Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Middlesex County Republican Committee - REGISTER TO VOTE, THEN VOTE!

Dear MCRC Members and Friends of MCRC,

At no time in our history has an election been so in jeopardy as what we're facing November 3.  Virginia county registrars are overwhelmed with extensive new regulations to which they must adhere.  Voter fraud is already being reported around the country.  Election Integrity must be first and foremost in our priorities! 

With thanks to MCRC member Elizabeth Johnson for putting this information together and Middlesex County Registrar Melissa Welch for confirming accuracy, attached are items we hope you will use in the coming days. 

Please take time to acquaint yourself with the details on Register to Vote, Then Vote.  If you or a member of your immediate family is not registered to vote, please follow the timelines given and get it done.  Then, VOTE!  If you can't vote in person (which is preferable), be sure to meet the deadlines for Absentee Balloting. 

Also attached is a Suggested Cover Letter (PDF and docx) that you may use to forward this information to friends, family and neighbors.  It isn't partisan, just what's needed to register and vote properly.  The VA Voter Registration Offices List is attached for you to send to anyone outside Middlesex County.  This is important because not every county may open their voting on Saturdays, for example, or at the hours Middlesex has made available.

This isn't a time to believe that "someone else will do it".  Please, please make an effort to do what you can to ensure America remains a free country. 


Trudy Feigum
MCRC Membership Chairman and
Immediate Past Chairman

Thursday, September 3, 2020

September 2020 District 5 Report and Crime Watch Update - By Supervisor Tom Shepperd

Dear Neighbors,


The purpose of the District 5 Report is to keep you up to date on activities in and around our area.  Residents and homeowner associations are encouraged to share the information with others in their communities.  For those who do not receive the report, I will gladly add you to the distribution list upon request to either tgshep@cox.net or shepperd@yorkcounty.gov.  Please include your name and address in the request.  Comments and questions are always welcome.  You can reach me at the phone numbers and email addresses listed below my name.* I greatly appreciate your help in disseminating the report to other residents of our communities.






Thomas G. Shepperd, Jr.

District 5 Representative

York County Board of Supervisors


(C) 757-903-1875

(H) 757-868-8591




---------------------------------September 2020 District 5 Report and Crime Watch---------------------------------


1.  Voting in the November 3rd General Election.  Go to www.yorkcounty.gov/357/voter-registration or call 757-890-3440 for more information.


a.  There are three ways to vote in Virginia.  In all cases, you must be a registered voter.  The last day to register to vote in the General Election is October 13th. 


(1) You can vote the traditional way on election day by going to your designated voting precinct.  Don’t forget your ID and mask.  The precincts are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.


(2) You can request an absentee ballot.  The last day to do so is October 23rd by 5 p.m.  You may use any delivery service you wish (USPS, FedEx, UPS etc.) to get the ballot back to the Voter Registrar’s Office.  You can even drop off the absentee ballot in person.  In every case the delivery envelope must be date and time stamped no later than November 3rd.


(3)  Starting September 18th, you can vote in person at one of York County’s two Central Voting Precincts.   October 31st will be the last day you can vote at the Central Voting Precincts.  The Central Voting Precinct in the lower part of the County is in Washington Square at 5322 Geo. Wash. Mem. Hwy, Yorktown, VA 23692.  In the upper part of the County, the Central Voting Precinct is in the Victory Village at 6614 Mooretown Road, Suite A, Williamsburg, VA 23188.


b.  Summary of important dates:


            September 18th – First day you can vote in person at a Central Voting Precinct


October 13th – Last day to register to vote in the General Election


October 23rd – Last day to request an absentee ballot


            October 31st – Last day to vote in person at a Central Voting Precinct


            November 3rd - General Election Day


c.  Question:  If someone mails in their November ballot, what safeguards are taken to assure that the ballot is recorded accurately?


Answer:  The safeguards begin with the Virginia Constitution and involve the Governor, the Board of Elections, a Commissioner of Elections, the Voting Registrar, the Officers of Election and the voters.  The Governor appoints the State Board of Elections, which is comprised of three people, two of which currently come from the Governor’s (Dem) party and one from the opposing party (GOP).  This structure is mostly represented all the way to the local level.  There are some very tight restrictions on who can serve in any of these positions.  For example, members cannot work for or serve on the staff of any elected official, nor can their family members. 


As for counting ballots, the process is even more restrictive.  Remember, citizens must register to vote to receive a ballot, which means they must prove who they are and where they live.  They then must request an absentee ballot, which is the same as a mail in ballot.  A ballot package containing instructions, several envelopes and the ballot is sent to the registered voter through the U.S Mail.  The voter can either mail the ballot back or drop it off at the Registrar’s Office. 


