Anyone expecting to tune in for quick results on election night should probably start thinking about it as election week, according to Virginia officials who are trying to reshape public expectations in what's expected to be a highly unusual presidential year. That doesn't mean there won't be blowout races that might be called after the polls close on Nov. 3.
Revenue from toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 95 in Virginia all but dried up in the spring, plummeting by nearly 90% compared to a year ago, as drivers stayed home amid widespread coronavirus restrictions. That's according to new figures revealed in a financial report to investors by Transurban, the Australian transportation company that manages and operates the toll lanes, which was published Wednesday.
By SABRINA MORENO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
As the overall number of positive COVID-19 test results in Virginia grows, data from the Virginia Department of Health shows the percentage of positive results from testing is down. The seven-day average for percentage of positive test results was at 7.3% as of Aug. 8, which is the most recent figure provided by the VDH. That's down from a peak of 20.8% on April 21.
By MATT JONES, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)
In the past few weeks, school boards from Middlesex County to Hampton to Virginia Beach have made the call not to bring students back to buildings immediately. But on Tuesday night, the Poquoson School Board voted to bring some students back to class two days a week on Sept. 8. The city joins just a handful of other Tidewater districts — including Isle of Wight and New Kent.
By ELISHA SAUERS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
Sentara Healthcare is planning to merge with Cone Health, a large hospital chain based in the north-central region of North Carolina. Their combined annual revenue would be $11.5 billion. After about 18 months of talks, the Norfolk-based company took the first step Tuesday toward consolidating its finances with Cone, Sentara CEO Howard Kern said.
By GREGORY S. SCHNEIDER AND LAURA VOZZELLA, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)
Janice Nuckolls considers herself a liberal Democrat, believes Black lives matter and has a "We Stand With You" sign in her front window facing the daily demonstrations along this city's Monument Avenue. But a resurgence of violence and vandalism as the protests drag into their third month has left her and some other residents weary and frustrated.
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.
With the General Assembly set to convene for a special session next week, Virginia lawmakers are signaling strong support for legislation empowering local citizen review boards to investigate and in some cases discipline police officers accused of misconduct. . . . But the proposals are increasingly drawing opposition from some in law enforcement, particularly elected sheriffs around the state who argue that because they are directly elected by voters every four years they are already accountable to the communities they police.
Virginia lawmakers initially were called back to Richmond this month by Gov. Ralph Northam to amend and approve a biennial budget that has been ravaged by the ongoing, pandemic-fueled economic downturn. However, amid a nationwide reckoning on law enforcement sparked by highly publicized killings of unarmed Black people, the General Assembly also is preparing to consider a series of measures that could have a significant impact on police operations across the state.
Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman wasn't planning to explore the possibility of running for public office earlier this year. Pressing issues from the ongoing pandemic and Black Lives Matter Movement after police killed George Floyd inspired Perryman to explore jumping into Virginia's lieutenant governor race.
Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) held a meeting Wednesday with local and national election-focused organizations at Arlington's Office of Elections in Courthouse. Warner discussed the threats he feels loom largest over November's election, specifically stressing his concerns about recent changes made to the U.S. Postal Service.
Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)
Ballad Health reported significantly lower revenues for the fourth quarter and fiscal year, due primarily to impacts of the COVID-19 public health pandemic. Revenues for the 12 months ended June 30 totaled $1.99 billion, compared to $2.10 billion in the same period of 2019, according to a report issued Wednesday.
By DAVE RESS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
Dominion Energy said it is stepping up the pace of a 6-year-old push to move underground the power lines that go out most often in storms. Storm-blown branches and downed trees, along with heavy ice loads from winter storms and lightning strikes during thunderstorms are the main reasons Virginians' electricity goes out.
By LAURENCE HAMMACK, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
Citing uncertainty over whether the Mountain Valley Pipeline will ever be completed, North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality has denied a water quality certification for an expansion of the natural gas pipeline. Questions about whether the main pipeline will regain its suspended permits present a "critical risk" to the so-called Southgate extension, the DEQ said Tuesday.
