Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

August 11, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia Tech's Sands defends in-person teaching as start of classes nears

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

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands issued a defense Sunday of the university's plans to hold in-person classes starting in two weeks but hedged, "we will move to remote operation if public health considerations dictate." The president's statement comes as Blacksburg prepares to crack down on student parties, after the city of Radford banned large gatherings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

UR readies units that can isolate sick students

By JOHN O'CONNOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Modular housing units that began appearing over the weekend on the University of Richmond campus stand out among the school's Collegiate Gothic buildings — and unlike other campus structures, UR officials hope the temporary residences are used infrequently, or not at all, through the coming academic year. The modular units are being put in place for isolation and quarantine of residential students who contract COVID-19 during the fall semester, so they can live outside of occupied residence halls, according to the school. The modular units are being set up in parking lots.

CDC scientists arrive in Va. to assess virus at ICE facility

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

A team of federal scientists arrived on Monday at the immigration detention center in Farmville to begin addressing the worst coronavirus outbreak at any such facility in the country, according to Gov. Ralph Northam's office. A 10-person team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was to work with the local health department to assess and manage the crisis, Northam's office said Monday.

GOP leaders file parole board bill

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

In the wake of a Virginia government watchdog report that says the Virginia Parole Board violated the law and its own policies in releasing a man sentenced to life for killing a Richmond police officer, a state senator has filed a bill for the upcoming special session that would require the individual votes of the parole board be made public.

Arlington Democrats vote to oppose redistricting amendment

By SCOTT MCCAFFREY, Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

Despite criticism from within the party that the move would be seen as blatantly partisan as well as bad policy, the Arlington County Democratic Committee's membership on Aug. 6 voted to oppose the state constitutional amendment that, if enacted, would set up an independent redistricting commission. After vocal but civil debate conducted in an online platform, the Democratic rank-and-file first voted (with 68.7 percent in favor) to take a position on the matter, then voted (with 78 percent of those voting) to oppose the ballot initiative.

Norfolk promised more police transparency. It took months to start delivering.

By JONATHAN EDWARDS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

It was June 9. George Floyd had been dead 15 days. Protests were erupting across the country and in Norfolk, with people demanding police reform. And so city leaders promised to be more transparent about how Norfolk officers police the city. Until Monday — more than two months later — they had failed to keep even the most modest of those pledges of increased openness: making public some policy documents. They were put on the city website Monday afternoon, only after The Virginian-Pilot posted a version of this story online.

Census faces distrust, language barriers and a new deadline

By JEFF SOUTH, Virginia Mercury

On July 15, Cara Burton, the director of the Eastern Shore Public Library, took an hour-long ferry to Tangier Island to find out why people there feel as if they shouldn't count. Burton chairs a committee urging residents of Accomack and Northampton counties to complete the 2020 census, which is supposed to be a headcount of everyone living in the United States.

The Full Report
40 articles, 23 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. Chase refused to wear mask at Harrisonburg restaurant

By KATE ANDREWS, Virginia Business

The owners of a Harrisonburg restaurant posted a message on Facebook saying that GOP gubernatorial candidate Amanda Chase refused to wear a mask in their restaurant Sunday and threatened to sue them for enforcing the policy. "Chase came into our restaurant," wrote Katharine Nye Pellerito, co-owner of Vito's Italian Kitchen with her husband, Vito, as well as a second Harrisonburg eatery, Corgans' Publick House. "She threatened to sue us and insulted us because of our mask requirement. . . ."


Requests for absentee ballots by mail on rise in Virginia

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

Requests for absentee ballots by mail are surging amid COVID-19 in some parts of the state, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. In Northern Virginia's 8th Congressional District, represented by Democrat Don Beyer, applications for absentee ballots already have surpassed 2016 totals.


Will Virginia sign on to Trump's plan to boost unemployment benefits by $400?

By JACOB FISCHLER, Virginia Mercury

Governors, lawmakers and state unemployment agencies on Monday wrestled with confusion created by President Donald Trump's executive action extending unemployment benefits, and it appeared some states could settle for $300 a week in benefits instead of the $400 that the president touted.

Virginia Lottery releases additional regulation drafts as sports betting implementation process continues

By WAYNE EPPS JR., Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Virginia Lottery on Monday moved closer to solidifying the guidebook for sports betting operations in the state. After releasing initial drafts of regulations meant to govern betting on July 15, the lottery unveiled the remainder of its regulation drafts Monday. Combined with what was released last month, the full regulations document consists of 69 pages.