Once received by the Registrar’s office, the outside envelope is opened to confirm the proper paperwork, i.e. voter’s signature with witnesses and that the B envelope is present.  The outside envelope is date and time stamped and kept confirming that the voter had requested an absentee ballot.  If everything is in order, the information on the outside envelope is entered into the state voter registration system showing that the voter has voted.  This eliminates the possibility of voting more than once.   About a week before the election, a team of Assistant Registrars acting as Election Officials will open the absentee ballots to begin a count by voting precinct.  Ballots received after the election must be counted.  However, the date stamp on the envelope must be on or before November 3rd


Voting twice in Virginia is a Class 6 felony punishable up to 1 to 5 years in jail and a fine of $2,500.  


d. Question:  Besides the candidates running for office, are there proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot?


Answer:  Yes


            (1) Amendment #1 proposes to establish a redistricting commission, consisting of eight members of the General Assembly and eight citizens of the Commonwealth that will be responsible for drawing the congressional and state legislative districts.  The General Assembly will vote on the proposed change but cannot change the proposal.  If passed, the redistricting will be enacted without the Governor’s involvement.  Failure of the General Assembly to redistrict will result in the Supreme Court of Virginia taking up the responsibility.   Go online to www.yorkcounty.gov/357/voter-registration for more information.


            (2) Amendment #2 proposes that an automobile or pickup truck owned and used primarily by a veteran of the US armed forces or the Virginia National Guard who has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability be free from state and local taxation. Go online to www.yorkcounty.gov/357/voter-registration for more information.


2.  Sheriff’s Department Incident Reports - For 19 years, I have provided you with details of incident reports from the Sheriff’s Office.  While the focus is on incidences that occur in and around District 5, I occasionally write about crimes such as burglaries, murders, home invasions etc. in other areas of the County.  My hope is that you will gain some insight in how not to become a victim.  You can see a full list of the incident reports by going to the Sheriff’s Office Facebook Page at https://www.yorkcounty.gov/1022/Arrests-Incidents-and-Warrants.


Between August 14th and 20th, citizens of Woodlake Crossing, Meadowlake Farms and the Belmont Apartments reported 16 incidences of someone tampering with their vehicles.  Larceny from a motor vehicle is the most reported crime in York County.  These crimes are usually committed by a group of burglars from outside the County.  They enter our neighborhoods during the early morning hours and walk from house to house looking for vehicles that are unlocked.  Seldom will they try and open a locked vehicle.  They then proceed to quickly riffle through the vehicle looking for anything of value.  Loose change, wallets, purses, computers, cell phones, guns, golf clubs, CB radios, power tools, and cameras are the most common items reported stolen.  Law enforcement agencies across Hampton Roads work together to catch these thieves.  Recently, several cases of larceny from a vehicle in York County were partially solved.  Two individuals were arrested when a patrol deputy came across them in the act of breaking into cars.  During another situation in which a resident called 911 to report suspicious activity, a deputy responded, and a chase ensued into the City of Hampton.  Four people were caught and arrested by the Hampton Police.  


Relatively speaking, York County is a very safe place to live but you still need to be aware of your surroundings and be proactive in protecting your valuables.  Remember, remove valuables from your vehicle, lock your car doors, and do not hesitate to call 911.


On August 26th, while driving southbound on Victory Boulevard I noticed a large passenger van on fire in the northbound lane.   The van was stopped just short of the traffic light near the Hardee’s entrance.  Flames and black smoke were billowing out from under the engine area and a man, I presumed the driver, was standing near the driver’s door.  He appeared to not understand the danger he was in, i.e. standing in traffic next to a burning vehicle.  An SUV pulled up next to the burning van and a woman jumped out.  I’m not sure what she thought she could do. She may have thought the van had passengers and the man needed help getting them out.  However, I saw no action by either person to move to the passenger side of the van.  Then, other cars began stopping close behind the burning van and SUV.  As I drove passed in the other direction, I thought that surely someone had called 911 but then, knowing people’s hesitancy to dial 911, I decided to make a call.  I’m very glad I did.  No one had called 911 and by the time I had finished answering the dispatcher’s questions, I was at the Kiln Creek Golf Course.  Fortunately, the fire truck and ambulance were scrambled at the very beginning of my call.  So, what will you do if you are in a burning vehicle?  York County Fire and Life Safety recommends that if possible, you should quickly pullover, stop the vehicle, turn off the motor, quickly and safely get everyone out and move at least 100 feet away from fire, and dial 911.  The Fire Chief believes that people assume that someone else has dialed 911.  He recommends you not make this assumption.  If you see an emergency, dial 911.  I was briefed later that the van was an automotive repair transport and the driver was the only one in the vehicle.  The Fire Department quickly arrived, extinguished the fire, and the van was removed from the scene by the car dealership.  No one was hurt.


