Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

October 6, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia governor develops mild covid-19 symptoms, scorns Trump for downplaying disease

By GREGORY S. SCHNEIDER, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday that he has developed "mild" symptoms of covid-19 more than a week after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, but he is continuing to conduct business remotely. "I had a little bit of cold-like symptoms over the weekend and lost my sense of taste or smell, but other than that I feel fine," Northam (D) said Monday afternoon in a telephone interview. But Northam, who is a physician, said he was alarmed that President Trump was playing down the severity of the disease while apparently suffering a more serious bout.

Could coronavirus vaccine come as early as Trump suggested? Virginia gets ready for the possibility.

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

President Donald Trump's declaration that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready as soon as November has been greeted with heavy skepticism. But in Virginia, public health officials are getting ready — just in case. State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver has asked Virginia doctors and clinicians to brace for a possible Nov. 1 release, asking those interested in becoming vaccinators to sign up with the department so shots and other supplies can be shipped directly to their locations for free.

Virginia Senate panel kills bill to ease removal of Confederate monuments

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

A bill that would have made it easier for local governments to remove Confederate monuments died Monday, as members of a state Senate committee seemed reluctant to revisit an issue thrust to the fore by this summer's racial-justice protests. Virginia's cities and counties lacked authority to remove war monuments on their own property until this year, when newly empowered Democrats in the House and Senate passed legislation in the regular General Assembly session that gave them the power to do so.

JLARC: Low-performing public schools need more help from state

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

Virginia's lowest-performing public schools need more help improving from the agency tasked with overseeing them, the state legislature's watchdog agency concluded in a report issued Monday. Auditors found the Virginia Department of Education is well-managed overall but needs more people supporting high-need schools, a more robust approach to addressing a statewide teacher shortage and diversity among senior staff, all 11 of whom are white, among other findings.

Richmond to shorten school days after concerns from families, teachers

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

With consensus from the city School Board, Richmond Public Schools is shortening the virtual school day after complaints from parents and teachers wary of too much screen time. The decision followed weeks of pressure from families overwhelmed by conditions they said were hard on kids and from some teachers who questioned whether longer days were developmentally appropriate, especially for younger students.

Students Return, Resume In-Person Classes At JMU

By MEGAN WILLIAMS, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Monday marked the first day of in-person classes at James Madison University since students were sent home a month ago due to a significant rise in positive COVID-19 cases. About 56% of on-campus students returned to their homes, with 44% applying to stay. But with classes going fully online, the effect on positive COVID cases has been significant. Classes resumed, but due to restrictions such as a 50-person maximum, many students did not feel a change from how things have been the past four weeks.

Virus could be killing Clinch River mussels

By SARAH WADE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

Jordan Richard had barely started his job as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southwestern Virginia Field Office, in September 2016, when he got hit with concerning news: freshwater mussels were dying in the Clinch River. Thousands, in multiple parts of the river.

The Full Report
43 articles, 23 publications


VPAP Visual Virginia Presidential Voter Turnout

The Virginia Public Access Project

In Virginia, the Obama victory in 2008 has been the high water mark for voter participation in the "motor voter" era, when voters could begin to sign up at the DMV. Could next month's election set a new high?

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.


AG Herring: Localities Must Comply with FOIA During Emergency

By RENSS GREENE, Loudoun Now

Attorney General Mark Herring has issued an advisory opinion warning local governments that the state's open government laws remain in effect during the state of emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—which could have a bearing on Loudoun County's own emergency rules. On April 15, Loudoun supervisors adopted an emergency ordinance to conduct meetings outside of normal open meetings law, as gathering in one place became unsafe during the pandemic.


Virginia to get additional federal boost for Medicaid costs as state looks ahead to next budget

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

Virginia will get additional federal emergency relief for Medicaid through the end of March on top of more than a half-billion dollars that the state saved in reduced spending in the last fiscal year, primarily because of an abrupt decline in use of medical services during COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar announced late Friday that the federal government would extend the public health emergency through late January, ensuring that the federal government will pay an additional 6.2% share of Virginia's Medicaid costs through March 31, state Medicaid officials told legislators on Monday.


