Saturday, October 3, 2020

Special Saturday Edition

October 3, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia House, Senate pass budgets, getting closer to final spending plan

By AMY FRIEDENBERGER AND CLAIRE MITZEL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate this week both passed a revised state budget that would fund various criminal justice and police reform measures, housing relief, assistance with utility payments and aid to public schools. The budget bills from the House and Senate — both of which are controlled by Democrats — have numerous differences. A group of delegates and senators will discuss those over the coming days so they can put forward a final budget for both chambers to approve.

Senate votes party line to pass no-knock ban; GOP leader says House 'mob' is herding it through

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

A bill banning no-knock search warrants in Virginia got through the state Senate as expected along party lines, but not before Senate Republicans spent a lot of energy attacking both the bill and what one senator called "that mob" in the House of Delegates for ramming it through the special session

Contact tracing for a coronavirus-positive governor previews task ahead for Trump tracers

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

Just days before Gov. Ralph Northam tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he traveled to the Blue Ridge Mountains to christen a new highway tunnel, the Hampton Roads region to break ground on an economic development project, and Northern Virginia to lay out a refinancing plan for public universities. First lady Pam Northam, who also tested positive, made stops at a community garden and two child-care centers in Fredericksburg, a preschool in Dumfries and a Manassas Park elementary school.

Weekend jail in Virginia Beach used to mean 2 nights at the facility. These days, inmates don't even go inside.

By JANE HARPER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

When one of the men who took part in a violent assault on her boyfriend was sentenced to 30 days in jail, Margaret Reyes thought it meant he'd actually be incarcerated for that long. Even when the judge agreed to allow the 38-year-old Norfolk man to serve his sentence on the weekends — beginning Oct. 9 — Reyes still believed he'd do the time, just not all at once.

University says 'F--- UVA' signs on Lawn doors are protected free speech

By BRYAN MCKENZIE, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

A four-letter imperative, posted to a Lawn residence door with the University of Virginia as its direct object, has riled alumni and created a social media debate that led the university's president, rector and general counsel to defend the profane door as protected political speech. The expletive features a common English curse word followed by a list of grievances: "UVa operating cost, KKKops, genocide, slavery, disability, black-brown life."

Chesterfield home, BLM sign drawing attention of neighbors and codes department


A Chesterfield home projected in colorful images is bringing attention to national political topics–drawing the intrigue of neighbors and drivers passing-by. Now, a large sign out front supporting the 'Black Lives Matter' movement is in the middle of a dispute with the county.

Virginia has a rocket launch site, and it's about to grow with the most successful startup since SpaceX

By CHRISTIAN DAVENPORT, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, down past Chincoteague toward the southern tip of the Eastern Shore, sits an isolated spit of shoreline, near a wildlife refuge, that is home to one of the most unusual, and little known, rocket launch sites in the country. Born as a Navy air station during World War II, it has launched more than 16,000 rockets, most of them small sounding vehicles used for scientific research. But the Wallops Flight Facility, which at the dawn of the Space Age played a role as a test site for the Mercury program, is about to reinvent itself at a time when the commercial space industry is booming and spreading beyond the confines of Florida's Cape Canaveral.

The Full Report
42 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.


Northam wishes the Trumps well, feels fine a week after positive test

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

Aweek after his own positive test for COVID-19, Gov. Ralph Northam says he feels fine and has no symptoms. On Friday the governor was among many Virginia state officials wishing President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump well after hearing they had tested positive, and urging Virginians to take the coronavirus seriously.


Housing Protections Clear Virginia Legislature


Virginians facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic could soon have new protections. The state Senate passed two bills on Thursday that aim to help renters stay in their homes. Both bills were sponsored by Del. Marcia Price (D-Newport News), One bill would allow for tenants to catch up on late rent by paying overdue amounts in equal installments over six months. This would only apply to landlords who own more than four rental units in Virginia.