3.  Animal Control – This year, more than in the past, wildlife has become a problem for many residents in our district.  Squirrels living in attics, foxes building dens under sheds and in crawl spaces, the increased sightings of coyotes, deer eating flowers and shrubs, and the ever-present racoons and opossums rummaging around homes have raised concern.  I thought it might be useful to share with you what York County’s Animal Service Bureau can and cannot do to assist in resolving animal control problems.  First, York County’s Animal Services Bureau, which is part of our fire department, consists of two Animal Control Officers. They are required to respond to domestic animal related incidences. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) is responsible for wildlife situations.  The County’s Animal Control Officers may respond to wildlife incidents only when the animal is reported to be sick, injured or when there is a question of citizen safety.  For example, if you have squirrels in your attic, raccoons in your chimney, or foxes living under your porch or shed, the County will not remove them.  Animal Control Officers can provide you with advice on how to keep wildlife away from your property.  They may even loan you a trap.  However, it is your responsibility to remove the animal.  Animals that are considered a public danger and that are captured by our Animal Control Officers cannot be relocated and are euthanized.  To obtain more information about animal licensing, request an animal trap, or find answers to many animal control question by going to www.yorkcounty.gov//442/animal-services or calling Animal Control Services at (757) 890-3621.  For wildlife related questions, call the VDGIF at (804) 367-1000 or the VDGIF Hotline at (855) 571-9003.


4.  Road maintenance and major ditch work:


            a.  Wythe Creek Farms and Running Man Path - The contract work being done on the path between the two neighborhoods is designed to bring the entire right of way into the VDOT Secondary Road System.  Originally, the right of way was to be a street connection.  Due to requests from the neighborhood the right of way was restricted for use as a bike/walking path and emergency vehicles only.  The original path created by the developer was not built to VDOT road standards.  The work that is being done now will correct the situation.  The turnaround area will be extended eight feet into the path so that larger vehicles can turnaround.  The crepe myrtles will be replaced with new one.  New signage will be installed to clarify that the path is not a cut though.  The area will receive a new overlay of asphalt.


            b.  Kiskiac Turn in Running Man – This street leads to the new 14-unit subdivision called Tequesta Village.  As we expected, Kiskiac Turn did not hold up well under all the heavy construction traffic and as a result the Running Man residence were living with some pretty rough road conditions.  None of the attempts to patch the street worked and finally the DOT Resident Manager in Williamsburg required the developer to do a curb to curb patching.  The street is now in much better shape.  However, I anticipate that when the streets are finished in Tequesta Village, Kiskiac will need to be completely repaved.


            c.  Meadowlake Farms – The stormwater ditch repair behind the homes on Kyle Circle is still ongoing.  The ditch is about six feet deep and runs to the large lake in Woodlake Crossing. The project was originally estimated to cost around $40,000.  Unfortunately, the first repair work did not hold up due to the sandy soil composition.  The revised estimated cost now stands at approximately $150,000.  The current effort includes the installation of Flexmat, which is a mat composed of netting interwoven with concrete blocks.   If the weather stays good, the project should be completed in three to four weeks.


            d.  Hampton Highway - Estimated completion date for the bridge repair and replacement is December 2020.


            e.  Wythe Creek Bridge - The project to widen and elevate the bridge between the cities of Poquoson and Hampton was rescoped and is now back on track.  The project will include a traffic light at the intersection of Carys Chapel Road and Wythe Creek.  The project should go to bid in about six months.


5.  Recycling and trash- Just as a reminder, not all #1 and #2 plastics are recyclable. If the plastic container does not have a neck, it is not recyclable.   Aerosol cans and any paper product that have been in contact with food are not recyclable.  Do not crush cans.  If you do, the real-time camera used in sorting recyclables will identify the crushed cans as paper.  Metals found in the paper bins at the factory are discarded as trash, which is a very expensive way to dump trash.  Finally, if you want to keep the trash down in your neighborhood, please put your trash in a bag before putting it in the trash bin.  Light and loose items such as paper, plastic bags, and Styrofoam will often blow free during the weekly trash collection process.


6. Action by the Board of Supervisors


The Board of Supervisors meetings have been held virtually since March 13th.  This is not an optimal way for residents to express their thoughts on issues of concern.  For this reason, the Board has held off on addressing issues of significance to various parts of the County.  To give residents a direct opportunity to talk to the Supervisors, the September 15th meeting will be held live at York Hall.  Seating in York Hall has been cut in half to meet COVID-19 requirements.  The Board meeting will start at 6 p.m. and the public hearings will start at 7 p.m.  As for the Board’s work sessions that occur on the first Tuesday of each month, these meetings will continue to be held virtually.