East Coast's shad population 'depleted,' fisheries commission says

Associated Press

Overfishing, dams and pollution are among the factors that have steeply reduced the population of an ecologically important fish on the East Coast, regulators have said. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission recently completed an assessment of the population of American shad and found it to be "depleted," the commission said.

Washington N.F.L. Team Owner Files Claims Hinting at a Conspiracy

By KEN BELSON AND KATHERINE ROSMAN, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Football Team, has accused a disgruntled former team employee of taking money and assisting in a campaign to spread damaging information against him, his latest effort to fight back attacks on his ownership of the N.F.L. club.


As Virginia Tech nears return to school, president warns about off-campus gatherings

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

As thousands of students prepare to return to Blacksburg, Virginia Tech's president says the university's biggest COVID-19 vulnerability is not residence halls or classrooms, but off-campus gatherings. "Our biggest risks are likely to result from behaviors that individuals can control, such as off-campus gatherings and travel to and from hot spots," President Timothy Sands said in a message Sunday to the university community.

Racial Equity Task Force releases final report, suggests 12 initiatives to promote racial equity at U.Va.

By ALI SULLIVAN, Cavalier Daily

The University's Racial Equity Task Force released its final report titled "Audacious Future: Commitment Required" Monday, recommending the University adopt 12 initiatives to promote systemic change and racial equity through significant investments in financial resources, leadership and accountability.

'Another Body Blow' For Local Restaurants

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

James Madison University's announcement Monday that it would suspend all fall sports was typical of the bad news that 2020 continues to bring for Tim O'Neill, the founder and part owner of city sports bar and restaurant O'Neill's Grill, and others in the hospitality industry. "We're kind of in the phase that we're doing the best we can and if we take another body blow, we take another body blow," he said.

With Falwell taking leave of absence, Rev. Jerry Prevo now Liberty University's acting president

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

Liberty University announced Monday that the Rev. Jerry Prevo, the longtime chairman of the school's board of trustees and a significant figure in the evangelical movement, will serve as acting president of the institution. The news comes three days after Jerry Falwell Jr. agreed to take an indefinite leave of absence from his role as president and chancellor of the university.


Virginia reports 663 new coronavirus cases, 1 new death Monday

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported 663 new coronavirus cases Monday, bringing the state's tally to 100,749. At least 2,327 Virginians have died from the virus as of Sunday morning, up one from Sunday.

292K downloads so far for new COVID-19 exposure notification phone application

By TIM DODSON, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

A new mobile phone application in Virginia is offering a way for people to learn whether they've potentially come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. COVID-19 logo The Virginia Department of Health has recorded 292,000 downloads of the COVIDWISE smartphone app since launching the new platform last Wednesday, according to Julie Grimes, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Radford COVID-19 cases double since the beginning of August

By SAM WALL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The city's number of positive COVID-19 cases has more than doubled in the last week, according to numbers from the Virginia Department of Health. There were 26 positive cases on Aug. 3 — jumping to 48 on Aug. 7 — before reaching a peak of 54 on Monday. The new apex coincides with the return of Radford University students, who began returning to campus on the first of August and have been steadily moving in through Monday.

Cox gives Sentara 180,000 masks – a week's supply for all of its hospitals

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

Sentara Healthcare has received a massive donation of masks from Cox Communications that will keep the system of 12 hospitals stocked for approximately one week. The cache includes 180,000 face coverings. About 80,000 are the so-called N95 and KN95 respirators that fit snugly and are designed to filter airborne particles, such as viruses and bacteria; the remainder are standard surgical masks that protect against spit and splashes.

Holston Medical Group seeking volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine trial

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

A Tri-Cities physicians group is participating in the global clinical trial of a prospective COVID-19 vaccine and is seeking 500 local volunteers to participate. BHC logo square Holston Medical Group announced Monday that its facilities in Bristol, Tennessee and Kingsport were selected to join the study being conducted by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.

Northern Virginia To Receive Nearly $3 Million From CARES Act For Affordable Housing


Virginia has announced $8,987,420 in grants to affordable housing organizations across the state. About a third of the funding will be directed to Northern Virginia. The money comes from the federal government's Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.


Protesters disagree with police report, demonstrate downtown

By KEITH EPPS, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

A group of about 30 protesters took to the streets Monday in downtown Fredericksburg to express their disdain for a police report that largely justified the way police responded during protests in late May and early June. City police Chief Brian Layton released a report Thursday that explained the city's use of gas and rubber projectiles against a crowd of about 300 people on May 31.