State GOP legislative leaders ask Inspector General to release additional investigative reports of Parole Board

By MARK BOWES, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

State Republican legislative leaders have asked the State Inspector General to release "complete and unredacted copies" of all investigative reports it may have provided to the governor's office or other administration officials involving investigations the agency conducted of Virginia Parole Board decisions. In a letter dated Sept. 26 and sent to State Inspector General Michael Westfall, House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment Jr., R-James City, said they have learned that Westfall's office "has made additional findings and produced one or more additional reports related to" an earlier administrative investigation of the Virginia Parole Board.

Virginia lawmakers pass bill banning traffic stops for tiny infractions

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

Legislation banning police from initiating searches based on the smell of marijuana and making traffic stops for an array of minor infractions is heading to Gov. Ralph Northam's desk after clearing the General Assembly on Friday. The bill is among the first in a wide-ranging package of police reforms to win final passage in the House and Senate during a special legislative session that began in August.

Bill would ban pre-arrest sex between police and detainees

By ADA ROMANO, VCU Capital News Service

A bill to charge law enforcement officers with a Class 6 felony if they engage in sexual relations with a detainee has unanimously passed both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. Del. Karrie Delaney, D-Centreville, said she proposed House Bill 5045 to close a loophole in the law which currently does not make it illegal for police officers to have sexual relations with someone who has been detained.


Virginians to vote on bipartisan redistricting

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

Virginia voters will decide next month whether to approve a constitutional amendment creating a bipartisan commission to draw political boundaries in hopes of ending partisan and racial gerrymandering. "Amendment #1," as it appears on general election ballots, would shift the task of redistricting from the governor and General Assembly to a panel composed of lawmakers and citizens.

GOP Politicians Want a Redistricting Commission, But Their Voters Aren't So Sure


Virginia Republicans are campaigning heavily to pass a Constitutional amendment that backers say will help end gerrymandering. The unanimity stands in contrast to Democratic politicians and the GOP's own voters, whom polling suggests are divided on the amendment. The amendment would remove the General Assembly's traditional role in drawing their own maps and give that power to a 16-person commission made up equally of lawmakers and citizens. The Virginia Supreme Court would serve as a backstop if the commission deadlocks.


Virginia Beach officials adjust to handle expected surge in absentee ballots

By MARGAUX MACCOLL, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

At 10 a.m. Friday, the first absentee vote in Virginia Beach officially was cast. This kicked off an unprecedented election year where officials expect to count more absentee ballots than ever. To prepare, Virginia Beach election officials have ramped up their strategies for processing votes ahead of Election Day. According to state law, election officials can begin processing absentee ballots before Nov. 3, as long as the vote totals are not tallied until Election Day.

SW Va. registrars say not just anyone can serve as a poll watcher

By MIKE STILL, Kingsport Times News

Poll watching and protecting voting integrity have figured in various news and social media platforms in recent weeks as Virginia registrars and election officials handle early voting and absentee ballots in advance of Election Day on Nov. 3. . . . Registrars in Wise, Lee and Scott counties and the city of Norton all said Friday that they are not expecting disturbances at polling places in the region, but they also said that state election law places restrictions on who can serve as a poll watcher.


VSP launches website allowing public to submit, track FOI requests


Virginia State Police launched a new website this week designed to help the public submit and track Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The web-based public records portal opened to the public on October 1. The records management system is also available to the media and for attorneys to upload subpoena duces tecum and discovery requests.

'A great opportunity': Plan for CVTC property formally launched, public urged to give input

By JUSTIN FAULCONER, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

A redevelopment plan for the Central Virginia Training Center campus, an effort Lynchburg-area officials have talked about extensively in recent years, formally kicked off Thursday with the launch of a website and a strong push for public input. CVTC in Madison Heights is in the process of closing as a state-run facility with more than a century's history of serving residents with disabilities. The site's last remaining resident was relocated in early April.


As Caroline ICE Center Confronts Outbreak, Kaine Talks Farmville with Local Officials


During a virtual roundtable with local health and government officials, Sen. Tim Kaine was briefed by health officials on lessons learned in Farmville. The immigration detention center in Farmville suffered a major COVID-19 outbreak over the summer -- the worst of any ICE facility in the country -- after detainees were transferred in from Arizona and Florida. The majority of these transfers tested positive.