As expected, COVID-19 significantly impacted County operations.  To counter this impact and not knowing how long the pandemic would last, the Board directed the County staff to moved forward very conservatively with our spending.  For example, the original proposed operating budget for FY 20-21 was reduced from $150.8 million to $143.7 million, a $7.1 million reduction.  Deferment of Capital Improvement Projects  (CIP) was even a larger cost reduction. For both the County and Schools, the deferment was approximately $20 million.  Thankfully, the CARES Act allocated $13 million to help offset some but not all our expenses.  Office retrofits, citizen and employee safety measures, technology to support work from home requirements and help for remote learning by the School Division are just a few of the categories the CARES Act helped to address.  Hopefully, next year the economic environment will improve, and the County can restore the operating and deferred CIP funding.  


The staff has done a tremendous job in overcoming many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Keeping our government operating in the face of a serious health hazard has been no simple task.  They have really stepped up to support our businesses and residents.  We will continue to cautiously open County departments as we recently did with our Library Services and Parks and Recreation Department and do our part to support a healthy, open, and responsive local government.


* Comments and opinions expressed in the District 5 Report are authorized and approved by me and do not necessarily represent the position of other elected representatives.  All email correspondence to and from this address is subject to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and to the Virginia Public Records Act, which may result in monitoring and disclosure to third parties, including law enforcement.











Friday, August 28, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

August 28, 2020
Top of the News

Bill requiring disclosure of parole board votes receives bipartisan support from Senate panel

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

A bill that would require disclosure of how individual members of the Virginia Parole Board vote received bipartisan support from a Senate panel on Thursday. "This is a sunshine initiative," said Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, the bill's patron . The Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology backed Senate Bill 5012 on a vote of 8-6, with Sens. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, and George Barker, D-Fairfax, joining Republicans to advance the measure.

Democrats advance legislation to create absentee ballot drop boxes

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

Virginians hoping to vote absentee may soon be able to drop off their ballots in a box outside their local election office under legislation advanced by state lawmakers Thursday. The legislation was pitched in the form of a budget bill that will immediately fund new local election activities — including the drop boxes and prepaid return postage on all absentee ballots — that Democrats say will ease voting during the pandemic.

Republican-backed bills to limit governor's powers defeated

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

Virginia Democrats this week defeated numerous bills from Republicans attempting to rein the governor's emergency powers while bolstering those of the General Assembly. Gov. Ralph Northam has had sweeping authority to handle Virginia's coronavirus pandemic, shutting down businesses and schools, ordering people to wear face coverings, and limiting how many people can gather in one place.

First-time unemployment claims in Virginia see biggest drop since pandemic forced businesses to close

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

The number of initial unemployment claims filed by Virginians dropped 24.5% in one week, the lowest level since the pandemic led to state-ordered business closures, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. The agency said 11,436 initial claims — the first step after having just been laid off or furloughed — were made during the week ending Aug. 22, which was 3,715 fewer claims than the week prior.

Emails: Mental health facility's HR office had concerns over making asymptomatic employees work

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

The human resources office at Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute in Danville expressed concerns about making employees who tested positive for the coronavirus show up for work if they were asymptomatic, according to emails between officials at the facility. An Aug. 4 email from SVMHI Chief Operating Officer Robin Crews told those employees to continue their work routine, incorrectly citing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if they had the disease but were asymptomatic. But in emails on Aug. 5, a person in the human resources office corrected Crews.

More than 550 positive coronavirus cases have been reported at colleges across Virginia

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

More than 550 positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported among students, faculty and staff at Virginia colleges and universities as they've reopened their campuses for the fall semester. At Virginia Commonwealth University, 44 positive cases within the athletics department forced the university to create 110 beds' worth of space in the Honors College residential hall to serve as home for those in isolation.

Pressure mounts ahead of UVa's decision Friday on in-person classes

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

More voices have joined the chorus against in-person classes at the University of Virginia ahead of the school's announcement Friday of its final plans on courses. UVa's Board of Visitors met Thursday in a 45-minute executive session to discuss in private a variety of COVID-19-related topics, including plans for "protecting the health and safety of employees, students and the public in accessing University Grounds, programs, services and building facilities for the fall semester."

The Full Report
51 articles, 30 publications


VPAP Visual Lobbyist Compensation: A Primer

The Virginia Public Access Project

Each year, Virginia lobbyists are required to disclose how much they were paid. VPAP has begun posting the information on its site, along with a visualization that explains why the data makes it difficult for the public to compare spending. The short answer is that lobbyists are given such wide latitude -- they can report all or part of their compensation -- that it's impossible to make 'apples-to-apples' comparisons.

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.


Roanoke Delegate Puts Forward Bill To Require Release Of Body Camera Footage


When police in Virginia shoot or use a taser on a suspect, there's no requirement that the body camera footage of the incident be released. A bill from Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) seeks to change that. Rasoul said he was inspired to put the proposal forward following the police killing of high school student Kionte Spencer. Spencer was reportedly walking along the road with a BB-gun in hand and not responding to orders when he was shot and killed by Roanoke County Police. That was in 2016, and Spencer's family still hasn't received the body camera footage from that night.


