March 2020

  1. Governor Northam Issues Statewide Stay at Home Order

    RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today issued a statewide Stay at Home order to protect the health and safety of Virginians and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The executive order takes effect immediately and will remain in place until June 10, 2020, unless amended or rescinded by a further executive order.

    The order directs all Virginians to stay home except in extremely limited circumstances. Individuals may leave their residence for allowable travel, including to seek medical attention, work, care for family or household members, obtain goods and services like groceries, prescriptions, and others as outlined in Executive Order Fifty-Three, and engage in outdoor activity with strict social distancing requirements.

    The executive order also directs all Virginia institutions of higher education to stop in-person classes and instruction. Private campgrounds must close for short-term stays, and beaches will be closed statewide except for fishing and exercise. 

    “We are in a public health crisis, and we need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibly,” said Governor Northam. “Our message to Virginians is clear: stay home. We know this virus spreads primarily through human-to-human contact, and that’s why it’s so important that people follow this order and practice social distancing. I’m deeply grateful to everyone for their cooperation during this unprecedented and difficult time.”

    The full text of Executive Order Fifty-Five can be found here.

    Last week, Governor Northam issued Executive Order Fifty-Three closing certain non-essential businesses, prohibiting public gatherings of more than 10 people, and directing all K-12 schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year. A Frequently Asked Questions guide about Executive Order Fifty-Three can be found here.

    For the latest information about the COVID-19 outbreak, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus or CDC.gov/coronavirus.

  2. Southside Health District Confirms Case of COVID-19 in Brunswick County

    The Southside Health District announced today a case of COVID-19 in a Brunswick County resident in his 20s. He is isolating at home. To protect patient privacy, no further information will be provided about this case, and VDH does not provide specific information on an investigation.

    “We continue to see new cases of COVID-19 throughout the Commonwealth, and it’s now in our area. This reminds us how very critical it is that people follow public health guidelines on social distancing and good hygiene,” said Southside Health District Director Dr. Scott Spillmann. “Staying home and social distancing are the most effective strategies in limiting the spread of COVID-19, and lessening the impact of this pandemic.”

    Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person. COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

    To lower the risk of spreading respiratory infections, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

    • Stay home as much as possible — especially when you are sick.
    • Avoid contact with sick people.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
    • If you are experiencing symptoms, call your doctor.
    • Practice social distancing. Maintain at least six feet of space between yourself and other individuals when out in public.

    For more information visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus or www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/. Please consult www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus for the latest number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia.

  3. VCU Health CMH Visitation Changes

    For our patients — your safety is our top concern.

    (March 30, 2020) The health and safety of our patients, team members, and visitors are critical at all times. Our patient care philosophy depends greatly on engaging family and friends to be part of the healing process. We continue to identify public health practices that reduce the risks of transmitting COVID-19, including restricting visitation within VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital and clinics.

    Effective Monday, March 30 at 5:00 p.m., we are instituting a temporary full visitor restriction policy to keep our team members, patients, and communities safe. In this difficult and unprecedented time, we know showing love and care is of the utmost importance, and our teams are committed to providing safe and compassionate care.  All who enter the hospital or the CARE Building will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

    For inpatients this means: We are suspending all in-person visits to hospitalized patients for the duration of the pandemic. Exceptions include:

    • Labor and Delivery unit: One (1) adult visitor, 18 years or older, permitted per patient
    • Pediatric patients in all units: One (1) adult visitor, 18 years or older, permitted per patient
    • Patients who are at the end of life: The number of visitors are determined by the patients’ care team.

    To reach a patient, please dial (434) 584, followed by the four digits of the patient's room number.

    For outpatients this means: For those with appointments, we are instituting the following temporary outpatient appointment policy:

    • Only patients with verified appointments may enter our hospitals and clinics. Appointments will be verified at entry screening stations.
    • For pediatric patients with verified appointments: Two (2) accompanying adults, 18 years or older, permitted per patient

    The restrictions also apply to people entering the Emergency Department.

    As of last Friday, March 27, 2020 virtual appointments are now possible with all VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital provider offices.

    The patient should contact the practice using the telephone number of that practice to get the process started. This is for established patients only, no new patients can be added to this process unless they are requesting appointments directly related to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

    Once the appointment has been made, the patient should:

    1. Check their email for a Zoom meeting invite.

    2. Write down Meeting ID in case needed while joining meeting

    3. To join meeting, click on the link below “Join Zoom Meeting”. The provider must have initiated meeting in order for patient to join in.  If not, the patient will not be able to join in until the provider starts meeting.  Patient may have to try and re-join after a couple of minutes.

    4. Patient needs to select “Join with Video”

    5. Then join with “Call using Internet Audio” or “Dial in” – will need Meeting ID if dialing in

    6. Leave meeting by clicking “End Meeting”

    Additional precautions:

    - We ask everyone to take extra steps to ensure good handwashing.  Ten handwashing stations have been placed outside the entrances to the following locations and we ask that everyone please wash their hands before entering buildings:  main hospital, Emergency Department, C.A.R.E. Building, Leggett Center, Cancer Center – Medical and Radiation Oncology, Chase City Primary Care, Clarksville Primary Care and VCU Health at Tanglewood.

    - Visitors who are required to wear a mask to enter a patient room will be provided with only one mask per day, to be used in the patient room.

    We understand this is a difficult time for our patients and visitors, and we appreciate your help keeping our loved ones and our community safe. Working together, we are confident that these measures will help us succeed with managing the spread of COVID-19 within our facilities while balancing the visitation needs of our patients.

    The Hundley Center

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has taken action to aggressively respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  In order to comply with CMS mandates, nursing homes nationwide implemented restrictions and The Hundley Center at VCU Health CMH complied by suspending all visitation.  Residents have access to a private phone in their rooms.  To reach a resident, please dial (434) 584, followed by the number 4 and the three digits of the resident’s room number.  Our goal of protecting the health of each resident is of the utmost importance during this unprecedented situation.

    VCU Health CMH is closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. For an official case count in Virginia (and locations of cases), please visit the Virginia Department of Health at www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/.

    For more information about COVID-19, please visit:  vcuhealth.org/covid-19

    The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has a call line established for COVID-19 questions, the number is 877-ASK-VDH3.   (877-275-8343)

  4. Barbara R. Finch

    July 17, 1956 - March 29, 2020

    Barbara R. Finch, 63, of Emporia, passed away Sunday, March 29, 2020. She was the daughter of the late Richard H. & Doris Christine Rawlings and was also preceded in death by her husband, William S. Finch and a son, Lynn Finch.

    Barbara is survived by two sons, Anthony Finch (Devin) and Jordy T. Finch (Sarah) and daughter, Leigh Ann Lewis (Nick); grandchildren, Bryce and Camryn Finch and Steven and Evan Lewis and a brother, James J. “Opie” Rawlings.

    Barbara was a Licensed Practical Nurse and had spent her entire career at what is now Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center Emergency Department. She loved her co-workers and considered them her extended family. She also loved baseball, especially the Atlanta Braves and attended faithfully the ball games of her grandchildren.

    Funeral services will be private.

    In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to Zion Baptist Church, c/o Missy Bullock, 2755 Rolling Acres Rd., Emporia, Virginia 23847 or to Greensville Memorial Foundation, P.O Box 1015, Emporia, Virginia 23847.

    Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.




     

  5. Virginia Legal Aid Society Remains Open During Outbreak

    During the COVID-19 outbreak, Virginia Legal Aid Society is remaining open for business, using law to resolve problems affecting the basics of life for low-income families and individuals.  Lawline, our telephone intake and advice system, will remain open during its normal business hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at 866-534-5243 (866-LEGL-AID). VLAS urges everyone to call rather than visit, if possible, to help keep everyone safe.    

    VLAS's five offices in Lynchburg, Danville, Martinsville, Farmville and Suffolk will remain open by appointment and during limited open business hours.  Visitors should contact their local office prior to visiting in order to confirm hours of public access. The Lynchburg office is open to the public from 9 a.m.-noon weekdays; the other offices are open from 9-11 a.m. These hours are subject to change.

    VLAS’s mission is to resolve the serious legal problems of low-income people, promote economic and family stability, reduce poverty through effective legal assistance, and to champion equal justice.

  6. From Fashion Design to Chemistry, Classes Adapt to Distance Learning

    By Jimmy O’Keefe, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND -- Students and teachers at all levels of education are transitioning from classroom to computer as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise. Not every subject lends itself to a smooth transition to distance learning, as students and instructors have discovered. 