Crowded field in 2021 Va. lieutenant governor's race

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

The race to become Virginia's next lieutenant governor in 2021 is already crowded, with five Democrats and four Republicans launching campaigns for their party's nomination and several more potential candidates exploring bids. On Monday, both Del. Elizabeth R. Guzman (D-Prince William) and former delegate Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax) announced their candidacies to succeed Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is running for governor next year.

Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Prince William, launches bid for lieutenant governor

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

Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Prince William, on Monday formally began fundraising for her campaign to become Virginia's next lieutenant governor, as she vies to become the first woman and first Hispanic to occupy the role. Guzman filed necessary paperwork with the Virginia Department of Elections to create a campaign committee, which now allows her to fundraise explicitly for her campaign ahead of the 2021 elections.

GOP's Tim Hugo And Del. Elizabeth Guzman File To Run For Virginia Lt. Gov.


Former Republican Delegate Tim Hugo of Fairfax County and Democratic Del. Elizabeth Guzman of Prince William County, who also served as the co-chair of Bernie Sanders's Virginia campaign, announced Monday they are running in their parties' primaries for Virginia Lieutenant Governor. In a statement, Hugo alluded to the Democratic sweep of Virginia's General Assembly that cost him his seat last election.


Mailboxes broken into in central Virginia, sparking worries about missing absentee ballots

By ANTONIO OLIVO, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Virginia election officials said Monday that six mailboxes in the central portion of the state were broken into over the weekend, potentially resulting in the loss of an unknown number of absentee ballots. The break-ins, a federal crime, occurred in mailboxes located in the City of Richmond and Henrico and Chesterfield counties, state election officials said in a news release.

Six Richmond-area post offices report tampered mailboxes

By JESS NOCERA, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Early Monday morning, several U.S. Postal Service offices in the Richmond area reported allegations of tampering with their outside mailboxes. The reported thefts come during the third week of early voting for the upcoming presidential election, including mail-in absentee ballots. At this time, neither the U.S. Postal Service nor the Virginia Department of Elections can confirm if any election mail was in the various boxes.

Gade faults Warner for appointing Cavedo, calling judge 'racist'; Cavedo calls it 'disgusting lie'

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

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Daniel Gade is criticizing Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., for appointing Richmond Circuit Judge Bradley B. Cavedo to the bench as governor in 2002, calling him a "known segregationist" and a "racist judge." Asked about Gade's characterization, Cavedo said in an email on Monday: "I am going to decline to respond to this appalling and disgusting lie."

Sen. Warner: 'I'm committed to getting to yes' on restaurant aid


U.S. Sen. Mark Warner told around two dozen independent restaurant owners and larger restaurant groups that he believes a compromise bill will provide some financial relief to restaurants struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. "Some of these independent restaurants are hanging on by their fingertips," said the Virginia Democrat after listening to restaurateurs' concerns at Hen Quarter, on King Street, in Old Town Alexandria.


Over two months, pro-gun rights localities accounted for roughly half of Virginia's red flag orders

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

In early July, Virginia Beach police officers responded to a call about a man threatening to shoot himself in the head in his ex-girlfriend's driveway after she broke up with him. According to court documents, they found a loaded gun in his car. . . . Though local politicians in many conservative-leaning Virginia communities voted last year to symbolically declare their opposition to Democratic-supported gun control measures, court records show that law enforcement agencies in some of those localities are already using the red flag law to try to prevent people from hurting themselves or others.

All senior leaders at the Virginia Department of Education are white


Not a single person of color works in leadership at the state agency responsible for overseeing all of Virginia's public schools. An audit of the Virginia Department of Education reveals a serious lack of diversity at the executive level. The audit conducted by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), uncovered all 13 staff members in senior leadership positions , assistant superintendent level or higher, are white. Seven of the 13 senior leaders are male.

She helped Virginia Beach respond to the mass shooting. Now she will help the state manage emergencies.