Roanoke Del. Sam Rasoul exploring run for lieutenant governor

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

Roanoke Del. Sam Rasoul is considering a run for lieutenant governor. The Democrat hasn't formally announced yet, but expects to make a final decision in the next several weeks. It's been rumored for a while that he's been mulling a run. He mentioned his interest in the statewide position Wednesday night during a town hall about COVID-19 and criminal justice reform.


Warner: Post-COVID economy 'is going to look different'

By ANNA MEROD, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

As U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) toured the Emil & Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center that's under construction on Jefferson Street, he noted how important skills in advance technologies will be in the post-coronavirus economy. "The post-COVID economy is going to look different than the pre-COVID economy," Warner told local officials on Wednesday afternoon. "It's going to move the digital economy forward 10 years."


State watchdog agency examining special education system

By JEREMY M. LAZARUS, Richmond Free Press

First came a scathing federal report on the failure of the Virginia Department of Education to effectively monitor the special education programs that local public school divisions provide to children with learning disabilities and mental challenges. Now the General Assembly's fiscal watchdog is preparing to do its own study of special education services at the local and state level and is seeking help from parents, foster parents and guardians of special needs children.

New Black history class coming to Virginia schools


Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia students will have the opportunity to take a new Black history class in school this year. "Black history is American history, but for too long, the story we have told was insufficient and inadequate," said Governor Northam. "The introduction of this groundbreaking course is a first step toward our shared goal of ensuring all Virginia students have a fuller, more accurate understanding of our history, and can draw important connections from those past events to our present day."


Altria Group and Dominion Energy provide grants to MBL's We Care RVA Rebuild Project

By JOHN REID BLACKWELL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Altria Group Inc. is giving $675,000 in grants to four organizations that support minority-owned businesses in central Virginia as part of a larger $5 million program to support racial equity, social justice and small businesses. Altria, the Henrico County-based parent company of Philip Morris USA, had announced in June that it was setting up a $5 million fund to support nonprofit organizations advocating for social justice and assisting small businesses. The company made the announcement Thursday.

Airport employees protest MWAA for paid sick days

By KATE ANDREWS, Va Business Magazine

About 40 people protested Thursday outside of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority headquarters in Arlington, calling for paid sick leave for workers at the state's two Northern Virginia airports who have not received emergency sick days under federal coronavirus legislation.


Regional transit authority launches, bolstered by new tax money

By CHRIS SUAREZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A yearslong backlog and proposed road, sidewalk, trail and public transit projects that Richmond area officials have at times struggled to address await the newly formed Central Virginia Transit Authority. The Ashland-Petersburg trail, expansion of the GRTC Pulse rapid-transit bus line, road-widening projects and perennial pothole repairs are just a few examples of projects officials at the transit authority's inaugural meeting on Thursday said will be completed faster with the new tax revenue and better coordination by local officials the authority aims to ensure.

Chesapeake's Rails-to-Trails project hits temporary impasse

By DAVID MACAULAY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

More than a year after the city of Chesapeake outlined a proposal to turn an abandoned railroad in Western Branch into a multi-use trail, the project remains stalled. At a public meeting in April 2019, the city showcased phase 1 of the Western Branch Rails-to-Trails multi-use path to the public at Western Branch High School, with citizens reacting enthusiastically.

Bristol casino project expected to bring more flights to Tri-Cities Airport

Johnson City Press

More flights should come to Tri-Cities Airport if the Bristol casino project is approved by Bristol, Virginia, voters in the November general election, project advocates told members of the Airport Authority during a Thursday Zoom meeting. "If something like this is successful, it could add a lot to our air travel," said airport Executive Director Gene Cossey. "The air service side of this is extremely important to us."


UVA COVID-19 cases climbing past 50 and classes haven't even started in-person yet

By LAURA PETERS, News Leader (Metered Paywall - 3 to 4 articles a month)

The University of Virginia released a COVID-19 dashboard website Wednesday afternoon showing a rise in cases since Aug. 18. As of Wednesday morning, there were 37 positive cases of COVID-19 amongst faculty, staff, students and contract employees. Thirteen of those are students, the dashboard said. Five percent of student quarantine rooms were occupied as of Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday morning, there were 58 positive cases amongst faculty, staff, students and contract employees — 31 of those were students.

More college students in quarantine as COVID-19 cases rise

By NOAH FLEISCHMAN, VCU Capital News Service

As more universities open, they're collecting and releasing COVID-19 data and grappling with contingency plans for those who contract the disease. The University of Virginia in Charlottesville released its first set of COVID-19 testing data on Wednesday. There have been 58 total positive cases at the university since Aug. 17, including 31 students.