    “I think we’re all really frustrated,” said Jordyn Wade, a fashion design major at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “But we know that our professors are doing what they can in a really unprecedented situation.” 

    Wade said that she and her classmates are now meeting remotely through Zoom, a video conferencing platform. Zoom allows students to meet virtually during a time when people can’t meet physically, but distance learning poses challenges for courses that require more than a lecture, like art classes and lab components of science classes.

    Students like Wade worked mostly with industrial grade equipment.

    “We kind of rely heavily on the school for supplies like sewing machines and the industrial equipment that can cost thousands of dollars,” Wade said. “Now we just stare at each other and they ask us,‘What can you guys do? Can you hand sew an entire jacket before the end of the month?’”

    Wade said that one of the most frustrating aspects of distance learning is not being able to receive direct feedback from professors.

    “We can’t ask our professors what’s wrong with the garment that we’re making, we can just send them pictures and hope they can figure it out from afar,” Wade said. 

    Chloe Pallak, a student in VCU’s art program said that many of her projects are being graded on whether or not they are complete. 

    “To get a grade for an assignment, you just have to do it,” Pallak said. “It really takes away the motivation of wanting to make art and not just complete the assignment.” 

    Courses that include lab components, such as classes in environmental science, also face challenges as classes move online. Griffin Erney, an environmental studies major at VCU, said that distance learning prevents students from accessing lab materials that are typically provided in the classroom. 

    “Before the class was online we would just do different activities and be provided with the materials,” Erney said. “Having labs online is more challenging, on top of all the work that we already have.” 

    On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order that closed down all K-12 schools in the state for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. 

    Davide D’Urbino, a chemistry and organic chemistry teacher at Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield County, said he plans on using computer applications to supplement labs that cannot be completed in the classroom. He said the school division requested that teachers hold off on introducing new learning material.

    “The expectation was that you could teach new stuff, but then you have to go back in class and reteach it,” D’Urbino said.

    D’Urbino said teachers aren’t allowed to teach new material online because some students may not have internet access. He said he understands why the school division has placed these restrictions but said it “feels weird.” 

    Distance learning has also presented challenges to teachers trying to adapt to lecturing online. 

    “Some people say teaching is 75 percent theater, you just go out there and do improv. You can’t really do that online,” D’Urbino said. “It’s very difficult to intervene and correct course if you realize something isn’t quite working out.”

    Teachers have also scrambled for ways to continue instruction for students that lack access to the internet.

    Janice Barton, a 5th grade science teacher at Honaker Elementary School in Russell County, said that about half of the 60 students she teaches have access to the internet. She said the school is using Google Classroom, a web platform that allows teachers to share files with students through the internet. For students without internet access, teachers create physical packets of learning content.

    “We’re working as grade levels, we’re going in and working together to put the packets together,” Barton said. “We have pickup days and drop-off days, and that’s how we are working and dealing with this right now.”

    Barton said the school uses phone calls, emails, and the app Remind, which allows teachers to send messages to students to keep in contact with parents and students. 

    While local school divisions are tasked with making decisions on how to pursue distance learning, the Virginia Department of Education issued guidance to help divisions continue instruction. 

    VDOE’s guidance to local school divisions includes offering instruction during the summer of 2020, extending the school term or adjusting the next, and adding learning modules to extended school calendars. 

    Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane issued guidance regarding eight high school senior graduation requirements and will be issuing further guidance for half of those, which can not be waived outright. 

    Two other graduation requirements -- training in emergency first aid and the completion of a virtual course -- require action by the General Assembly in order to be waived.

  7. Crater Health District Health Departments Reports its First COVID-19 Death and Confirmed Cases in Emporia and Greensville County

    (Petersburg, Va.) – The Crater Health District today announced the death of a resident from complications associated with COVID-19.  To protect patient confidentiality, no further information about the patient will be provided.

    “We are so sorry to hear of the loss of a Crater Health District resident.  Our sincere condolences go out to their family and friends,” said Crater Health District Director Alton Hart, Jr., MD, MPH. “It is especially important to remember elderly individuals and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, including death. These at-risk individuals are strongly advised to take steps to minimize contact with others who are ill, practice social distancing, and stay at home as much as possible.”

    First Confirmed Case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Emporia

    (Emporia, Virginia)- The Crater Health District (CHD) announced today a resident of the city of Emporia has tested positive for coronavirus 19 (COVID-19).   This marks the first positive COVID-19 case in the city of Emporia.  The individual is a male in his 30s and is self –isolating at home.

    “As testing availability increases in our localities and across the Commonwealth, we expect to continue to have confirmed cases,” said Crater Health District Director Alton Hart, Jr., MD, MPH.  We continue to recommend effective measures to keep Crater Health District residents safe and well. It is important for everyone to continue practicing personal public health precautions, especially social distancing and hand and surface hygiene. These are the most effective ways to minimize the spread of illness and keep yourself and those around you healthy.”

    “People at higher risk of infection with COVID-19 include: people who are close contacts of someone known to have COVID-19, for example healthcare workers, or household members. Others at higher risk for infection are those who live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19,”said Epidemiologist Senior E. Katrina Saphrey, MPH

    Crater Health District Confirms First Case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Greensville County

    (Greensville County, Virginia)- The Crater Health District announced that a resident has tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Greensville County.  The female is in her 70’s and hospitalized. This is the seventh case in the district and the first case in Greensville County.

    “With each confirmed case, we identify possible contacts, evaluate their risk of exposure and recommend appropriate public health and medical measures,” said Crater Health District Director, Alton Hart, Jr., MD, MPH  “The Virginia Department of Health’s Crater Health District and our healthcare partners continue to work together to identify cases of COVID-19 in our communities across the Commonwealth.”

    COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days after exposure to an infectious person.

    We all can take steps to protect our health and the health of our loved ones.

    • Stay home if possible.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
    • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
    • Practice social distancing by staying six feet or more away from others.
    • Call your healthcare professional if you have concerns about COVID-19 and your underlying condition or if you are sick.

    The Crater Health District has activated a coronavirus call center, which is staffed Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. to address questions from residents. Community members may call 804-862-8989.  The Virginia Department of Health has also activated a public information line, 877-ASK-VDH3, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    The Crater Health District serves the cities and counties of Dinwiddie, Emporia, Greensville, Hopewell, Petersburg, Prince George, Surry and Sussex.

  8. First Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in Southampton County

    A male in his 60’s from Southampton County has tested positive for COVID-19. While the patients address is in Southampton County, the patient currently resides at an assisted living facility in Northampton County, North Carolina. The patient was transported to a local hospital, for an unrelated medical emergency.

    The Western Tidewater Health District (WTHD) is working a full contact investigation collaboratively with the Northampton County Health Department.  WTHD will notify those with contact exposures and advise those persons of the precautions they should take.

    “This case is a great example of the collaborative public health effort that occurs when we have patients that cross state borders,” said Dr. Todd Wagner, director of the Western Tidewater Health District.

    Note: This case is not included in the totals posted today on the VDH website at www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

    To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
    • Stay home when you are sick.
    • Avoid contact with sick people.
    • Avoid non-essential travel.
    • Practice social distancing. Maintain at least six feet of space between yourself and other individuals when out in public.
    • Avoid crowds of more than ten people.

    This is a rapidly changing situation, and information is shared as it becomes available on the following websites: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus or www.vdh.virgina.gov/coronavirus/. Please consult www.vdh.virgina.gov/coronavirus for the latest number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia.

    Residents should contact the information call center at (757) 683-2745 with questions about the COVID-19 situation.

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  9. Up-to-Date Information on the Coronavirus/COVID-19

    For the most accurate information available please visit any of the following sites:

    Remember to Keep Your Social Distance -

    • Remain About 6 Feet Apart
    • No Gatherings of More Than 10 People

    Shelter in Place, Leaving Your Home Only for:

    • Groceries
    • Pharmacy
    • Medical Care
    • Exercise/Walking the Dog

    Wash Your Hands Thouroughly and Often with Soap and Water for at Least Twenty Seconds (Sing Happy Birthday Twice).

    If you are unable to wash your hands, Use Hand Sanitizer with an Alcohol Content of at Least 60%

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  10. Governor Northam Orders Statewide Closure of Certain Non-Essential Businesses, K-12 Schools Bans public gatherings of more than 10 people

    RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today issued a statewide order to protect the health and safety of Virginians and reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Executive Order Fifty-Three orders the closure of certain non-essential businesses, bans all gatherings of more than 10 people, and closes all K-12 schools for the remainder of the academic year. Governor Northam is also urging all Virginians to avoid non-essential travel outside the home, if and when possible.