Virginia Beach's new $68 million state-of-the-art Sports Center opens

By STACY PARKER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Vying to be one of the nation's top sports tourism destinations, Virginia Beach opened its new $68 million state-of-the-art indoor sports facility Thursday, a month earlier than expected. The Virginia Beach Sports Center, on 19th Street at the Oceanfront, became a reality in less than two years.

QVC puts call center in Chesapeake up for sale or lease; employees to keep working from home

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

QVC, the television-based home-shopping retailer, put its 52,911-square-foot Chesapeake call center on the market. Its employees will work from home permanently. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed Qurate Retail Group, which owns QVC, to rapidly shift to a work-from-home model, something that was in the works before the global health crisis that led to business closures and social distancing rules. The company's entire U.S. Customer Service & Experience division, with few exceptions, will keep working from home indefinitely.


Metro lags behind other big transit systems in converting its bus fleet to electric, Sierra Club report says

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

Metro lags behind other large transit agencies in converting its bus fleet to electric and is on a "backward" path with its plan to purchase about 500 gas-fueled vehicles over the next five years, according to a report released Thursday. The 17-page report by the Sierra Club titled "A vision for climate leadership in Washington, D.C." aims to pressure the transit agency into committing to a future of electric-only buses, a goal the environmental group projected would dramatically improve the region's air quality while ultimately saving Metro millions of dollars.


President Ryan addresses controversy over Lawn room signs, contextualization of Jefferson statue

By EVA SUROVELL, Cavalier Daily

University President Jim Ryan addressed controversy over critical signs posted on Lawn room doors and criticism of the Board of Visitors' recent vote to contextualize the Thomas Jefferson statue in written remarks issued Friday. The University will consider imposing regulations on Lawn room residents as early as next year, according to Ryan. The signs, which contain profanity such as "f—k UVA" and criticism of the University's history of enslavement and inaccessibility, have generated calls for removal from some alumni and community members.

JMU community largely split on decision to come back to campus

By BRICE ESTES, The Breeze

The public submitted a stack of 650 comments gauging JMU and the Board of Visitors' (BOV) COVID-19 response to the university's input form prior to the BOV meeting Sept. 18. Of the 650 comments, 190 individuals explicitly stated that they believed JMU should remain online this fall, and 184 said the university should return to on-campus operations — a near even rift in opinion.

Time's up: W&M avoids Title IX lawsuit — for now

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

The College of William & Mary might have avoided a Title IX lawsuit after suspending seven varsity sports programs. Arthur H. Bryant, of Bailey & Glasser LLP law firm, told WYDaily Thursday the university had sent a letter at 4:44 p.m. Wednesday, just before his deadline.


No COVID-19 cases linked to Trump rally in Newport News so far

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

So far, Virginia health officials have found no direct connections between recent confirmed COVID-19 cases and President Donald Trump's rally at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport a week ago. The incubation period is still ongoing, however, the state Department of Health noted. State data show a statewide decline in the seven-day average of new cases since the Sept. 25 rally, which drew people from wide area.

Virginia COVID-19 cases rise by 966 since Thursday

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported Friday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 149,687, an increase of 966 from the 148,721 reported Thursday. The 149,687 cases consist of 141,850 confirmed cases and 7,837 probable cases. There are 3,250 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 3,037 confirmed and 213 probable. That's an increase of 22 from the 3,228 reported Thursday.

D.C. region records highest coronavirus count in two weeks

By DANA HEDGPETH, MICHELLE BOORSTEIN AND FENIT NIRAPPIL, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

A two-week slide in the number of coronavirus infections across the greater Washington region hit an obstacle Friday, when the area recorded its highest number of daily cases since mid-September. The 1,743 cases Friday in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. was the highest number in a single day since Sept. 18. The three jurisdictions each reported caseloads above their rolling seven-day averages.

COVID Insurance Coverage Rate Steady

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

Though an estimated 5.6 million American workers lost health insurance coverage due to layoffs in March and April from the economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Valley Health did not see a major difference between the number of insured and uninsured COVID-19 patients and non-virus patients it tended to at four Valley hospitals, according to data provided by the not-for-profit health system. "The proportion of insured versus uninsured patients we've seen with a COVID-19 related diagnosis doesn't really seem different from our proportion of insured and uninsured overall," said Pete Gallagher, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Valley Health.