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

The Virginia Beach city official who helped usher the city through major events like the mass shooting that killed 12 people is moving on to work for the governor. The city's emergency manager, Erin Sutton, began her new role on Monday as a chief deputy at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. In the state's history, Sutton is only the second woman to become chief deputy for VDEM, according to the department. She is also the first woman to transition into the role from a local government.


A large data center could have $50M annual impact on SWVA, study finds

By SYDNEY LAKE, Va Business Magazine

Southwest Virginia is well-positioned for data centers and a large data center could result in more than 2,000 jobs and $50 million in annual economic activity, according to the Project Oasis study conducted by OnPoint Development Strategies and released Monday by InvestSWVA. Due to its land availability, geothermal cooling opportunities and workforce readiness and development, Southwest Virginia could be an attractive data center destination, according to the study.


JMU students say they worry their concerns went unheard

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

Four weeks after they were sent home, students returned to campus Monday at James Madison University in Harrisonburg with only 31 active COVID-19 cases of the 1,522 reported since July 1. With new safety rules, more testing and 300 more isolation beds, university leaders say they're confident that this time they can keep the spread of the coronavirus in check. But some students who spoke with the Richmond Times-Dispatch said they were worried the college never listened to their concerns before bringing students back.

Most survey takers unhappy with JMU's COVID-19 response


In a survey conducted by The Breeze, a majority of respondents displayed a high disapproval of the university's handling of COVID-19 and a low amount of confidence toward JMU's ability to make safe decisions moving forward. With JMU returning to in-person learning this week, The Breeze conducted a survey to gauge how the community — students, faculty and staff — feels about JMU's COVID-19 decisions. Almost 2,000 people completed the survey, which shows more than 8 in 10 respondents disapprove of the way the university has handled the pandemic and about 6 in 10 said they aren't confident JMU will make good decisions with COVID-19.

VCU will host a virtual graduation in December, but spring graduates will have to wait

By ERIC KOLENICH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Virginia Commonwealth University will host a virtual graduation in December, but students who graduated in May 2020 will be honored on another date. VCU announced that it will hold a virtual commencement ceremony Dec. 12 for its August and December graduates. The event will be an interactive online experience, the school said in a statement.

Motion proposed for a vote of no confidence in W&M athletics director; calls for dismissal or resignation

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

A faculty member at William & Mary is filing a motion for a vote of no confidence in Athletics Director Samantha Huge after she, along with the university's president and provost, announced seven sports programs would be cut effective next year. Suzanne Hagedorn, associate professor of English and director of the undergraduate program in English of Arts & Sciences, sent the draft of the motion to her colleagues in the Arts & Sciences department on Monday, giving them 24 hours to review it before their Tuesday afternoon meeting.


Virginia COVID-19 cases up 2,870 over the weekend

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported Monday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 152,557 — an increase of 2,870 from the 149,687 reported Friday. The 152,557 cases consist of 144,439 confirmed cases and 8,118 probable cases. There are 3,276 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 3,063 confirmed and 213 probable. That's an increase of 26 from the 3,250 reported Friday.

Area COVID-19 hospitalizations steady, infection rate increases

By RACHEL MAHONEY, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

Lynchburg General Hospital has seen a stable stream of COVID-19 patients over the past month, with fewer people needing intensive treatment as the area sees a slight increase in new cases. Centra Health reported in a Monday update that patient numbers have been in the upper 20s for the past few weeks. As of Monday morning, there were 20 COVID-19 patients at LGH: 14 in a designated unit, six in the ICU and two of those ICU patients on ventilators.

COVID-19 outbreak infects 18 patients, 11 employees at Central State

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

A COVID-19 outbreak has infected 18 patients and 11 employees at Central State Hospital, all within one building for long-term care of people with mental illness at the state mental institution near Petersburg. The outbreak at Central State is the latest manifestation of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nine patients and one employee at Virginia's behavioral health institutions since mid-summer.