    This order goes into effect at 11:59 PM on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 and will remain in place until 11:59 PM on Thursday, April 23, 2020.

    “This is an unprecedented situation, and it requires unprecedented actions to protect public health and save lives,” said Governor Northam. “I know the next several weeks will be difficult. These restrictions on non-essential businesses will create hardships on the businesses and employees affected. But they are necessary, and we do not undertake them lightly. I am calling on Virginians to sacrifice now, so that we can get through this together.”

    In addition, Virginia is launching a statewide media campaign to ensure Virginians fully understand their risk and do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Commonwealth’s “Health in Your Hands” campaign will include radio and television spots as well as statewide billboards and highway signs.

    Public Gatherings

    All gatherings of more than 10 people are banned statewide, beginning at 11:59 PM on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. This does not include gatherings that involve the provision of health care or medical services, access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; operations of the media; law enforcement agencies; or operations of government.

    K-12 Schools

    All schools will remain closed through the end of this academic year. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will issue guidance to help divisions execute plans to continue instruction, while ensuring students are served equitably, regardless of income level, access to technology, English learner status, or special needs. This includes options for additional instruction through summer programming, integrating instruction into coursework next year, and allowing students to make up content. VDOE will submit a waiver to the federal government to lift end-of-year testing requirements and is exploring options to waive state mandated tests.

    Recreation and Entertainment Businesses

    The following recreation and entertainment businesses are considered non-essential and must close to the public beginning at 11:59 PM on Tuesday, March 24, 2020:

    • Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers;
    • Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities;
    • Beauty salons, barber shops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart;
    • Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities;
    • Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.

    Dining and On-Site Alcohol Establishments

    All dining and congregation areas in the following establishments must close to the public beginning at 11:59 PM on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. These establishments may continue to offer delivery and/or takeout services. Establishments include:

    • Restaurants;
    • Dining establishments;
    • Food courts;
    • Farmers markets;
    • Breweries;
    • Microbreweries;
    • Distilleries;
    • Wineries; and
    • Tasting rooms.

    Retail Businesses

    The following retail businesses are considered essential and may remain open during normal business hours:

    • Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores, and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations;
    • Medical, laboratory, and vision supply retailers;
    • Electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology;
    • Automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers as well as automotive repair facilities;
    • Home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers;
    • Lawn and garden equipment retailers;
    • Beer, wine, and liquor stores;
    • Retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores;
    • Retail located within healthcare facilities;
    • Banks and other financial institutions with retail functions;
    • Pet stores and feed stores;
    • Printing and office supply stores; and
    • Laundromats and dry cleaners.

    All essential retail establishments must, to the extent possible, adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and other appropriate workplace guidance from state and federal authorities. 

    Any brick-and-mortar retail business not listed above must limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment, adhere to social distancing recommendations, sanitize common surfaces, and apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities. If any such business cannot adhere to the 10-patron limit with proper social distancing requirements, it must close.

    Additional Guidance

    Professional businesses not listed above must utilize telework as much as possible. Where telework is not feasible, such businesses must adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing procedures, and apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities, including CDC, OSHA, and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.

    Businesses in violation of this order may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

    Nothing in Executive Order Fifty-Three limits the provision of health care or medical services, access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; the operations of the media; law enforcement agencies; or operations of government.

    The full text of Executive Order Fifty-Three can be found here. Additional guidance and a Frequently Asked Questions guide can be found here.

    Watch the video of today’s announcement here.

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  11. Virginia State Trooper struck by passing motorist

    SUSSEX COUNTY: On Wednesday, March 25 at approximately 8:00 this morning, a Virginia State Trooper was on the closed median of southbound Interstate 95, south of Route 602,  observing traffic, when he was struck by another vehicle. The driver of a 2004 Chevrolet pick-up truck, Jerry Lee Vick, lost control of his vehicle, ran off the roadway, and struck the troopers vehicle in the rear. (See attached photos.) The trooper and Mr. Vick suffered minor, non-life threatening injuries. Vick, of Fort Washington, Maryland, was charged with reckless driving.

  12. Real ID deadline extended until 2021 amid coronavirus outbreak

    By Hannah Eason, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- The deadline for Real IDs has been extended until October 2021. The move was prompted by widespread Department of Motor Vehicle customer service center closures during the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday.

    The deadline for the IDs was Oct. 1. After the deadline, the licences will be required to access federal facilities, board domestic flights and enter nuclear power plants.

    The application process must be completed in person, but Virginia has closed DMV customer service centers until April 2 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. DMV closures and restricted access nationwide will prevent people from receiving Real IDs. Gov. Ralph Northam added a 60-day extension to any license or registration expiring before May 15.

    “The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline,” acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a news release. “Our state and local partners are working tirelessly with the Administration to flatten the curve and, therefore, we want to remove any impediments to response and recovery efforts.”

    A regular driver’s license can still be used for driving, voting and verifying identity. Real IDs are marked by a black or gold star symbol in the top-right corner of the license.

    The Real ID application process requires multiple forms of identity, such as:

    • U.S. passport or birth certificate

    • Social security card or W-2 form displaying social security number

    • Two of the following: valid Virginia driver’s license, recent utility bills, mortgage statements or leasing agreements

    • Proof of name changes if applicable

    Non-U.S. citizens must show proof of identification and legal presence, such as an unexpired passport and visa, permanent resident card or employment authorization document. Virginians who do not have a Real ID must have federally accepted identification, such as a passport, to board a domestic flight or enter a secured federal facility.

    Farmville resident Ethan Bowman, who was left unemployed by the coronavirus outbreak when he was unable to start a new political marketing job, has not received a Real ID but said an extension will help him.

    “I don't have a copy of my birth certificate,” Bowman said. “So I would have to get that somehow before the deadline.”

    Right now, there are other things on Bowman’s mind. He said his two roommates are out of work due to the pandemic, and the two grocery stores in the town of 8,000 were low on food Wednesday.

    “We sent my cousin out for food and he just sent a bunch of pictures back to our little group chat, and it was just empty shelves, everywhere,” Bowman said of the Walmart Supercenter in Farmville.

    Casey Tharpe, a respiratory therapy major at Radford University Carilion, received a Real ID in January after an eight-hour day of computer issues at the DMV in South Boston.

    “You just had to check this box for Real ID, but honestly I really have no use whatsoever for Real ID,” Tharpe said. “I've been on a plane once in my life.”

    Wolf stated that extending the deadline would also allow the Department of Homeland Security to work with Congress and implement the “needed changes to expedite the issuance of Real IDs.”

  13. VCU Health CMH Team Member of the Month for February 2020

    (Left to Right) W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital presented Nickey Powell, RN in ICU, the VCU Health CMH STAR Service Team Member of the Month Award for February.  There to congratulate Nickey was Mellissa Black, Acute Care Nursing Director and Mary Hardin, Vice President of Patient Care Services.

    If you are sick or injured, you want someone fighting for you and that’s what you have in Nickey Powell, RN in the Intensive Care Unit.  Nickey was named the VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital Star Service Team Member of the Month for February.

    Mellisa Black DNP, RN, MS, CCRN, NE-BC, and Director of Acute Care Services, described Nickey as “a wonderful nurse, who is never afraid to say something to benefit the patient.”

    Nickey was nominated by the husband of one of her patients.  He said, “Nickey had such a pleasant attitude and genuine concern for my wife’s health and she went above and beyond to make my wife and I as comfortable as could be. She’s truly a blessing!”

    Mellisa said, “The patient and her husband came by my office to express their gratitude for the excellent care they received from Nickey.  Nickey is a wonderful example of great relationship-based care.

    Nickey has a Bachelor’s degree in nursing from East Carolina University and is originally from Elizabeth City, NC and now resides in Norlina, NC.

    She’s been with VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital for the past five years and likes CMH because “it just feels like home.”  “We are such a family in the unit. I feel like I know everyone who works here.”

    Nickey and husband, Tony, have three daughters, Claire, 7, Harper, 5, and Ella who turns three in March.

  14. BA First Semester All As Breakfast

    On February 20, 2020, Brunswick Academy honored high school students who obtained all As for the First Semester.  Mrs. Courtney Roberts Nickels (BA Class of 2004) was guest speaker. Mrs. Nickels gave an inspirational speech to our students and parents. She stated that “the process of learning is ultimately the lesson.” She also encouraged students to step out of their comfort zone and to enjoy where you are in life right now and keep up the good work.” Congratulations to all of these students!