Avowed KKK leader who drove through crowd at BLM protest in Henrico gets 6-year sentence

By ALI ROCKETT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A Hanover County man and avowed Ku Klux Klan leader boasted on social media shortly after he drove through a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in Henrico County in June, according to video shown during a trial on Monday. "They scattered like cockroaches," said Harry H. Rogers, 36, in a Facebook live video he posted after the June 7 incident, in which no one was seriously injured, and shortly before he was arrested by Henrico police. "It's kind of funny if you ask me."

Chesapeake Bay Foundation debuts floating oyster facility in Virginia

By TREVOR METCALFE, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation ... has deployed what staff members believe is the first-ever floating oyster restoration facility. The bright blue vessel is expected to increase the program's capacity from 7 million to 15 million oysters a year and literally bring the foundation to waterways it helps protect.


APS Plans On Still Paying Staff Who Cannot Telework


Arlington Public Schools is planning on paying workers whose job cannot be moved to telework through at least the first academic quarter, which ends on November 2. Superintendent Francisco DurĂ¡n laid out plans at the July 30 School Board meeting to have bus drivers and attendants, custodians, food service workers and Extended Day staff receive pay and a regular schedule during full-time distance learning.

Robert E. Lee's Name Is Still All Over Arlington, But That Could Be Changing


For decades, Robert E. Lee's name and other references to the Confederate general have adorned a number of public spaces in Arlington County. There's Lee Highway, Lee Community Center, and — until early last year — a public county high school. Even the county logo prominently features the house he lived in, which remains a memorial dedicated to Lee on top of the hill at Arlington National Cemetery.

Loudoun County eligible for another $36M from feds to combat COVID-19 pandemic


Loudoun County is eligible for $36 million in the second round of federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funding, according to a memo from the Virginia Department of Finance. In May, Loudoun accepted $36 million from the first round of federal funding. That provided more than $6 million in federal funds to Loudoun's seven incorporated towns. The board also used the CARES Act funding for personal protective equipment, specialized cleaning supplies, nonprofit support and emergency food and housing assistance.

Prince William County launches grants to cover businesses' Covid-19 safety improvements

By ALEX KOMA, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)

Business owners have had to get creative to reopen safely while the coronavirus pandemic drags on, and Prince William County has decided to hand out some cash to encourage and support that ingenuity. The county's Department of Economic Development on Monday began taking applications for a "capital investment and innovation" grant program, which would reimburse businesses or building owners for, say, physical improvements they've needed to make to operate more safely during the pandemic, or other operational expenses associated with a shift to more remote work.

Remington Town Council votes to remove Confederate flag from its town seal

By ANGELA ROBERTS, Prince William Times

A little less than one month after Mississippi's governor signed a bill removing the Confederate battle emblem from the state's flag, the Remington Town Council did the same — voting unanimously on July 20 to change the town seal, which for decades featured a small depiction of the rebel flag. Since 1985, the seal could be seen on signs along the town's borders and on the Remington Town Hall. But in the wake of the killing of George Floyd — a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes — town council members said it had been vandalized.

Fauquier schools reverse course, will be 100% virtual this fall

By ROBIN EARL, Fauquier Times

When faced with data on projected student enrollment and teacher availability, the Fauquier County School Board was forced to acknowledge that schools cannot open Aug. 24 with a blended instructional model of virtual and in-person teaching, as planned. Fauquier County Superintendent of Schools David Jeck announced at Monday night's school board meeting that the school division will have to be 100% virtual for the first term. "I'm sorry to have to make this statement. I want our kids to be in school," he said.

Supervisors to consider additional in-person absentee voting sites ahead of November election

By COY FERRELL, Fauquier Times

Fauquier County Supervisors on Thursday will hold a public hearing on whether to amend a county ordinance to allow for two additional polling places for in-person absentee voting ahead of the November general election. Supervisors will convene at 11 a.m. Thursday for a work session and at 6:30 p.m. for a regular meeting and five public hearings.

Richmond City Council approves aid program for businesses damaged during protests

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

Businesses, nonprofits and commercial property owners who suffered damage during the recent civil unrest can seek aid through a new city grant program. The Richmond City Council on Monday approved the $500,000 initiative, called the businesses recovery grant program. It is aimed at local organizations and commercial property owners that incurred costly repairs arising from demonstrations against policing and systemic racism that began in late May.

That stinky smell at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront is an algae bloom

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

Something rotten is in the air at the Oceanfront, and the water has taken a brownish-red hue. Last week's tropical storm brought an algae bloom to the resort area, possibly from Norfolk's Lafayette River.