Virginia's COVID-19 app slow to catch on

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

A smartphone app that could alert its users if they'd been exposed to the novel coronavirus appeared to be a boon for staving off infections and giving Virginians some peace of mind as they intermingled. Eight weeks since its launch, however, uptake among Virginians remains low, hamstringing the benefits for the app's users and casting doubt on the anticipated return on the state's $1.53 million investment.

Virginia Open Data Portal offers datasets regarding COVID-19

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

For those who can't get enough of virus-related statistics, the Virginia Open Data Portal has more than a dozen COVID-19 datasets under one website. All the information has been presented previously by the Virginia Department of Health, but in different places. The portal provides information on caseloads by ZIP code; outbreaks in long-term care facilities; hospitalizations; and breakdowns by age, gender and ethnicity.

Labor Day, return of UVa students led to record month for COVID in area

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

Labor Day weekend, the return of University of Virginia students and the reopening of some public and private schools led to another record month for the Thomas Jefferson Health District as it deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, despite the rising case numbers, officials with the health district said they adapted quickly to those new challenges and continued to meet their goals for testing, contact tracing and case investigations.

Suffering from cancer and diabetes, a Virginia inmate died of covid-19 just months before his release date

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

As covid-19 cases surged, the pleas to release Askia Asmar from a Virginia prison became increasingly desperate. The 67-year-old inmate's term, family and advocates warned, could become a death sentence because he suffered from lung and liver cancer, diabetes and hepatitis C. Asmar had less than a year to serve on nonviolent charges and his niece had agreed to take him in, his sister said, but the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) denied early release despite his failing health, saying he posed a "high risk of recidivism."

23 more inmates at Danville City Jail test positive for COVID-19

By CHARLES WILBORN, Danville Register & Bee

After announcing earlier this week that one Danville City Jail inmate tested positive for COVID-19, 23 others have become infected, the Danville Sheriff's Office reports. It was Wednesday when Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul disclosed the first case at the jail, the same day authorities received confirmation of the positive test.

County health district advises against traditional trick-or-treating due to the pandemic

Prince William Times

Due to the pandemic, the Prince William Health District is advising against traditional, door-to-door trick-or-treating this year and is encouraging local families to consider alternate activities that pose less risk for spreading COVID-19. " . . . After being stuck indoors for months, cabin fever may really be getting to residents, and they may want to venture out. However, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. It is important that everyone exercise prudence and caution. . . .," Prince William Health District Director Dr. Alison Ansher said in a Friday news release.


Mountain Valley gets another permit, but no word on when pipeline work can resume

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

Another permit has been granted for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the company told federal regulators Friday, after waiting a week on its request to resume construction. The latest approval, from the National Park Service on Tuesday, is for natural gas to be pumped at high pressure through a pipe buried under the Blue Ridge Parkway in Roanoke County.

How Trump amassed a red-state army in the nation's capital

By AARON C. DAVIS, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The call that came into state capitals stunned governors and their National Guard commanders: The Pentagon wanted thousands of citizen soldiers airlifted to the nation's capital immediately to help control crowds outside the White House in the wake of the death of George Floyd. ...Two of those calls went to neighboring Maryland and Virginia — the former a state with a Republican governor, the latter led by a Democrat. The secretary asked Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to activate what would have been nearly all of the state's available Guard that day and to deploy them across the Potomac River into the District, according to two people briefed on their phone conversations that day.


How should a premier magnet school boost Black and Latino enrollment? A suggested lottery spurs fierce debate.

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

A controversial proposal to boost Black and Latino enrollment at a premier Northern Virginia magnet school — by switching from a test-based process to a lottery — has plunged parents, students and alumni into a hard-fought battle whose results could reshape one of the top schools in the country. Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand put forward the plan to revise admissions at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in mid-September, and it is slated for a school board vote on Oct. 8.