This year, 281 Virginia companies are ranked on the most recent list of the nation's fastest-growing, privately held companies — the Inc. 5000, released Wednesday morning. Leading the pack in Virginia at spot No. 75 is Sassy Jones, an online jewelry and accessory retailer based in Richmond.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that Wythe County-based Musser Lumber Co. Inc. will invest $2.4 million to expand its operations and increase 12 jobs — which, during the next three years, will lead to more than $8.5 million in forest product purchases. "Musser Lumber's continued growth and success in Wythe County is a testament to the strength of Virginia's forestry industry," Northam said in a statement.
By TIM DODSON, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)
A Southwest Virginia coal mine owner and a foreman who previously pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to commit dust sampling fraud were sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Abingdon. Daniel Tucker, 57, of Russell County, owns D&H Mining and was sentenced to three months in federal prison, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia.
In their move to reject a plan for a $300 million bypass for busy Va. 28, Prince William County supervisors may have lost $89 million in regional funding. The Board of County Supervisors voted Aug. 4 to abandon the years-long effort for a new four-lane road that would have extended Godwin Drive from Liberia Avenue to a point on Va. 28 near Fairfax County. Instead, the board backed a $400 million project that would add just two lanes to Va. 28.
By ANDREW CAIN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
The University of Richmond, where first-year students begin moving in on Friday, is warning students and their families of severe disciplinary measures for "egregious" violations of the school's COVID-19 rules. Potential sanctions include automatic suspension for one semester for hosting an off-campus gathering that violates safety protocols, and eviction for the rest of the year for hosting an on-campus gathering that violates school safety rules.
By BENNETT CONLIN, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)
Tuesday saw a pair of Power 5 conferences postpone their fall football seasons. The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced the cancellation of fall football games, while the ACC, Big 12 and SEC remain committed to pressing forward with a potential fall season. That means powerhouse programs such as Michigan, Ohio State and USC won't play football games this fall. Virginia, however, continues to prepare for the season despite constant uncertainty.
The Lord Fairfax Health District didn't report any new deaths on Wednesday, but it still hasn't stemmed the flow of new COVID-19 statistics rolling in. Statewide numbers improved slightly on Wednesday as the Virginia Department of Health reported 776 new COVID-19 cases — 220 fewer than it saw on Tuesday. Last week's Data Insights report carried good and bad news for the commonwealth as it reported that the state's transmission number was below 1 and nearly every Health Planning Region was showing signs of improvement.
By RACHEL MAHONEY, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)
Officials with Centra Health have seen COVID-19 hospitalizations plateau during the past few days but are preparing for a potential influx of patients in the future. In the past two weeks, 19 more people have died of the disease at Lynchburg General Hospital, Centra's main hub for treating COVID-19 patients in the region and those with the most acute emergency care needs.
By MOSS BRENNAN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
The Virginia Department of Health reported 776 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the state's tally to 102,521. At least 2,352 Virginians have died from the virus as of Wednesday morning, up eight from Tuesday.
While Virginia school districts and higher education institutions are finalizing fall plans in light of the pandemic, an analysis released Wednesday by the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) shows that more than 200,000 K-12 students and more than 60,000 college students in Virginia lack broadband access at home. These numbers reflect 14% of K-12 students in Virginia and 10% of college students in Virginia.
By FAHIMA HAQUE, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)
As Americans continue to protest systemic racism, showing up at rallies and demonstrations day after day in many cities across the country, the motivation for sustained activism is both personal and informed by one's community. How do people keep going? What galvanizes them? For Constance Paige Young, who was among the counterprotesters injured in Charlottesville, Va., three years ago, after a white man drove his car into the crowd, killing one woman, it is a moral obligation to continue showing up.