More than 100 inmates test positive for COVID-19 at Western Tidewater Regional Jail

By ROBYN SIDERSKY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

More than 100 inmates and six staff members and contractors have tested positive for COVID-19 at Western Tidewater Regional Jail, according to a news release. On Sept. 8, an inmate tested positive and once additional inmates also tested positive, the jail and the Virginia Department of Health tested all inmates and staff at the facility.

All inmates at Danville City Jail to be tested for COVID-19

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

Danville's sheriff said Monday he hopes to have all the inmates at the Danville City Jail tested for COVID-19 by Tuesday following an outbreak at the facility last week. "After consulting with health department officials, the remainder of the inmates at the Danville City Jail will be tested for COVID-19," Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul said via email Monday afternoon. "The results of those tests will be released as soon as practical after they are known."


Two officers indicted on charges related to Richmond Police actions during unrest


A Richmond Grand Jury received 18 sealed indictments related to actions the Richmond Police Department took during weeks of unrest in Richmond over the late Spring and Summer months, Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin announced in an email Monday. The Grand Jury came back with True Bills on two officers of the Richmond Police Department.

Portsmouth prosecutor can't be subpoenaed in Confederate monument case, judge rules

By MARGARET MATRAY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A judge ruled Monday that Portsmouth police cannot subpoena the city's elected prosecutor as a witness in the criminal case stemming from a protest and vandalism at the downtown Confederate monument. The ruling means Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie Morales can handle the case as long as she doesn't find during her own review of the evidence that there is a conflict of interest.

Trooper won't be charged for violent stop involving Black driver

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

A White trooper with the Virginia State Police has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing in a controversial traffic stop during which he can be heard on video telling a Black driver "you are going to get your a-- whooped," before forcefully removing the man from his car. Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Steve T. Descano said that Trooper Charles Hewitt's conduct was reprehensible but that the stop of Derrick Thompson, Hewitt's request for Thompson to leave his vehicle and the amount of force used on Thompson were legal.

Arlington NAACP Calls for Independent Investigation into Inmate Death


The Arlington branch of the NAACP is calling for an independent investigation into an inmate's death inside the county jail last week. The incident happened on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 1 at the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse. Darryl Becton, 46, was found unconscious in his cell and later declared dead on scene by paramedics after resuscitation efforts failed.


Fairfax superintendent revises proposal to reform admissions at Thomas Jefferson High School

By HANNAH NATANSON, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The superintendent of Virginia's largest school system has revised his proposal to reform admissions at one of the top public high schools in the nation following parent and alumni outcry, and as the county School Board prepares to vote on the issue. In mid-September, Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand suggested switching the admissions system at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology from a test-based process to a "merit-based lottery," a measure meant to boost historically low Black and Hispanic enrollment.

Loudoun NAACP Leaders Find School Division's Segregation Apology Lacking

Loudoun Now

One week after the Loudoun County Public Schools division posted on its website a formal apology for its segregationist history, the Loudoun NAACP hosted a Friday night online forum during which members said much more needs to be done. Chapter President Michelle Thomas dismissed the apology as "self-serving" and said Loudoun's Black families are looking for more than just recognition of educational inequities—past and present.

Supervisor Candland proposes year-long rezoning moratorium in Prince William County

By JARED FORETEK, Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

Prince William County's Gainesville District Supervisor Pete Candland has proposed establishing a 12-month moratorium on all county rezonings, a move that drew a swift rebuke from the county's largest business interest group. Unveiled Friday, Candland's proposal would establish the year-long moratorium in order to "authorize a study period and define" land-use concepts like "equity in housing" and "environmental justice," Candland said in a release.

Virginia Beach councilman John Moss tests positive for coronavirus

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

Virginia Beach Councilman John Moss has tested positive for coronavirus. He revealed his diagnosis on Facebook on Monday. He said he developed a persistent, severe cough one week ago — which he initially thought stemmed from a recent flu shot — but did not have any other symptoms.

Former Navy "Fuel Farm" in York County could soon be site of 20-megawatt solar farm

By NOOR ADATIA, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

After years of negotiations, eastern Virginia's regional facility authority will purchase 432 acres in York County on behalf of several localities in Hampton Roads. Eastern Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority partnered with KDC Solar, which will buy the property for $1.35 million, in exchange for a lease to construct a solar farm on about 250 acres.