Viral photo and football promos: Virginia Tech grapples with gatherings during COVID-19 era

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

Virginia Tech is grappling with how to control large gatherings that could hasten the spread of COVID-19 during the first week of classes. An engineering professor was removed from teaching a class after a photo of an overfilled classroom, with some students sitting on the floor, went viral. A Tech website on Thursday continued to advertise tailgate packages with the smallest tent hosting up to 20 guests and the largest up to 60 people.

Hollins University, Ferrum College welcome back students for in-person classes

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

Hollins University remains on track to begin in-person classes next week, and Ferrum College began classes this week. One Hollins student has tested positive for COVID-19, and one Ferrum employee and one student have tested positive. Meanwhile, Roanoke College's total of positive COVID-19 cases has risen this week from 15 to 20 students plus two staff members as of Wednesday.

JMU Reports Over 100 COVID-19 Cases

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

On the first day of in-person classes in almost six months, James Madison University saw its COVID-19 cases jump to 124 on Wednesday from 49 the day before. Most of Wednesday's new cases — 64 of the 75 — were self-reported, according to information posted to the school's COVID-19 online dashboard, meaning the figures do not necessarily translate to new cases in the Harrisonburg area, said Caitlyn Read, communications director for JMU.

JMU denies parts of The Breeze's FOIA request

The Breeze

The Breeze received an email from Caitlyn Read, university spokesperson and director of communications, Wednesday saying that parts of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed repetitively by The Breeze on Aug. 20, 24 and 25 had been denied. The FOIA request asked directly about daily COVID-19 numbers from the university. Case numbers in the JMU community continue to rise, and the university continues to refuse to provide specific information on where cases are located, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Radford University suspends fraternity and 8 students over COVID-19 issues

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

Radford University announced the interim suspension of one of its fraternities and eight of its members for violating health measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a school officials. The school announced the suspension of the Theta Chi fraternity-Iota Zeta Chapter for COVID-19 related violations, including endangering conduct by hosting off-campus gatherings, according to a news release sent out by the university early Thursday evening.

SU reports 9 COVID cases on its main campus

By ANNA MEROD, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Shenandoah University is reporting nine cases of coronavirus on its main campus in Winchester, less than a week after students started moving in. In-person classes at the private university started Monday. In March, the university closed to in-person instruction over coronavirus concerns.

Liberty University campus pastor apologizes for Falwell's 'sinful' behavior

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

David Nasser, Liberty University's campus pastor, extended what he called a personal apology to the school's student body Wednesday for the "sinful" behavior of ousted former president Jerry Falwell Jr. "I am sorry," Nasser, a senior vice president who has led spiritual programs at the religious institution for the last six years, said. "In my opinion, you as a Liberty student deserve better. And the embarrassment that's been brought upon you as a Liberty student, and more importantly brought upon the name of Christ, is wrong."

Liberty students, alumni split on Falwell's scandalous exit


Some say he has sinned but should be forgiven. Others want an investigation. Jerry Falwell Jr.'s resignation as president of Liberty University following revelations of a sexual relationship between his wife and a business partner of the Falwell family has stirred conflicting emotions among those with close ties to the school founded by his father. While some students, graduates and former employees were appalled by his behavior in the latest of a series of scandals, others defended him.


Virginia reports 1,121 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday

By SALEEN MARTIN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health reported 1,121 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing the state's tally to 116,579. At least 2,527 Virginians have died from the virus as of Thursday morning, an increase of 12 from Wednesday.

Virginia state lab begins antibody testing for COVID-19

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

Virginia's state public health lab in Richmond began antibody testing for COVID-19 on Thursday, according to a news release from the Department of General Services, the agency that oversees it. The Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services has offered polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, testing since Feb. 29, when it first validated the COVID-19 test distributed to states by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Inmates, Staff Quarantined at Richmond Jail Following Outbreak


Dozens of inmates at the Richmond City Jail are being monitored after testing positive for COVID-19, displaying symptoms, or having been exposed to the virus. A spokesperson for the Richmond City Jail told VPM that about 75 inmates who potentially have COVID-19 are being watched. That's down from about 100 cases identified earlier in the week, which includes several staff members.


City to crack down on unauthorized events at parks, obstruction of roadways

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

Charlottesville City Manager Tarron Richardson is warning community organizers that they could be cited if they hold an event planned for Friday. In a statement released Thursday evening, Richardson said the city has supported the community's right to "peaceably assemble," but that "obstructing city streets and using parks without the proper permits will no longer be allowed."

Johns considered for statue in U.S. Capitol

By TITUS MOHLER, Farmville Herald (Paywall)

The late Barbara Rose Johns may soon be representing Farmville and Virginia in the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall. As the Virginia Office of the Governor announced in a July 24 press release, the Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol recommended, via unanimous vote, the removal of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from National Statuary Hall.