By STAFF REPORT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)
Three years after violence filled Charlottesville, the scene Wednesday afternoon at Market Street Park where activists and community members gathered in remembrance took on a relaxed tone. In the shadow of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which had served as backdrop for the deadly Aug. 12, 2017, Unite the Right rally and was now festooned with Black Lives Matter signs and anti-racists posters, organizers of the Reclaim the Park event offered people a chance to remember the events, proclaim their solidarity and reclaim the park as their own.
By REED WILLIAMS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
Four people were charged with rioting after windows were broken and property was defaced in several neighborhoods late Tuesday and early Wednesday in Richmond, causing the shutdown of the John Marshall courthouse downtown. Mayor Levar Stoney and Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin both noted that all of Wednesday's court cases were delayed at the John Marshall Courts Building, including a sentencing hearing for a man convicted of the second-degree murder of Markiya Dickson, the 9-year-old killed while playing in Carter Jones Park last year.
By ALEX HORTON, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)
An Air Force utility helicopter on a routine training mission took ground fire over Virginia on Monday, forcing an emergency landing and leading to the injury of a crew member, according to military and federal officials. The UH-1N Iroquois helicopter, assigned to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, was soaring east of Shenandoah National Park around 1,000 feet when the incident occurred, an Air Force spokesperson said Wednesday.
A majority of the Leesburg Town Council has agreed on one thing when it comes to filling its almost three-month-long council member vacancy—they cannot agree on who to select. In a meeting that adjourned early Wednesday morning, council members voted 4-2 to ask the Loudoun County Circuit Court to fill the vacancy created by Josh Thiel's resignation in May.
The collapse of a stretch of a small road in Manassas Park, Virginia, has led to the stranding of approximately 400 residents. Nobody was injured, but a vehicle was swept away when heavy rains caused an aging steel culvert running across Moseby Drive to fail. A vehicle that was parked on the road was washed 70 feet downstream.
By C. SUAREZ ROJAS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
The Hanover County school division is now accepting recommendations for names to replace Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School. In a 6-1 vote Tuesday evening, the county School Board agreed to take down the names before the school year begins Sept. 8. Board Chairman John Axselle was the only one to vote against removing the names before then.
As it works with the Chesterfield School Board to prepare 60-plus school buildings for an eventual reopening, the Board of Supervisors is expected to allocate a portion of the county's coronavirus relief funding later this month to assist parents who are facing increased child care costs as a result of school closures. "We're trying to help as many families as we can so parents can work and children can be in a safe environment for learning," said Bermuda District Supervisor Jim Ingle in a telephone interview last Friday.
By STACY PARKER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
Plans to build a surf park and entertainment center on the old dome site at the Oceanfront are on track despite the pandemic — and some concerns on city council. In an interview this week, the developers said they are finalizing a concept plan.
A Suffolk Circuit Court judge has awarded School Board member Sherri Story all attorney's fees and other costs associated with her Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the board and the majority of its members. Judge Carl Eason Jr., in a Aug. 10 hearing, ordered the board to pay Story just over $25,000 in attorney's fees and other costs resulting from the case — $21,950 specifically for attorney's fees and another $3,056.42 in other costs, including filing fees, service fees and court reporter fees.
By CATHY JETT, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
The Fredericksburg City Council heard loud and clear during community-wide discussions about the slave auction block that there's a need to tell a broader, more inclusive story of the city's history. At Tuesday's meeting, its members voted unanimously to spend $205,000 of the $250,000 earmarked for telling that story on a variety of projects that will highlight local African American history, including that of the controversial auction block.
By SCOTT SHENK, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
Lengthy and sometimes heated discussions between Spotsylvania County supervisors and school officials about providing laptops for students to use for distance learning ended with no decision Tuesday night. The School Board has requested $2.5 million from the county to cover technology costs related to distance learning in response to the pandemic. Classes are set to start Monday, and the county will open the year with most students learning from home.
By ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION, Culpeper Star Exponent (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
Culpeper County will pursue creation of a zoning classification for utility-scale solar power plants. And for the time being, its elected officials don't appear very interested in making special deals with solar developers.
By RICHARD CHUMNEY, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)
With coronavirus cases spiking, the city of Lynchburg is scrapping plans to turn off the faucets next month for nearly 1,000 households behind on their water bills. "We thought we were going to be able to start [the water disconnects] in September, but as our COVID numbers go up, we're not sure that's the right thing to do," Chief Finance Officer Donna Witt told members of Lynchburg City Council on Tuesday.
By CLAIRE MITZEL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
Roanoke's school division has been an outlier among Virginia's larger cities throughout the school reopening process. Superintendent Verletta White in mid-July proposed to send students of all grades to the classroom four full days per week, more classroom days than any other surrounding division at the time. Now, Roanoke has made a 180-degree turn: Most students will spend the first nine weeks fully virtual.
By ALISON GRAHAM, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
Roanoke County's election office permanently moved to the Craig Center in Vinton in an effort to better serve voters. The office relocated in March from the Roanoke County Administration Center to its new Vinton location. At the time it was planned as a temporary move to decrease the number of people in the administration building due to COVID-19 concerns. The county later determined it was a better location for the registrar's office, County Administrator Dan O'Donnell said
By BRIAN BREHM, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
City officials are starting to wonder when it will be appropriate to start disconnecting water customers with delinquent bills. Following a discussion on Tuesday night, City Council made it clear that now is not the time.
By MICKEY POWELL, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
The goats are b-a-a-a-a-ck at the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds. So are the cows, pigs and chickens. But unless you plan to buy some, you probably won't get to see them this year. The 2020 Clarke County Junior Livestock Show & Sale started Wednesday morning at the fairgrounds west of Berryville. It continues through Saturday, but it's closed to the public.
More than 100 parents banded together and filed a legal position to prevent the Shenandoah County School Board from moving forward with its decision to rename two schools and a mascot. Brad Pollack, a local attorney and a member of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, filed the petition on behalf of the 140 parents arguing that the School Board failed, in several ways, to abide by its own rules and bylaws when it voted to rename Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary School last month. The board also determined it would change the Rebels mascot at North Fork Middle School.
Commonwealth Attorney Ken Alger confirmed last week that Virginia State Police investigators are looking into the misappropriation of county funds by former Page County Finance Director Dennis Click. A number of details remain unclear as the case is still under investigation — such as when the alleged actions actually took place, the exact amount taken, when the county discovered it, and when the county took action.
Students in Pittsylvania County Schools will start the academic year remotely, a decision made Tuesday during the county's school board meeting that reverses the initial plan to resume in-person instruction from the beginning. Superintendent Mark Jones said the move stems from an evaluation of health department data that show the county having trouble curbing the spread of COVID-19.
A study is underway to examine the impacts of a casino on traffic in and around Schoolfield, where Caesars Entertainment plans to build and operate a casino resort. The study, which began in mid-June, is being conducted by EPR, PC in Charlottesville at a cost of $27,500.
Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
There are many mysteries in the universe. Is there life on Mars? Why does Venus rotate backwards? Is there a giant planet beyond Pluto that we haven't discovered yet? Today, though, we will deal a mystery closer to home: Why are Virginia Democrats handing Republicans an easy issue with the parole board scandal?
Free Lance-Star Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
From the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, there has been a cry for more testing. If we don't know who is positive for COVID-19, how can we isolate the infected so that this very communicable disease doesn't spread? We have been slow to deal with that reality. It took many weeks for Virginia to reach the goal of 10,000 tests per day. Nowhere is testing more necessary than in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Free Lance-Star Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
The Virginia Supreme Court's recent ruling extending the commonwealth's coronavirus eviction moratorium to Sept. 7 at the request of Gov. Ralph Northam so that the upcoming special session of the General Assembly can "pass a legislative package that will provide additional relief to those facing eviction and to expand financial assistance for tenants through [its] rent relief program" was a good call.
Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
The thousands of migratory seabirds eating, raising chicks and doing natural bird things on Fort Wool this summer are noisy, messy and heartening testimony to the fact that it's possible to improve transportation infrastructure without sacrificing endangered species. The birds also are testimony to the determination and ingenuity of people who care about birds and the environment, including biologists and others on staff with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
This November, Virginians who wish to cast their ballots absentee will not have to provide a reason why. This long overdue change to an outdated state law cleared the General Assembly this past session and became effective July 1. As lawmakers debated the bill, who could have guessed that the global coronavirus pandemic soon would shutter our schools and many businesses, instigating stay-at-home orders and upending our lives. But as life continues, so do our elections.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
In 2016, the General Assembly made a critical investment to keep the commonwealth's workforce strong. Lawmakers passed the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program, a bill supporting "FastForward" short-term career training in high-demand fields. The programs were designed to be completed in 6 to 12 weeks, with students footing only one-third of the cost. Fast forward to 2020 and Virginia's investment is paying dividends. Amid unprecedented unemployment, as job opportunities shift, Virginia's community colleges are able to adapt.
By MARK D. OBENSHAIN, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
There's something rotten going on with Gov. Ralph Northam's Parole Board. Don't take my word for it: The governor's handpicked watchdog, the State Inspector General, says so. After Virginia abolished most parole in 1995, violent crime rates dropped and the Parole Board seldom received much attention. That changed after it granted parole to Vincent Martin, who was convicted of capital murder for his cold-blooded execution of 23-year-old Richmond Police Officer Michael Connors.
Obenshain is a Republican who represents the 26th District in the Senate of Virginia.
By STEPHEN HANER, published in Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
The first time I worked as an election officer was in 2018, so Nov. 3 is going to be my first experience with a presidential election and the resulting massive voter turnout. Somehow, I'm not expecting a fun day, in part because the Virginia General Assembly changed some things. Here is what I hope you will all do and remember as we approach this challenging process—unless you absolutely love standing in lines, six feet apart, which means the line will probably reach outside the building and down the block.
Stephen Haner is a policy analyst and election officer in Henrico County.
By JOSH THOMAS, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
As the General Assembly prepares to tackle the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic during this month's special session, legislators should remember the challenges facing Virginia's veteran population. With one of the nation's largest veteran populations at more than 730,000, Virginia's veteran policies have an impact beyond the commonwealth.
Thomas is an attorney residing in Norfolk. He served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, deploying to Afghanistan and the Middle East.
By KRISTEN OSENGA, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
Gilead Sciences' novel drug remdesivir has shown immense promise for treating the coronavirus. The drug still requires more study, but the prospect of an effective treatment for COVID-19 should be great news for everyone. Yet every time a company develops a promising drug, some policymakers call for the government to take control of the compound in question. With remdesivir, critics argue that the government helped pay for some of its development so "taxpayers shouldn't pay twice" — once to help develop the drug and again to buy it when it comes to market.
Kristen Osenga is the Austin E. Owen Research Scholar and Professor of Law at the University of Richmond School of Law.
By ALICE MCGUIRE MASSIE, HUNTER HOLMES MCGUIRE III AND WILLIAM REED MCGUIRE, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
We are writing as the family of Hunter Holmes McGuire in response to letters and columns published in this paper over the summer calling for the removal of his name from medical facilities in Virginia. The family understands that statues and buildings honoring Confederate leaders have caused pain to fellow Americans and we support the removal of the McGuire memorials. We also would not presume to defend some of McGuire's writings.
Alice McGuire Massie, Hunter Holmes McGuire III and William Reed McGuire live in Richmond.
Invite Friends to read VaNews
Invite two friends to read VaNews and you'll receive VaViews, a weekly compilation of commentary from a variety of viewpoints.