Albemarle spent more than $100,000 for statue removal, related event

By ALLISON WRABEL, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Albemarle County spent about $106,000 to remove its Confederate statue and hold an event around the statue's eviction. According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Sept. 12 removal of the "At Ready" soldier statue, its base, two cannons, a pile of cannonballs and the lights around it cost the county about $60,800, but there were additional costs for staff overtime, barricades and other items for the event.

City School Board approves transition plan for students

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

The majority of Fredericksburg City Public School students will continue learning virtually until January. The City School Board on Monday night unanimously approved Superintendent Marci Catlett's transition plan, which will bring preschool and high-needs students—such as those with individualized education plans, those who are homeless, those without internet access and those with significant academic need—back to school buildings for a shortened week in October and November.

Stolen campaign signs draw ire across the political aisle

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

Political signs for Democratic and Republican candidates in the Nov. 3 election are being snatched up, according to police. With the presidential election and numerous state and local elections just four weeks away, campaign signs are a common sight on front lawns and elsewhere. Signs for President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are becoming especially prominent. But many of the signs vanish almost as quickly as they appear.

Rare case of voter registration fraud alleged

By EVAN GOODENOW, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A Frederick County man admitted he illegally tried to register to vote, according to police. In 2006, Jeremiah Edward Bolen Sr. was convicted of the third or subsequent offense of driving under the influence, a felony, according to Winchester Circuit Court records. However, Bolen applied to vote on June 22 despite not having his voting rights restored, according to a criminal complaint from Derek G. Crider, a Frederick County Sheriff's Office investigator.

Blacksburg company to expand fiber internet network as competition grows in New River Valley

By YANN RANAIVO, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Choices for internet in town are rapidly changing. WideOpen Blacksburg, the product of a company based at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, plans to deploy approximately 40 miles of fiber over the next year that will be capable of servicing up to roughly 8,000 homes in neighborhoods off North and South Main Street.

Franklin County to switch grades 6-12 to all virtual learning due to staffing issues

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

Franklin County Public Schools will switch to all virtual learning for grades 6-12 starting Thursday and continuing until Oct. 19, when students will return to the hybrid schedule the system adopted when classes opened in September. The schedule switch comes out of an abundance of caution, said Franklin County Schools Superintendent Mark Church. The need for teachers and staff to self-isolate because of cases reported to the school has rendered the county's high school and middle school too understaffed to provide adequate in-person classroom supervision, he said.

Halifax County looks to add broadband options

By LIZA FULTON, South Boston News & Record

After years of frustration trying to develop broadband connectivity in out-of-the-way rural areas, Halifax County officials are hopeful that internet-starved households will soon have high-speed options for going online. The Halifax County Board of Supervisors is set to finalize an agreement tonight at the October monthly meeting that awards nearly $1.3 million to EMPOWER Broadband, a subsidiary of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative that is bringing ultra high-speed fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service to thousands of households in Halifax and nearby counties.



Four questions about Virginia politics

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

If you came here today for answers, you're in the wrong place. Today, we have questions. 1. What happens if a county votes to keep its Confederate statues? Six localities will hold votes this November on their statues — Charles City County, Franklin County, Halifax County, Lunenburg County, Tazewell County and Warren County.

Credibility needed when truth matters most

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

There may be no better argument in favor of the White House establishing itself as a trustworthy source of information than what transpired over the weekend following confirmation on Friday that President Donald Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. Faced with an urgent crisis that demanded transparency, the White House did not immediately disclose the president's infection, was slow to provide valuable updates and offered conflicting and inconsistent information about his condition and course of treatment.

The reality of COVID-19

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

In recent weeks, two key political figures — Gov. Ralph Northam and President Donald Trump — have tested positive for COVID-19. Both cases publicly appear to involve mild symptoms, with the 61-year-old governor staying at home and the 74-year-old president spending time over the weekend at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. No matter whom you are or how old you are, the effect the coronavirus will have on your body is unpredictable.

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