Newport News has $1.4 million available to assist residents who have lost income in the pandemic

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

Newport News residents struggling financially in the pandemic can apply for assistance in a new program from the city's Department of Human Services. The Supplemental Assistance Funding for Emergencies, or SAFE, program offers one-time assistance with various expenses, such as food, utility bills, child care, rent or mortgage, transportation and medication.

Stafford supervisors will vote on diversity advisory coaltion Sept. 1

By JAMES SCOTT BARON, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Stafford residents will soon have an opportunity to weigh in on a proposal to form a new county coalition that will be receptive to citizen concerns and complaints related to social injustice and discrimination. Amid protests sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, the idea to form grassroots multicultural coalitions sprang up across the country, including Stafford.

Case dismissed after city acknowledges mistakes

By BRIAN BREHM, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The person who filed a petition challenging the openness of Winchester's City Council meetings agreed on Monday to drop the case after the city's attorney acknowledged that mistakes were made. "We were doing it wrong," Melissa G. Michelsen, an attorney with the law firm Litten and Sipe who represents Winchester's legal interests, told Judge Amy B. Tisinger during a hearing Monday afternoon in Winchester General District Court. "Mistakes were made."

Lynchburg police chief wants to add 26 cops over the next five years

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

Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema today is expected to unveil a sweeping proposal to expand the department by more than two dozen new officers and more than a dozen new civilian employees over the next five years. The request, which if approved by Lynchburg City Council would usher in the most significant expansion of the department in decades, is aimed at easing the workload for what officials said is a perennially short-staffed police force.

Danville's response to census falls short; city, community groups urging residents to be counted

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

Danville's response rate to the 2020 U.S. Census is below that of the rest of the nation, and officials are doing what they can to encourage participation. The city's response rate to the Census was 56.9%, less than the national average at 63.2% as of Monday, according to the U.S. Census website at 2020census.gov.

Casino won't factor into IDA's economic plans

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

Members of the Bristol Virginia Industrial Development Authority were asked Monday to essentially ignore a possible casino when considering short-term economic development goals. The board, which held its reorganizational meeting and chose Paul Conco as chairman and Ric Watts as vice chairman, spent more than 30 minutes discussing an economic development strategic plan.



Chase is wrong about nice guys

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

When former House Speaker Kirk Cox said he might run for the Republican nomination for governor next year, the only declared Republican candidate — state Sen. Amanda Chase — replied this way: "He's a nice guy, but nice guys don't win in 2021." Chase's response brings to mind the line attributed to the hard-charging Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher in 1946: "Nice guys finish last."

Enlist your smartphone in the COVID fight

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

Arguably the biggest problem with the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic is the lack of comprehensive testing and aggressive tracing to track the spread of the disease. Testing has improved, though it's still not what's needed. As for tracing, Virginia last week introduced a mobile app that could make a difference — but it requires participation by the public.

Grim COVID-19 milestones reinforce the need for responsible decisions

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

On Sunday, Virginia reached 100,000 reported COVID-19 cases. Since the commonwealth's first recorded case on March 7, our state and nation have learned a great deal about the coronavirus. On March 17, Gov. Ralph Northam's office outlined steps Virginia would take to combat COVID-19. Northam said the effort started with "social distancing" — a term that was as novel at the time as the pandemic itself.


Figard: Don't forget the actual Confederate heritage

By REGGIE FIGARD, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

In Jeff Mann's commentary, "Removing rebel statues dishonors descendants", (July 20, 2020) he describes his ancestors as part of the "men who fought to keep his family and his farm safe by holding off an invading army" and as those who fought "keep a horde of enemies out of their capital." He and others protesting the removal of Confederate statues need to remember that those statues are of traitors to America and that the heritage they are fighting to maintain is the institution of slavery.

Figard is a retired aerospace engineer who now lives in Franklin County.

Cockrell: Confederate statues are unconscionable

By AMANDA COCKRELL, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

This is in response to Jeff Mann's letter to Gov. Northam in the July 20 Roanoke Times ("Removing rebel statues dishonors descendants.") I do not doubt Mr. Mann's sincerity, as his background is much like mine, but his reasoning contains a blind spot. Honoring the dead of a mistaken war does not require statues glorifying the cause they died for. I am a descendant of Confederate soldiers and a Confederate general, but the removal of Confederate statues does not make me feel that my heritage is being erased.

Cockrell is the founding and former director of the Hollins University Children's Literature Graduate Programs, and currently managing editor of the Hollins English department's literary journal, The Hollins Critic.

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