  15. Virginia schools closed remainder of term; some businesses ordered shut

    By Zobia Nayyar, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia will close public and private schools for the remainder of the academic year, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday during a press conference. He also outlined stricter guidelines for which businesses can remain open.

    The move, which applies to K-12 schools, is part of an executive order that goes into effect March 24 at 11:59 p.m. until April 23. 

    "We have a health crisis and we have an economic crisis but the sooner that we can get this health crisis under control, the sooner that our economy can recover," Northam said. 

    Currently, the state’s 1.3 million public school students are in the middle of a two-week break due to the coronavirus. With 254 positive cases in Virginia and seven confirmed deaths, the governor finds it best to practice social distancing because “social distancing matters everywhere,” he said. Northam encourages schools to use online tools to finish students’ education for the rest of the academic year.

    “School closures are necessary to minimize the speed at which COVID-19 spreads and protect the capacity of our healthcare system,” Northam said.

    Northam said school division leaders will officially decide how students will learn the information they were meant to cover for the remainder of the year. The Virginia Department of Education will issue guidance to help school divisions think through those decisions and ensure every student is served fairly, Northam said. VDOE will submit a waiver to the federal government to lift end-of-year testing requirements and is exploring options to waive state mandated tests, he said.

    The governor also placed additional restrictions on businesses. Restaurants must close their dining rooms but can remain open for carry-out and delivery. Recreational and entertainment facilities—including racetracks and historic horse racing facilities, bowling alleys and theaters—must close. Beauty salons, spas, massage parlors and other non-essential establishments that can’t keep people more than 6 feet apart must close. Essential businesses such as grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, pet and feed stores, electronic and hardware retailers, and banks can remain open.

    Autumn Carter, who has owned Red Salon Organics in Richmond for 20 years, said she has a loyal clientele. However, she is concerned about making lease payments and managing other business-related bills, with no new revenue. Her salon made the decision to close last week for two weeks, but did not anticipate shuttering business for this long.

    “I agree with the governor’s decision but he has given us no debt relief and no guidance,” Carter said. “He has put us in a terrifying situation with no support.”

    Public and private gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. Northam explained that local law enforcement could approach people gathering, say at beaches or the river, but that the goal isn’t to penalize people, “but to encourage people to do the right thing.” 

    The governor noted that the commonwealth is moving into a period of sacrifice. Virginia had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, but Northam said that last week around 40,000 people filed for unemployment.

    “We must put aside what we want and replace it with what we need,” he said.” It will require everyone to sacrifice.”

  16. Cow Snarls Traffic on Interstate 64

    Currently the Virginia State Police has the eastbound lanes of 64 at Greenbriar shutdown due to a cow on the interstate.At approximately 1:04PM the VSP received a call of a cow running down the interstate. Troopers have secured the cow, and are awaiting on animal control at this time. Further details to follow.

    Update - Cow has been taken into custody. 
     
    Earlier this afternoon, the owner of  a 98 GMC pick-up truck was pulling a trailer with livestock, on Interstate 64, in the city of Chesapeake. At some point, the livestock, a cow, was able to get loose from the trailer, and jump off the trailer uninjured. The cow continued down the interstate for over a mile causing a backup in both the eastbound and westbound lanes of Interstate 64. With the assistance of Chesapeake Police Department, VDOT, and some helpful citizens, the cow is safely back with its owner.
  17. VSU Cooperative Extension Programs Go Virtual

    Specialty crop Extension specialist Dr. Reza Rafie conducts research on more than 39 varieties of blueberry bushes at Virginia State University's Randolph Farm in Ettrick. He shares the information he gathers with the public through events like this Thursday's virtual Blueberry Field Walk through Facebook Live

    Annual Blueberry Field Walk at university’s Randolph Farm to be delivered through Facebook Live this Thursday, March 26, at 4 p.m. New format allows Extension faculty to reach global audiences, while practicing necessary social-distancing COVID-19 precautions.

    To continue providing the public with research-based information that keeps them safe, healthy and informed, Virginia Cooperative Extension is turning to digital methods for public outreach.

    Virginia Cooperative Extension is managed through the Commonwealth’s two land-grant universities, Virginia State University (VSU) and Virginia Tech.

    VSU Extension faculty are offering their first on-line-only public program this Thursday, March 26, at 4 p.m. through Facebook Live. The annual Blueberry Field Walk will be conducted by specialty crop Extension specialist Dr. Reza Rafie. Facebook Live was selected as the digital platform to conduct this program because: it is accessible to anyone with a smartphone or a computer; participants do not need to have a Facebook account; the public can ask questions in real-time by typing them into the session; and the live program can be recorded, close-captioned and posted on the VSU Cooperative Extension website (ext.vsu.edu) with additional resources on the subject.

    During the Facebook Live event Rafie will walk through VSU's Randolph Farm blueberry fields and high tunnel, where a collection of 39 different cultivars are under study. All are different in terms of productivity, time of maturity, plant structure, fruit size, bush size, vigor, etc. This program provides an excellent opportunity to learn about these cultivars and ask questions in real time to help growers decide which ones may be best for their needs.

    Blueberry is the fastest growing berry crop in many states including North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Market demand for blueberry continues to grow, and profit potential for growing locally grown blueberry is considerable. One major issue for blueberry growers is the planting of the new blueberry cultivars (varieties) that are becoming available with superior fruit size, taste, color, and pest and disease tolerance.

    For more information, or if you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, contact Mark Klingman from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at (804) 524-5493 / TDD (800) 828-1120 or mjklingman@vsu.edu 48 hours before the start of the program. A recorded version of the program with close captioning will be available on Rafie’s webpage (https://www.ext.vsu.edu/horticulture) by the end of the following week.

    Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

     

     

     

  18. VCU Health CMH Update For our patients — your safety is our top concern

    (March 20, 2020) “We are an acute care hospital and dealing with infectious diseases is something we are prepared to do every day,” said Scott Burnette, CEO of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital.

    Because of the magnitude of this world-wide pandemic, we are taking extra precautions with COVID-19 (Coronavirus).  Our staff is fully prepared to care for patients at all times and have expertise in dealing with illnesses of all kinds.

    At VCU Health CMH patients are screened and those who meet the appropriate criteria for testing are then tested for the Coronavirus.  Once the swabs are collected they sent to either the Virginia Department of Health or Lab Corp, which are the only two labs approved in Virginia to run the tests.  Work is currently under way for hospital labs to get approved for analyzing the samples collected.

    “I want everyone to know that we are taking all the necessary precautions to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus, but we also want people to understand that with proper precautions most people have a low risk of contracting COVID-19,” he added.

    He continued, “We are asking people to practice social distancing – as in do not interact with others closely unless absolutely necessary. It is recommended that people keep at least six feet of distance from others to provide additional safeguards against the Corona (COVID) virus. Washing your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds is also vital in combating the virus.”

    Burnette said many precautions have been implemented to make sure VCU Health CMH is doing everything possible to confront the challenges the Corona virus presents. Among those changes are a large number of temporary restrictions and closures, all done to prevent the spread of the virus, not because the virus is rampant in Southside Virginia and Northern North Carolina.

    Among those changes are:

    All non-urgent appointments that were scheduled with CMH providers will be rescheduled with consultation with our patients. CMH Family Care, Chase City Primary Care and Clarksville Primary Care will continue to be open as a resource of primary care physicians that can be contacted for guidance on appropriate care for people that are having symptoms related to COVID-19 or other serious illnesses.  The Emergency Department is open as usual for emergency cases.  In addition, elective surgeries that can be postponed will be, again in consultation with the patients.

    Routine visitation is suspended until the transmission of COVID-19 is no longer a threat to our patients, visitors and team members.  For everyone’s safety, no visitors will be allowed who:

    1. Have any symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat or difficulty breathing
    2. Have returned from any of the COVID-19 high-risk countries or regions within the last 14 days
    3. Have been exposed to COVID-19
    4. Are children under 16 years of age

    Other visitor restrictions: We recognize that there are times when having a visitor present is crucial. In these cases, visitors will be allowed based on the exceptions listed below provided they are not already excluded by the symptoms, age or exposure restrictions identified above. In general, visitors should limit visits to common waiting areas and maintain social distance to prevent sick individuals from coming in close contact with healthy individuals, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.

    1.       Visitation is between the hours of 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. effective Saturday, March 21st.   

    2.       Adult patients: Only one visitor per day.  All others will be asked to wait for updates outside of the medical facility. Patients at the end of life may have two visitors after discussion with the patient care team.

