the American people, serve the Constitution."

Congressman Bobby Scott: Labor Day 2020, workers face a safety crisis


For decades, the congressman who represents Newport News and Hampton, has hosted a massive backyard- style cookout where constituents could get a bite of food and a good taste of politics as Virginia prepared for the November elections. This year, because of the pandemic, the Democrat served up his annual Labor Day message on socially-safe Facebook.

Central Virginia voter registrars put out call for younger poll workers ahead of Election Day


Voter registrars across Central Virginia are putting out the call for help ahead of election day. They desperately need poll workers, but . . . COVID-19 concerns at the polls have the normal pool of candidates for the job sitting this one out. "The typical age of an election officer is 65+ and they are the most vulnerable populations so some feel very uncomfortable, voting, working in the polls," said Kirk Showalter, Richmond Voter Registrar.


Four courts can resume jury trials in September

By PETER VIETH, Virginia Lawyers Weekly (Subscription required for some articles)

Virginia Supreme Court officials have approved four local court plans for the resumption of jury trials as soon as Sept. 14. Many other circuit courts still are waiting to learn if their plans will survive scrutiny by three-justice panels consulting with court administrators. Even as highly detailed jury plans were being examined, Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons addressed reports of lax infection control practices in some courthouses, saying he believed judges and clerks had a "legal obligation" to follow all recommended precautions, including consistent mask wearing.

Thousands of DC-region students resume classes with virtual start to school year


Eleven of the D.C. region's school districts are returning to class Tuesday, though halls will be empty, with hundreds of thousands of students instead starting lessons online as they seek to curb the spread of the coronavirus before a possible return to in-person classes later this year. After the Labor Day weekend, students across much of Northern Virginia and Maryland will join their peers elsewhere in an unprecedented, all-virtual start to the semester — and the vast array of unique technical, academic and social challenges it poses.


Despite pandemic disruptions, the Port of Virginia looks to the future

By ELIZABETH COOPER, Va Business Magazine

Tariff wars and the COVID-19 pandemic delivered a one-two punch to the Port of Virginia, but officials are focusing on the positive as expansions are completed at the port's two largest terminals, and a dredging project to make Virginia the East Coast's deepest port is running ahead of schedule. The third-largest East Coast port behind New York/New Jersey and Savannah, Georgia, Virginia achieved record-setting cargo volumes for six consecutive years before seeing its numbers fall off in fiscal year 2020.

Apple harvest cropping up to be a tough one

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

Picking the area's apple crop isn't going to be easy. A frost that took place earlier this year has resulted in a smaller crop than usual. On top of that is the logistical nightmare of getting hundreds of workers here to pick apples during the coronavirus pandemic and keeping them healthy during their stay. In mid-August, workers began arriving at a migrant labor camp operated by the Frederick County Fruit Growers Association at 801 Fairmont Ave. They typically stay in one of the camp's 20 buildings during the harvest, which wraps up around the end of October.

Opposition Heard For Solar Farm Permit

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

The public hearing for a proposed solar farm special-use permit isn't scheduled until Wednesday, but opposition is already being received by county staff. Kelly Getz, deputy zoning administrator for Rockingham County, said members of the Board of Supervisors have received calls voicing opposition to the request by Caden Energix Endless Caverns LLC, which has no relation with Endless Caverns in New Market, to build an approximately 323.6-acre solar farm on property southwest of Craney Island Road and Mt. Valley Road.


'Significant pain': Metro begins planning possible cuts


With an emergency boost of federal funding set to run out by the end of the year, the D.C. Metro system, which is reportedly losing millions of dollars a day, is beginning to plan for significant cost-saving measures, including the cutting of rail and bus service next year. Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, has warned for months that the agency faces a "looming crisis" without more federal funding.

Prince William County supervisors killed the Va. 28 bypass. Now some want to reconsider.