Former city councilman pushing African-American perspective missing in Lee statue lawsuit

By JEREMY M. LAZARUS, Richmond Free Press

New drama is about to be injected into the already charged legal fight over removing the last and largest offensive Confederate statue from Monument Avenue — the one to slavery's top military defender, Gen. Robert E. Lee. Sa'ad El-Amin, a former Richmond City Councilman who has long been outspoken about the need to remove the white supremacist Confederate statues that have dominated the Richmond landscape for more than a century, is preparing to enter the fray.

Historic nuclear power plant at Fort Belvoir to be dismantled


The red button was always there — just in case. Most people never knew the world's first nuclear power reactor to provide electricity to a commercial power grid was — and is — on the grounds of Fort Belvoir, the U.S. Army installation in Fairfax County, Virginia. But it won't be there much longer.

Bald eagles shot in Highland, area stores offering reward for information

By LOGAN BOGERT, News Virginian

After two bald eagles were found dead in Highland County, two local stores have contributed to a $3,000 reward fund for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Nuckols Gun Works in Staunton began the reward fund with $1,000. Store manager Jim Wood said the bald eagle killings came on their radar from local law enforcement and game wardens.


Richmond Public Schools Faces Laptop Shortage During Transition to Remote Learning


Only a quarter of the laptops ordered by Richmond Public Schools - that were going to be given to students for online classes - have shown up, according to school officials. RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras delivered the news of the shortage in an email to parents Wednesday night. The district intended to distribute the devices to support remote learning.

County weighs $85 million in bonds for schools, drainage work

By JIM MCCONNELL, Chesterfield Observer

With interest rates at historic lows – and the county still reeling from flooding two weekends ago – the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors is considering issuing up to $85 million in bonds to finance school major maintenance and transportation/drainage infrastructure projects. The county and school system initially planned to put a $600 million bond referendum on the ballot for November's general election, but that was delayed by at least a year because of economic uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

IW, Poquoson only Hampton Roads school divisions planning to reopen


... Isle of Wight County and Poquoson are the only two public school divisions in the Hampton Roads area to offer the option of in-person instruction for students. Both divisions plan to offer in-person instruction for grades Pre K-3 two days per week on an alternating schedule, so that only half of the students are present in the same building on any given day.

Amazon grant will help 7 Hampton Roads schools get more kids in computer classes

By GORDON RAGO, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Seven schools in Hampton Roads will be among those to benefit from an Amazon grant aimed at helping low-income students access computer science classes. Amazon will donate $3.9 million to a Richmond-based nonprofit over the next three years to help the group support students at mostly Title I or economically disadvantaged schools.

Hampton considering new household parking regulations: No more parking on lawns

By LISA VERNON SPARKS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Hampton is considering new regulations on household parking, including a ban on parking in front lawns. A majority on the Planning Commission last week recommended changes to zoning laws that would require vehicles to be parked on improved surfaces ― concrete, asphalt, pavers, gravel, rock, or oyster shells. Homeowners also would need to keep at least a certain percentage of their lawns as green space in yards on one- and two-family houses and duplex lots.

King William residents could see entire county with broadband service

By EMILY HOLTER, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

For King William County residents, broadband internet access may no longer be a luxury following the Board of Supervisors' unanimous vote to partner with a subcontracting business. After months of discussions through the county's Economic Development Authority and the King William Internet Connectivity Initiative, the county plans to work with Northern Virginia-based company All Points Partners.

Supervisors eye broadband expansion as virtual school looms

By HEATHER MICHON, Fluvanna Review

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors continued their deliberations over broadband expansion at their meeting on Wednesday (Aug. 19), a discussion made all the more urgent by the need to get more than 3,000 students ready for the start of virtual learning next month. With Supervisor Don Weaver (Cunningham) absent for the evening, the Board voted 4-0 to approve a $45,900 request from Fluvanna County Public Schools for the purchase of 200 Verizon Wi-Fi hotspots and four months of data.

Council rescinds CRB appointment, fills seat with Bellamy Brown

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

Charlottesville's City Council has appointed Bellamy Brown, a former council candidate, to a seat on the Police Civilian Review Board after mistakenly appointing a city employee to the panel. The council unanimously rescinded the appointment of Latita Talbert and then voted 4-1 to appoint Brown following a closed session Thursday.

PERF reviewing Fredericksburg police's use of force during protests

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

A third-party review is underway of Fredericksburg's law enforcement practices and use of force and arrests during demonstrations held in the city between May 31 and June 2. Members of the Police Executive Research Forum, or PERF, met privately this week with Fredericksburg officials, the city's police department and community members, including some of the protesters.