    3.       Pediatric patients: 2 visitors per day.

    4.       Obstetrical patients: 1 visitor per day.

    5.       Patients undergoing surgery, procedures, or other testing: 1 visitor per day.

    6.       ER patients are limited to one visitor.

    7.       Visitation to patients with suspected and/or confirmed COVID-19 will be through telecommunication.

    Additional precautions:

    1. We ask everyone to take extra steps to ensure good handwashing.  Ten handwashing stations have been placed outside the entrances to the following locations and we ask that everyone please wash their hands before entering buildings:  main hospital, Emergency Department, C.A.R.E. Building, Leggett Center, Cancer Center – Medical and Radiation Oncology, Chase City Primary Care, Clarksville Primary Care and VCU Health at Tanglewood.
    2. Visitors who are required to wear a mask to enter a patient room will be provided with only one mask per day, to be used in the patient room.

    “We understand this is a difficult time for our patients and visitors, and we appreciate your help keeping our loved ones and our community safe. Working together, we are confident that these measures will help us succeed with managing the spread of COVID-19 while balancing the visitation needs of our patients,” Burnette continued.

    The Hundley Center

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has taken action to aggressively respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  In order to comply with CMS mandates, nursing homes nationwide implemented restrictions and The Hundley Center at VCU Health CMH complied by suspending all visitation.  Residents have access to a private phone in their rooms.  To reach a resident, please dial (434) 584, followed by the number 4 and the three digits of the resident’s room number.  Our goal of protecting the health of each resident is of the utmost importance during this unprecedented situation.

    Programs/Services Closure Updates:

    CMH Family Dental Clinic, CMH Medical Fitness Center, Screenings & Support Groups

    The CMH Family Dental Clinic closed March 18 and will tentatively reopen on March 30 for urgent and emergency visits only.

    The CMH Medical Fitness Center will close Saturday, March 21 at 11 a.m. and a determination on when it reopens will be made at a later date.  Services affected by this closing include both aquatic and land-based fitness classes (The Matter of Balance Classes have been rescheduled beginning in August 2020). The cancer rehab services that operate within the center have been suspended.  Outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy services will remain open at this time, but with restrictions.  The cardiac rehab and pulmonary rehab programs that operate within the C.A.R.E. Building are still open, but also with restrictions.

    All blood pressure clinic screenings, support groups, and scheduled public education events have been cancelled until further notice.

    VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital is closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  As of today (March 20, 2020) there is one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County.  For an official case count in Virginia (and locations of cases), please visit the Virginia Department of Health at www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/.

    For more information on our preparations, please visit:  vcuhealth.org/covid-19

    The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has a call line established for COVID-19 questions, the number is 877-ASK-VDH3.   (877-275-8343)

  19. Immediate action needed to protect our communities

    Vidant Health and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University are calling on all of eastern North Carolina to do their part to flatten the curve. We need to act quickly and definitively. When you watch what is happening in other communities and are scared about what you see, you should ask yourself a few questions: Will it hit my own community? Why can’t we stop this? What should we do? These are difficult questions, but the answers are clear.  

    This pandemic has turned into a wave that is rolling across our country, hitting our state and threatening eastern North Carolina. The data are clear: it has started to impact our region and the problem continues to grow.

    We can’t stop this wave from hitting us. However, we can lessen its impact here and now in eastern North Carolina. The question is whether we will take the necessary actions to reduce the spread of the virus. When you see the disasters affecting communities around the world, you are seeing the towns, cities, regions or countries that did not take action to slow or stop the wave. What you don’t see are the ones that are not suffering as much. The ones whose health care system is able to respond to the demand. The ones whose economies are already recovering. These are the stories of the communities who took the actions to slow the wave. What we do now will determine our story.

    The fact is we have a short window of opportunity, as the virus is moving much faster than we normally make decisions. We know the story and outcome if we do nothing more – we see it on the news and on social media every day. We know from history that bold and definitive actions can change the course for the better.

    Hospitals throughout North Carolina have and continue to take measures to respond to the COVID-19 wave. This includes all nine Vidant hospitals serving eastern North Carolina. It is time for communities to make similar definitive and decisive decisions to protect our region.  

    Each of us has a responsibility to act immediately and to take action to help our communities respond to this crisis. Now, more than ever, we need every person, organization and government agency working together to protect our loved ones.

    Practice social distancing, stay home as much as possible, call before visiting a health care facility if you have a fever, respectfully encourage others through social media to do their part. These actions, combined with every day hygiene habits like proper handwashing, coughing and sneezing into the crook of your arm and cleaning surfaces, will help us flatten the curve and keep our loved ones healthy. 

    We are calling on local officials throughout eastern North Carolina and the state to take more decisive action in response to this crisis to include making the bold and right decision to ask North Carolinians to shelter in place. This means staying close to home as much as possible and only going out if absolutely necessary, such as buying groceries or picking up medications. This is the right thing to do to save lives and is the right thing for our long-term economic interests. Community members must encourage the political bodies to be decisive, take action now and then support them. 

    We would also like to thank all health care workers and every person on the front lines for their tireless efforts to care for those in need. This is a difficult time for doctors, nurses and care teams. We stand ready to care for those in our region, but we need local communities to do their part.

    We are confident we can flatten the curve. However, we must all stand up together, as one community, to get through this crisis.

    Michael Waldrum, MD, Chief Executive Officer, Vidant Health

    Mark Stacy, MD, Dean, Brody School of Medicine, Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, East Carolina University

  20. Riparian Woman’s Club Scholarship Applications

    The Riparian Woman’s Club is pleased to present two scholarships to qualifying seniors. The club has participated in the scholarship program for many years.

    Applications are available via email. Please email news@emporianews.com to have your contanct information forwarded.

    To be eligible for consideration, the applicant must:

    • Be a High School Senior;
    • Be a resident of Greensville County, the City of Emporia or the Town of Jarratt, Virginia;
    • Submit a completed Scholarship Application to the Riparian Woman’s Club Scholarship Committee no later than the deadline date specified; Monday, April 27th, 2020 ;
    • Submit a signed Teacher Recommendation Form;
    • Submit a High School Transcript, to include SAT Scores, as well as Class Rank.

    Applications may be turned in to guidance counselors by no later than Monday, April 27, 2020.

  21. Meherrin Regional Library COVID-19 Update

    At the recommendation of state and local authorities and the American Library Association, both branches of the Meherrin Regional Library System will be closed to the public until April 1, 2020. Due dates for materials currently checked out will be extended and accounts with fines will be temporarily unblocked to allow all patrons access to the eBook service OverDrive. Please keep items at home during this time, particularly if you are ill. The Library would like to thank its patrons for their patience during this time. Please call 434-848-2418 ext. 301 (Lawrenceville) or 434-634-2539 (Emporia) with any questions, or visit the Library’s website at www.meherrinlib.org to check out eBooks, audiobooks, and magazines digitally. The Library’s website and Facebook page will be updated with information and resources as circumstances change.

  22. COVID - 19 Update from Southside Virginia Community College

    In these difficult and unprecedented times, I write to share decisions Southside Virginia Community College is taking based on recommendations from the Governor's Office, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Virginia Community College System, in response to COVID-19.

    Alternative Means of  Instruction

    For the remainder of the Spring semester, our SVCC faculty and staff are working with our students transitioning to alternative modes of instruction while maintaining our standards of educational excellence.  

    College Facilities

    Effective March 23rd, all SVCC facilities will be closed to the public until further notice.  

    SVCC Sponsored Events/Commencement/Graduation Ceremony 

    We deeply regret that following the CDC guidelines, is requiring that we cancel many of our upcoming events including our commencement/graduation ceremony.  Commencement/graduation is our most exciting event as it is a celebration of our students and their accomplishments. The Class of 2020 will always be special as we look back and remember their ability to be flexible, work hard, and complete your spring semester.  

    For an up-to-date list of SVCC events and their status please refer to our COVID-19 information page at southside.edu.

    SVCC is OPEN----Virtually

    Be assured, SVCC is open---Virtually!  Faculty and staff are communicating and assisting students to complete class requirements for our spring semester.  Our student services staff is accommodating all students by phone, internet, text messaging, and our website in order to answer any questions, alleviate concerns and to assist with summer registration.  

    Updates and general college communications are posted on the COVID-19 alert at southside.edu.  Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have. Telephone contacts are included in the COVID-19 alert on southside.edu.

  23. The Improvement Association offices will be closed until further notice

    PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT

    Due to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 epidemic, The Improvement Association offices will be closed until further notice.  However, The Improvement Association is committed to continuing its services to families, children and senior citizens who are in need.