The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted unanimously last month against a $300 million bypass for Va. 28 and instead endorsed a more costly widening of the existing road. Now, some supervisors want to resurrect the bypass despite the objections of Supervisor Yesli Vega, who represents the district where the bypass would be built. . . . The project would require the taking of more than 70 homes.


JMU Reports Over 1,000 COVID Cases

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

Over 1,000 COVID-19 cases have been identified in James Madison University students and employees, according to the most recent data published by the institution on Monday. Roughly a third of the cases, 332, have recovered and only four of the 1,003 total cases are JMU employees, according to the school's online dashboard.

RAs call upon UVa to address urgent safety concerns, provide necessary resources amid pandemic

By JACQUELYN KIM, Cavalier Daily

Resident advisors at the University anonymously published a list of demands via Twitter Aug. 28, calling upon Housing and Residence Life to treat resident staffers as "frontline workers" and provide them with the "necessary resources to fulfill our role and protect ourselves, our residents and the community." While the RAs recognize in the letter accompanying their list of demands that the task of creating a "meaningful, safe, and equitable college experience for thousands of students" is "no small feat," they express concerns about the safety of the University and Charlottesville communities.


Virginia reports 645 new coronavirus cases, 6 deaths Monday

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported 645 new coronavirus cases Monday, bringing the state's tally to 127,571. At least 2,684 Virginians have died from the virus as of Monday morning, an increase of 6 from Sunday.

Prince William County schools confirms COVID-19 cases among staff before school year begins

By JILL PALERMO, Prince William Times

The new school year won't officially begin until Tuesday, Sept. 8. But already, some Prince William County schools' staff have reported positive cases of COVID-19, a school division spokeswoman confirmed Sunday. Belmont Elementary School Principal Karen Giacometti emailed staff on Friday, Sept. 4, to inform them that a staff member at the Woodbridge school had tested positive for COVID-19. . . . The Belmont Elementary School staff member is among "less than 10" employees across the school division who have reported positive cases of COVID-19 since teachers and staff returned to work to prepare for the new school year on Monday, Aug. 17, according to Prince William County schools' spokeswoman Diana Gulotta.

Liberty Middle School in Hanover delays reopening after 3 faculty members test positive for COVID-19

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

After three faculty members at Liberty Middle School tested positive for the coronavirus, Hanover County Public Schools announced Monday that instruction originally scheduled to begin Tuesday will begin remotely Thursday. Up to 15 staff members at the school may have been exposed, and other employees from the school system who have been inside the building during the past two weeks may be at risk, the district said in a letter to the Liberty community.

StoneBridge School in Chesapeake reports 2 COVID-19 cases

By DAVE RESS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Two people at StoneBridge School have tested positive for COVID-19, the school advised parents and students Saturday. The small pre-K to Grade 12 classical Christian school has been sanitizing and deep-cleaning its Chesapeake campus through the weekend, and will be closed Tuesday so administrators can consult with the health department about what steps to take next, said head of school Kathy Rader.


As Waters Rise, So Do Some Homes


This summer, tornados and intense rains have devastated some of Virginia's tiny communities from the Atlantic Coast to mountain valleys. The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA will be increasing flood insurance premiums next year. Homeowners are facing emotional decisions, some with hefty price tags, to adapt to the changing climate. One option is to go high.


Opponents unimpressed by paving company's $250K pledge to schools ahead of vote on asphalt plant

By DANIEL BERTI, Prince William Times

A paving company seeking a special-use permit for an asphalt plant near a predominantly non-white elementary school has pledged $250,000 to Prince William County schools ahead of a consequential vote on the project this week. . . . But the paving company's efforts have not satisfied local residents who are opposed to the project.

Students are preparing for the unknown

By SARA GREGORY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

When Melvin Johnson Jr. pictured his oldest son starting high school at his alma mater, he remembered his own experiences at Booker T. Washington High — playing football, lots of studying and growing pains. "I was so nervous. I just wanted to fit in and at the same time get good grades," Johnson said. "You're trying to appease everybody. You're still trying to find yourself." Johnson knew his son's experience would be different from his own.