HCPS to offer free meals to all students during virtual instruction

By JULIE HAGY, Harrisonburg Citizen

For the first time, free breakfast and lunch will be offered at no cost to all HCPS students this school year. During virtual instruction, the meals will be distributed through pick-up and delivery options. Because the program is funded through reimbursement for each meal provided, the district is hoping for a high participation rate from students during the virtual phase of instruction.

Rejected ballots might have made the difference in Staunton's council election

By LAURA PETERS, News Leader (Metered Paywall - 3 to 4 articles a month)

Did you know that your absentee ballots can be rejected? Yes they can, and they don't count if they're late. They also aren't counted if they are rejected. They can get rejected for several reasons. According to Staunton Registrar Molly Goldsmith, 98 ballots arrived late in the May 19 election and 58 ballots were rejected.

Roanoke County schools report smooth first week

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

The first week of school for Roanoke County has gone smoothly, Superintendent Ken Nicely reported Thursday night to the Roanoke County School Board. "The first week of school always brings some kinks to work out, and that's normal ... but all the efforts ... everybody put in to get this first week up and running has been a wonderful success," he said. Temperature checks, arrival procedures and mask usage among students have gone well, Nicely reported.

First positive COVID-19 cases reported in Roanoke County Public Schools

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

Facebook Twitter Email Print Save A student and an employee at separate Roanoke County elementary schools have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the district. These are the first positive cases the district has reported since the 2020–21 school year began Monday. The student attends Back Creek Elementary School, and the employee works at Green Valley Elementary School, according to spokesman Chuck Lionberger.

Lynchburg mayor, recruitment firm shed light on search for city manager

By SARAH HONOSKY, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

As the six-month search for a new city manager drags on, city leaders must now decide if they will stay with the consulting firm that already has cost $17,000 in fees and led to the shortest city manager tenure in Lynchburg history. The firm identified, and the city hired, former Warren County Administrator Douglas Stanley on Aug. 11, only to have him resign Aug. 21, one week before the job was to begin.

Blended model of instruction chosen by most families who had options

By RANDY ARRINGTON, Page Valley News

Page County Public Schools recently surveyed families across the county to see which learning method they preferred for the upcoming school year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were presented at Monday night's meeting of the Page County School Board by Eric Benson, the division's Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Innovation and Accountability. Nearly 60 percent of the 3,155 surveys sent out showed families opting for remote learning for the 2020-21 school year in Page County.

Supervisors reject bid to remove monument

By SYLVIA ALLEN, Brunswick Times-Gazette

The Brunswick County Board of Supervisors rejected the bid received from Clary Construction to remove the Confederate monument from courthouse square and will advertise again soliciting bids for the work. The bid totaled $33,300: removal of monument - $26,500, restoration of site - $2,800, other costs - $4,000 and transport cost per mile - $150. The company is also not responsible for any breakage.



Good luck reopening college campuses

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

Colleges and universities are opening all over the country, COVID-19 be damned. They're doing it with fingers crossed, full of hope and optimism that 18- to 22-year-olds will act responsibly. In another type of gambling, this would be the equivalent of drawing to an inside straight. The odds are not good. Virginia Commonwealth University reported 48 active cases of COVID-19 among its student body as of Aug. 23, the day before classes commenced.

John Hager reminds Virginia of the meaning of public service

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

Public reaction to the passing of John Hager, Virginia's lieutenant governor from 1998 to 2002, has been telling. It reveals a measure of regret and a tinge of despair. Maybe more than a tinge. The regret is easy to understand. It results from the loss of a decent and valued public servant, who not only handled the cruel, paralyzing effects of polio, but also muscled himself beyond its restraints.

Internet safety in the virtual classroom

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

Across Virginia, students and their families — as well as teachers and administrators — are preparing for the first day of school. But this is no ordinary year. Instead of the usual back-to-school preparations of cleaning classrooms, confirming bus schedules and assembling supplies, many are checking their internet connectivity.


Hobbs: Individual, collective action needed to combat climate change

By KATHERINE HOBBS, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

On Aug. 4, Tropical Storm Isaias spawned two tornadoes in Suffolk, one in the Riverview neighborhood where I grew up. While I now live in Chesapeake, I drive to Suffolk often to check on my father, 93, who still lives in Riverview. Fortunately, he only lost power for three days, but some of his neighbors were not so lucky. Giant pines had snapped and broken through power lines, falling onto houses and cars.

Hobbs is a leader with the Climate Reality Project and a resident of Chesapeake.


A Flying Start

By SADIE DINGFELDER, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

One of the lesser casualties of the coronavirus pandemic is gossip. Many of us are suddenly leading very boring lives: baking banana bread, learning TikTok dances, watching the full contents of Netflix. Even the celebrities are dullsville these days. Sensing our desperation for scuttlebutt, they've retreated into their luxurious villas, which they quickly learned not to flaunt. Now who are we supposed to talk about, judge and live vicariously through? Birds.

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