    The Improvement Association’s staff will be conducting telework as well as volunteering in the communities throughout our service areas in delivering meals, educational work plans, etc. to prevent a severe break in services.

    Additionally, since senior citizens are an at-risk population, The Improvement Association Board of Directors has allocated funding to assist senior citizens with food, toiletries, etc. until all resources have been exhausted.    If you are a senior citizen (60 and older) in need of services, please call the following numbers:

    Community Services Coordinator:         434-637-3038

    Executive Director:                                   804-943-3417

    You may also visit our website at www.impassoc.org to complete a Service Request Form.

  24. Northam issues order limiting public gatherings to 10 people

    By Maia Stanley, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- The state issued an order Tuesday that allows law enforcement to enforce a ban that prohibits more than 10 patrons in places such as restaurants, fitness centers and theaters.

    Gov. Ralph Northam and State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver issued a public health emergency order to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19.

    “I hope that everyone will have the common sense to stay home tonight and in the days ahead,” Northam said. “This order will ensure that state and local officials have the tools they need to keep people safe.”

    All Virginians should increase social distancing, avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, the state said. This follows federal guidelines announced Monday. 

    Oliver announced at Tuesday’s press conference that two people have died from the disease and 67 people are confirmed to have it, including one patient who is currently in a long-term care facility — which he said was “very concerning.” Oliver said about 48 tests are currently pending. The first confirmed case was announced on March 7.

    According to the Virginia Department of Health, the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high but the individual risk is dependent upon exposure. People over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions were urged to self-quarantine due to elevated vulnerability to the disease.

    Oliver said that there are currently 300 to 400 COVID-19 testing kits in the commonwealth, with more on order. 

    “I don’t want you to think that you are just getting a cold,” Oliver said. “This is a serious, serious pandemic and social distancing is, therefore, something we should do and take seriously, for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our community.”

    Oliver also said that there are federal plans to launch automated test sites and drive-through testing centers nationwide in the areas that have been hit the hardest by the disease.

    Sentara Healthcare has opened several drive-through testing centers in Hampton Roads for those who are at the highest risk for the disease.

    Northam has also rolled out new measures to support workers across the state that are being affected by closures due to the coronavirus, including eliminating the wait for unemployment benefits and increased eligibility for unemployment status. 

    Workers may be able to qualify for unemployment if their employer slows or ceases operations due to the disease, if they have been issued a notice to self-quarantine by a medical or public health official but are not receiving sick pay or medical leave or if they are not receiving paid medical leave while staying home to take care of sick family members. The one-week unpaid waiting period was waived for benefits, and unemployment funds are available through the Virginia Employment Commission, Northam said. 

    The state ordered all 75 offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles to close, in addition to urging the Supreme Court of Virginia to close all courts until April 6 for non-emergency or non-essential court proceedings. Online services are still available, the governor said, and 60-day extensions have been granted for expired licenses and registrations.

    The State Corporation Commission also issued an order to suspend utility service disconnections for the next 60 days in order to provide relief for those financially impacted by COVID-19. 

    “Together we will get through this and we will be a better Virginia,” Northam said. “Every single one of us has a personal responsibility in this situation, every one of us has a role in being part of the solution.”

    The Virginia Department of Health currently has a 24-hour Coronavirus information hotline that can be reached at 877-ASK-VDH3 or 877-275-8343 for questions about the disease.

  25. 37 GRADUATE THE VIRGINIA STATE POLICE ACADEMY

    RICHMOND – The 37 members of the 131st Basic Session officially graduated Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in advance of their originally scheduled graduation date of Friday, March 20, 2020. In accordance with Governor Ralph Northam’s directives related to COVID-19, traditional commencement exercises were canceled for Friday for the 36 new Troopers and one new Special Agent Accountant.

    “This is the first time in decades that state police has had to postpone an Academy graduation ceremony,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “However, this in no way diminishes the Department’s pride in or appreciation of these new Troopers and Special Agent Accountant joining our ranks. We look forward to bringing these men and women and their families to our campus at a later date in order to properly celebrate their accomplishments of completing the Virginia State Police Academy.”

    Colonel Settle met with the graduates mid-morning Tuesday for an official Uniform Inspection and to share a few final words with the class. The new Troopers and Special Agent Accountant then filed into the Academy and proceeded up the marble steps – which is an honor only afforded the trainees upon graduation. At the top of the steps, Colonel Settle and the Academy Staff officially congratulated the graduates. Colonel Settle presented each graduate with a Superintendent’s Challenge Coin.

    “Since these graduates will not receive their official diploma until their graduation ceremony, each was presented a Challenge Coin,” said Colonel Settle. “They are the only State Police graduates to ever receive a coin from the Superintendent, which I hope they accept as a constant reminder of their oath to serve our Commonwealth with valor and pride, especially during such challenging times.”

    The class has received more than 1,300 hours of classroom and field instruction in more than 100 different subjects, including defensive tactics, crime scene investigation, ethics and leadership, survival Spanish, police professionalism, firearms, judicial procedures, officer survival, cultural diversity and crisis management. The members of the 131st Basic Session began their 29 weeks of academic, physical and practical training at the Academy on Aug. 21, 2019.

    The graduates of the 131st Basic Session are from every corner of the Commonwealth, as well as Florida, New Jersey, New York and North Carolina.

    The new Troopers will report to their individual duty assignments across Virginia the week of March 23, 2020. For their final phase of training, each Trooper will spend an additional six weeks paired up with a Field Training Officer learning his or her new patrol area. Special Agent Accountant Mills will report to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office to begin his final training phase.

    131st  BASIC GRADUATING CLASS

     

    131st Basic Graduate                                      Hometown                                         Assignment

    Ian Trent Abernathy                                        Chesapeake                             Portsmouth/Suffolk/Chesapeake

    Abdulrahman Mohamed Aboutabl              Harrisonburg                                       Augusta

    Thomas Jefferson Acosta, Jr.                          Jacksonville, FL                                   New Kent

    Rafael J. Aguayo                                              Ridge, NY                                             Henrico

    John Joseph Barrera, III                                  Williamsburg                                      Norfolk/Virginia Beach

    William Hooker Bonnet, IV                            Forest                                                   Arlington

    Anthony Joseph Bradt, Jr.                               Bloomingburg, NY                             Prince William

    Shane Douglas Brooks                                    Chilhowie                                            Roanoke

    Jacob Allen Burke                                            Radford                                               Arlington

    Travis Todd Carr                                                Ivor                                                     Isle of Wight

    Adam Van Clampitt                                          Lynchburg                                          Campbell

    Ridge Tamos Duncan                                      Burke                                                   Prince William

    Johnathan Dale Fish                                        Lynchburg                                           Chesterfield

    Timothy Manning Fisher                                 Wake Forest, NC                                 Accomack

    Sean Edward Glennan                                     Sewell, NJ                                            Henrico

    Joshua Bryan Good                                         Luray                                                   Shenandoah

    Cody Edward Gray                                          Bland                                                   Russell

    Ricky Ray Hairston                                          Eden, NC                                             Campbell

    Jordan Holt Hamlett                                       Naruna                                                Campbell

    Joseph Holloman, III                                       Windsor                                               Brunswick

    Nathan Allen Jennings                                    Dublin                                                  Roanoke

    Duane Hunter Knox                                         Troutdale                                            Roanoke

    Jackson Stuart Peach Lowther                        Gloucester                                           Frederick

    Brooke Louise Martin                                     Mechanicsville                                    New Kent

    John Hume Mills*                                           Gainesville                                          Appomattox

    Paul Steven Perry                                            Gate City                                 Portsmouth/Suffolk/Chesapeake

    Indiana Jacob Raccanello                               Locust Grove                                       Culpeper

    Jacob William Reaves                                     Chatham                                             Greene

    Dru Imani Khianti Redden-Robinson               Chantilly                                              Fairfax

    Travon Lamont Smith                                     South Hill                                            Brunswick

    Derek Emanuel Spencer                                  Abingdon                                             Botetourt

    Nathan Andrew Stidham                                Wise                                                    Craig

    Larry Darnell Tucker, Jr.                                  Hurt                                                     Amherst

    Benjamin Perfecto Villa, II                              Palmyra                                               Augusta

    Alexander Frederick West                              Culpeper                                             Frederick

    Shawn Douglas Williams                                Ewing                                                  Nottoway

    Holden Seth Young                                         Lebanon                                              Botetourt

    *Special Agent Accountant

     

  26. Greensville County Public Schools Providing Meals During Emergency Closure

    Greensville County Public Schools will be providing breakfast and lunch meals, during our emergency closure.  Meals will be provided to all children without charge.  Acceptance and participation requirements for the program and all activities are the same for all regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service. Meals will be provided, on a first come, first serve basis. Children must be present to receive the meal. We will bus meals to certain locations throughout the school district.