Charlottesville City Council to consider firearm ban, $27M in bonds

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

Charlottesville City Council is taking a third, and possibly final, swing at an ordinance to prohibit guns in city facilities and properties. The council will conduct a third reading of the proposed ordinance during its meeting Tuesday. The ordinance does not require a public hearing, but speakers can discuss it during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Fredericksburg's annual Christmas parade to have COVID-19 twist

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

Fredericksburg will hold its annual Christmas Parade on Dec. 5—with a twist. Instead of thousands of spectators lining Caroline and Princess Anne streets to watch the parade go by, the floats will line Gordon W. Shelton Boulevard in Celebrate Virginia South and the spectators will drive by.

Louisa County debates Election Day as holiday

By DAVID HOLTZMAN, Central Virginian

The Commonwealth of Virginia has made Election Day a state holiday, but Louisa County government employees might not get the day off. While it's customary for county staff to have the same holidays as their state-level counterparts, at least two members of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors objected at their Aug. 17 meeting.

Council To Vote To Formalize CARES Act Task Force

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

City Council will vote to formalize appointments to and establish the CARES Act Advisory Task Force, a group charged with advising city staff and council on where the next round of CARES Act funding should be sent. The city is slated to receive another $4.6 million after it received $4.6 million on June 1 as part of the federally passed CARES Act, according to city documents. The Harrisonburg CARES Act Advisory Task Force met for the first time Thursday and the group is slated to have two more meetings, one on Wednesday at 2 p.m. and the second on Thursday at noon.

Applications still open for Roanoke County social services utility relief program

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

The Roanoke County Department of Social Services has paid more than $135,000 in unpaid and overdue bills for those experiencing job losses during the coronavirus pandemic. Roanoke County, Vinton and Salem contributed a combined $600,000 of their Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding to the assistance program, which began in mid-July.



Preventing more COVID learning losses

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

The Tuesday after Labor Day is traditionally when students —armed with new backpacks and school supplies—returned to the classroom to start another academic year. But legislative changes and the coronavirus pandemic have upended that tradition. Students in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County already returned to school on Aug. 17, and the first day of school in Stafford and King George counties was Aug. 31. But the major change this year is that most classrooms remain empty as students, faculty and staff attempt another round of virtual learning.

A consumer's guide to polls

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

Now that Labor Day is past, we are sure to be inundated by one thing: Presidential polls. That makes today a good day to offer a consumer advisory on polls. They are no different from any consumer product: They are not all equal — and no, their quality is not determined by how much you like the results. First, let's dispense with a myth that the polls were wrong in 2016. Actually, the polls were almost dead on — we just remember the wrong ones.


Murphy and Bryant: Mark Warner's diligence led to the Great American Outdoors Act

By W. TAYLOE MURPHY JR. AND L. PRESTON BRYANT JR., published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

In this summer of political discontent, an extraordinary thing happened when Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act, which some have billed as the most important environmental legislation in generations. The act will provide billions of dollars to our national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, and in historic Virginia, where such federal recreation lands number in the millions of acres and draw millions of visitors, that is big news for conservation, tourism and jobs.

W. Tayloe Murphy Jr., and L. Preston Bryant,Jr., served as Virginia secretary of natural resources from 2002 to 2006 and 2006 to 2010, respectively.

Sturtevant: Cover COVID-19 vaccination recipients with adverse reactions

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

With the efforts to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine across the country and around the world, it is good news that a Richmond-based research firm also is involved in the clinical trial process. This is not the first pandemic of late that has required the rapid development of a vaccine. The most recent and well-known was the 2009 swine flu known as H1N1.

Sturtevant is an attorney at Rawls Law Group in Richmond and a former Virginia state senator.

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