Judge declines to release superintendent's Twitter messages, dismisses former school board chair's lawsuit

By JILL PALERMO, Prince William Times

Prince William Superintendent Steven Walts' Twitter direct messages will remain sealed from public view as a result of a judge's ruling Friday in Prince William County Circuit Court. Judge Kimberly A. Irving ruled Oct. 2 that the messages, which numbered more than 20,000, were "clearly exempted" from mandatory disclosure under Virginia's Freedom of Information Act because they were communications between the chief executive officer of the Prince William County School Board, the school board said in a Friday press release.

RPS reports more than 16,000 absences in first 8 days of school year

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

Richmond Public Schools recorded more than 16,000 student absences in the first eight days of school this year, according to preliminary data. During those eight days, attendance hovered at about 91%, 2 points lower than measured by the district in a study over 70 days in 2017. The school district provided enrollment and attendance figures in response to a Freedom of Information request. In recent years, chronic absences in Richmond have been nearly twice the state average.

Richmond Candidate Hosted 'Proud Boys' At 2019 Strip Club Event


In May 2019, self-described 'dirty trickster' and Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone held a speaking engagement at Richmond's Paper Moon strip club. Stone was facing a legal battle after being charged with seven federal crimes, including witness tampering and making false statements to Congress. The event at Paper Moon was meant to be a fundraiser for his legal defense. . . . With Stone on stage were former "Manhattan Madam" Kristin Davis and Mike Dickinson, who was the director of events for Paper Moon and is now running for Richmond's 1st District City Council seat.

Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority Responds to Public Concerns About Annual Plan


Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority submitted its annual plan for federal approval, following a 45-day comment period. But advocates have criticized the agency over its outreach efforts. RRHA issued a statement on Thursday, dismissing public concerns about the plan. In it, the agency spokesperson, Angela Fountain said she's hopeful that RRHA's response will, "Help correct the various inaccuracies and untruths held by some."

Henrico county manager pulls funding for police accountability prosecutor

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

As calls for police reform hail across the country, Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas cut funding for a prosecutor position focused on police accountability after concluding that the woman picked for the job had shown she could not judge police actions objectively. Roughly a month after protests sprang up nationwide in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a new position was established within the Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney's Office: deputy for police integrity and compliance.

Montgomery County looking to partnership to improve broadband

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

Montgomery County is partnering with a small Southwest Virginia company in hopes of improving available bandwidths in pockets that still have little to no access to high-speed internet. The county is awaiting a decision on a nearly $1 million grant that it is requesting from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development's Virginia Telecommunication Initiative.



Wishing the Trumps a speedy recovery

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

It is a national crisis when the president of the United States has a head cold, must less a deadly infectious disease that's claimed more than a million lives worldwide — including more than 207,000 Americans. President Donald Trump posted on Twitter early Friday morning that he and wife Melania had tested positive for COVID-19. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen tested negative Friday morning, a welcome bit of news.


Schapiro: Finally, Trump and Northam have something in common

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

Barely a week after his raucous airport rally in Newport News — mocked as a super-spreader event by Virginia Democrats — President Donald Trump tested positive for the 'rona. Gov. Ralph Northam, himself a COVID-19 case, probably didn't have in mind this type of October surprise when he announced in August Virginia's first-in-the-nation smartphone app that alerts users if they've come in contact with others infected by the virus.

PolitiFact: Did Freitas Vote Against Protections for Pregnant Women?


A large union is claiming Nick Freitas, the Republican candidate for the 7th Congressional District seat, has turned his back on working pregnant women. "He voted to let businesses discriminate and fire expecting mothers for no other reason but their pregnancy," says a TV ad by the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters Vote! PAC. We fact checked the ad's statement.


Perrigan: COVID-19 and declining enrollment

By KEITH PERRIGAN, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

After reviewing the budget amendments presented by the House and Senate in Virginia's 2020 special session, it is my opinion that PK-12 educators across our commonwealth should be both thankful and motivated. We should be thankful that both the House and Senate are recommending that school division budgets do not feel the anticipated loss of sales tax revenue that has occurred due to the impact of COVID-19 and have dedicated $200 million in federal aid to assist schools in making necessary protections for students and staff.

Perrigan is superintendent of Bristol Public Schools and president of the Coalition of Small and Rural Schools of Virginia.

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