    Meals will be available for pick up at the sites and times as follows:

                            Location                                                                                  Days of Service



    Greensville Elementary School

    1011 Sussex Drive, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.–12:00 pm


    Greensville County High School

    403 Harding Street, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.–12:00 pm


    Old Brink School

    Brink Road, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.–9:15 am


    Skippers Post Office

    5334 Skippers Road, Skippers, VA 23879


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:30 am.–9:45 am


    Cain’s Mobile Home Park

    299 Liberty Road, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:50am-10:00 am


    Brook Ridge Apartments

    1325 Skippers Road, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 10:05-10:20 am


    Washington Park Ball Field

    750 Dry Bread Road, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.­­-9:15 am


    Meherrin River Park

    1001 Meherrin Park Road, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:20 am.–9:30 am


    Spring Hill Village Mobile Home Park

    Lowground Road, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:40 am.–9:55 am


    Falling Run Apartments

    South Main Street, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 10:00 am.–10:15 am


    Purdy Store

    14 Smokey Ordinary Road, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.–9:15am


    Jarratt Ball Park

    South Braxton Ave, Jarratt VA 23867


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:30 am.–9:45 am


    Old Roberts Apartments

    Sussex Drive, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:55 am.–10:10 am


    Woodruff Store

    5559 Pleasant Shade Drive, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.–9:15 am


    Greenleaf Inn Road

    Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:20 am.–9:35 am


    Scottsdale Trailer Court

    Carter Road, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:40 am.–9:55


    Reese Village

    311 Bond Court, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.–9:15 am


    Northwood Village

    300 Lewis Street, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:20 am.–9:35am


    McDonald’s Bus Parking Lot

    905 Market Drive, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 9:40 am.–9:55 am


    Top Hand Foundation

    203 W Atlantic Street, Emporia, VA 23847


    March 18 – March 27 Monday – Friday

    Breakfast & Lunch 10:00 am.–10:15 am

    To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form (AD-3027), found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992.

    Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

    (1)   Mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

    1400 Independence Avenue, SW

    Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

    (2)   Fax: (202) 690-7442; or

    (3)   Email: program.intake@usda.gov.

    This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

     

     

    Tags: 

  27. "The Big Three"

    Every day we can feel their presence
    for it seems they are wverywhere
    yes, if needed, it is such a comfort
    knowing 'twenty-four-seven' they will be there.
     
    Many hours they're away for their families
    but this is the debt they must pay
    they all devote their time for our safety and care
    and all do this every day.
     
    The Police Department, Fire Department and Rescue Squad
    risk their lives for one and all
    they know not what danger they'll meet
    when they answer any call.
     
    Giving thanks to them is not so hard
    And it is never too late
    So why not start the day off right,
    let them know we appreciate!
     
                             - Roy E. Schepp
  28. Comcast Increases Access to and Speeds of Internet Essentials to Support Americans Through Coronavirus Pandemic

    By Dana Strong

    As our country continues to manage the COVID-19 emergency, we recognize that our company plays an important role in helping our customers stay connected – to their families, their workplaces, their schools, and the latest information about the virus – through the Internet.

    We also know that for millions of low-income Americans who don’t have Internet service at home, this uncertain time is going to be even more difficult to manage. As schools and businesses close and families are encouraged, or even mandated, to stay home, Internet connectivity becomes even more important.

    At Comcast, we’ve been looking for ways to help through our Internet Essentials program, which is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program for low-income Americans. Since 2011, it has connected millions of individuals to the Internet.

    A hallmark of this program has been our flexibility in adjusting Internet Essentials to meet the needs of low-income residents in our footprint. So, effective Monday, we are putting in place two substantial program enhancements to help these families deal with this crisis.

    1. We will make it even easier for low-income families who live in a Comcast service area to sign up by offering new customers 60 days of complimentary Internet Essentials service, which is normally available to all qualified low-income households for $9.95/month.

    2. Also, we are increasing Internet speeds for the Internet Essentials service from 15/2 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps for all new and existing customers, which will be the speed of the service going forward. In this way, we will ensure that Internet Essentials customers will be able to use their Internet service for all their increased needs as a result of this health crisis.

    We want to make it as fast and simple as possible to access this service: 

    • To receive the increased Internet speeds, existing customers will not need to do anything. The new speeds will be rolled out nationally over the next few days.

    • We’ll send all new customers a free self-install kit that includes a cable modem with a Wi-Fi router. There will be no term contract or credit check and no shipping fee.

    • To sign up, applicants can simply visit www.internetessentials.com. The accessible website also includes the option to video chat with customer service agents in American Sign Language. There are also two dedicated phone numbers 1-855-846-8376 for English and 1-855-765-6995 for Spanish.

    We’re also reaching out to our thousands of governmental and nonprofit partners to help us spread the word. Our hope is that broader access and faster speeds will help all of our Internet Essentials customers more easily work from home, access educational resources, obtain important government health care alerts, and stay in contact with their families during this difficult time.

     

  29. Southside Virginia Community College Releases COVID-19 Plan

    In an effort to protect the College community and to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19, its spread, and the potential strain on area hospitals and clinics, SVCC will be taking the actions outlined below.  Any guidance we pass along will be interim in nature, using the best information available to us at the moment. As noted in previous communications, we are relying on the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other state and local departments for expert guidance. Southside Virginia Community College is taking the following actions:

    • Classes at all locations are cancelled Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20th. All classes will resume through virtual or alternative delivery starting on Monday, March 23, 2020, and continue until at least Friday, April 3, 2020. Students should check Canvas or contact their professors for class information. Students are expected to check their SVCC email accounts regularly for updates.  Further clarification will be provided next week regarding class delivery after April 3.

      • College operations will be suspended at the following off-campus centers, however employees should report as usual:

        • Estes Community Center--Chase City

        • Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center--South Hill 

        • Southside Virginia Education Center--Emporia

        • Occupational/Technical Center--Blackstone

    • Governor’s School will transition to virtual classes only. The Governor’s School Director will contact all school faculty, staff, students, and school divisions. 

    • All College personnel (Classified Staff, Administrative and Professional Faculty, and Wage Personnel) are expected to report to work on Monday, March 16, 2020 as scheduled, unless on approved leave.

    • All faculty should join a college-wide faculty meeting on Monday, March 16 at 3PM.  Separate email correspondence and Zoom invitation will be forthcoming. 

    • All campus events--both college sponsored and those by outside organizations are cancelled through Saturday, April 4, 2020.

    • Work travel for all College employees is limited to the service area only through Friday, April 3, 2020. 

    • All college-sponsored group travel scheduled through Friday, April 3, 2020 is postponed until further notice. 

    • College services on the John H. Daniel Campus and the Christanna Campus will remain open (Monday – Thursday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)

    • College services are also accessible online via MySVCC and Navigate.

    • The John H. Daniel Campus and the Christanna Campus will be closed to facilitate extensive sanitizing and cleaning on Friday, March 20 and 27 and Friday, April 3, 2020. Employees should not report to work these days.

    This situation is fluid. College administration is actively monitoring conditions for further developments and responding accordingly. SVCC will provide daily updates at www.southside.edu. SVCC’s Emergency Operation Plan is available on the College website.

    Consistent with CDC guidelines, students, faculty and staff returning from travel to any country for which the CDC has issued a Level 2 or 3 Travel Warning related to COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days.

    For more information about COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

     

    Southside’s Leadership Team is continuing to monitor the situation closely and will keep you informed via email, Southside Alert, our website, and social media outlets if there are additional changes to SVCC operations. 

     

    For additional information visit http://southside.edu/covid-19

  30. Hazel S. Story

    November 26 1937 - March 9, 2020

    Visitation Services

    1-2 p.m. Saturday, March 14

    Owen Funeral Home
    303 S. Halifax Rd
    Jarratt, Virginia

     

    2 p.m. Saturday, March 14

    High Hills Memorial Cemetery
    Jarratt, Virginia

     

    Hazel S. Story, 82, of Emporia, passed away Monday, March 9, 2020. She was preceded in death by her parents, Walter and Gencie Stow and two brothers, Harvey and Elso Stow.

    Hazel is survived by two sons, Robert Anthony O’Bannon (Sandra) of Emporia and James L. “Jim” Story (Sylvia) of Corpus Cristi, TX; six grandchildren; nephew, Tommy Stow and niece, Lori Ann Taylor, both of Missouri.

    The family will receive friends 1-2 p.m. Saturday, March 14 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, Virginia. A graveside funeral service will follow at High Hills Memorial Cemetery.

     

  31. PRICE GOUGING PROTECTIONS IN EFFECT AS STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED OVER CORONAVIRUS

    ~ Anti-price gouging statute was activated upon Governor Northam’s declaration of state of emergency; covers items and services such as water, food, cleaning products, hand sanitizers, medicines, personal protective gear, and more ~

    RICHMOND(March 12, 2020) – As public health concerns surrounding the coronavirus continue to grow, Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency has triggered Virginia's anti-price gouging statutes designed to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for necessary goods and services during an emergency.
     
    “When you’re trying to make sure that you and your family have all the necessities in order to protect yourselves against illness, the last thing you want to deal with is a scam or exorbitant price for a needed service or product. The sad reality is that there are unscrupulous folks out there who will take advantage of public health crises in order to make more money,” said Attorney General Herring. “Virginia law offers protections for folks who find themselves in need of things like medicines, cleaning products, hand sanitizers and other necessities during a public health crisis. I would encourage all Virginians to pay attention to any prices that seem too high, and contact my office as soon as possible if you think someone may be illegally overcharging for necessary goods or running a scam.”
     
    Enacted in 2004, Virginia's Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act prohibits a supplier from charging “unconscionable prices” for “necessary goods and services” during the thirty-day period following a declared state of emergency. Items and services covered by these protections include but are not limited to water, ice, food, cleaning products, hand sanitizers, medicines, personal protective gear and more. The basic test for determining if a price is unconscionable is whether the post-disaster price grossly exceeds the price charged for the same or similar goods or services during the ten days immediately prior to the disaster.
     
    Suspected violations of Virginia's Anti-Price Gouging Act should be reported to Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section for investigation, as violations are enforceable by the Office of the Attorney General through the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
     
    Consumers can contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section for information or to file a complaint:
     
    Additionally, Attorney General Herring has warned Virginians to be wary of scams related to the coronavirus. Below are some tips and ways to protect yourself from coronavirus scams:
    •  Look out for emails that claim to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that they have information about the coronavirus. For the most updated information you can visit the CDC and the World Health Organization websites.
    • Do not click on any links from unknown sources. This could lead to downloading a virus on your computer or phone.
    • Ignore any offers, online or otherwise, for a coronavirus vaccine. If you see any advertisements for prevention, treatment or cures ask the question: if there had been a cure for the disease would you be hearing about that through an advertisement or sales pitch?
    • Thoroughly research any organizations or charities purporting to be raising funds for victims of the coronavirus.
    • Look out for “investment opportunities” surrounding the coronavirus. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission there are online promotions claiming the products or services of certain publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure the disease and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase because of that.
  32. Governor Northam Declares State of Emergency, Outlines Additional Measures to Combat COVID-19

    While Virginia has been thoroughly preparing for weeks and has adequate funding to address the situation, this declaration will allow the Commonwealth increased flexibility to ease regulatory requirements and procurement rules, continue federal and multi-state coordination, and ensure continued access to critical services for the most vulnerable Virginians. In addition, it has become increasingly clear that states must take a primary leadership role in the national response to COVID-19. The full text of the Governor’s emergency declaration is available here.

    “Our top priority is to make sure Virginians stay safe and healthy, and that our response to this situation leaves no one behind,” said Governor Northam. “From our health department, to our schools, to our hospitals, to our transit systems, Virginia’s agencies and institutions have been thoroughly planning for every scenario. This emergency declaration will ensure we can continue to prepare for and appropriately respond to Virginians’ needs during this time.”

    Governor Northam also announced additional steps to ensure the health and safety of all Virginians, including:

    Ban on State Employee Travel and Implementation of Telework Policies

    Virginia has over 100,000 state employees stationed throughout the Commonwealth. Governor Northam has halted all official travel outside of Virginia by state employees, with increased flexibility for inter-state commuters and essential personnel. Specific guidance will be released to agency heads and state employees, and Virginia will revisit these guidelines after 30 days.

    Governor Northam has also directed his Secretary of Administration to implement a phased transition to teleworking for state employees. The Department of Human Resources Management will work with the Virginia Department of Health’s Equity Workgroup to prioritize support for impacted state employees that may be unable to perform their duties from home, including janitorial, food, and grounds staff.

    The Department of Human Resources Management has worked to ensure all agencies have updated emergency operations and leave policies. State employees, including part-time employees, can access paid Public Health Emergency Leave in the event of exposure to COVID-19 or high-risk travel.

    Public Gatherings and Large Events

    In accordance with advice from state public health experts, the Commonwealth of Virginia will cancel all specially-scheduled state conferences and large events for a minimum of 30 days.

    Governor Northam is directing state agencies, through the Department of Human Resource Management, to limit in-person meetings and non-essential, work-related gatherings.

    Governor Northam is also urging localities and non-profits to limit large public events, effective immediately. Localities should make these decisions in coordination with their local health departments and the Virginia Department of Health. Highly populated localities and those with close proximity to positive cases are strongly encouraged to announce updated event guidance by Friday, March 13, at 5:00 PM, in advance of the weekend.

    Long-Term Economic Planning

    Governor Northam is also assessing the potential long-term economic impacts of COVID-19. While containing the spread of the public health threat remains a top priority, Governor Northam is working with state and local partners to ensure Virginia are prepared for any continued economic disruption.

    Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade will coordinate regularly with representatives from the Virginia Employment Commission, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and other relevant stakeholders.

    Throughout his administration, Governor Northam has worked closely with state legislators to protect Virginia’s strong economy and prepare for unexpected economic shocks. The General Assembly will vote today on a budget that boosts Virginia’s reserve funds more than at any other time in the Commonwealth’s history, an essential mechanism to ensure continued state services regardless of economic uncertainty.

    Ongoing State Response Efforts

    The Commonwealth of Virginia is continuing to execute a multi-agency response plan across all levels of government. Efforts include the following:

    Schools

    • The Department of Education has advised all school districts to update their pandemic guidelines, in consultation with their local health departments.

    • The Northam administration continues to be in regular communication with superintendents, university and community college presidents, to provide guidance on the unique situations they are facing on the ground.

    Nursing Homes

    • The Virginia Department of Health has expanded its testing criteria to ensure that anyone who has symptoms and is in a nursing home is top priority and gets immediate testing.
    • Nursing homes and senior care facilities have updated their policies to provide additional visitor screening and increased monitoring of patients.

    Vulnerable Virginians

    • Virginia’s social services agencies are preparing options to ensure the most vulnerable populations have continued access to critical services, including the potential for in-home care and food supports.
    • In the event of extended school closures, the Virginia Department of Social Services is working with local partners, such as food pantries, to ensure no one goes hungry.

    Addressing Barriers to Care

    • Virginia is working with insurers to waive co-pays and diagnostic testing related to COVID-19.
    • Governor Northam continues to encourage private businesses to explore telework and paid time off options, including those with hourly workers.

    Transportation

    • Across the Commonwealth’s transportation network, which includes airports, Metro, buses, and rail, Virginia is adjusting cleaning schedules according to CDC protocol.
    • Virginia is also working with transportation partners to help reduce the potential spread of disease.
  33. Health insurers say they'll waive coronavirus testing fees; Trump, Congress weigh payroll, industry aid

    By BRYAN GALLION and NICOLE WEINSTEIN, Capital News Service
     
    WASHINGTON — Major health insurance companies will waive copayments for novel coronavirus testing, Vice President Mike Pence said at a briefing with firm executives and President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday.

    “While the risk to the average American of contracting the coronavirus remains low, we want a full partnership with industry and give the American people all the information they need to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus,” said Pence, who’s chairing the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

    The companies at the table — which insure nearly 240 million Americans through private insurance and support of Medicare and Medicaid, according to Pence — will also extend coverage for treatment in benefit plans and telemedicine while avoiding surprise billing. 

    “We have been very focused on ensuring access to care and that cost is not an issue for people to have the testing appropriately done,” Gail Boudreaux, president and CEO of Anthem Inc., said. “So we’re pleased that we’re able to continue to expand this access.”

    Telemedicine options aim to aid the country’s vulnerable senior population, allowing them to receive the necessary care without visiting a hospital or their doctor. 

    “I would just like to say as a large servicer of Medicare, that we are very oriented to the aging population, and most importantly, how do we make it as easy as possible for them to receive their tests,” Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said. 

    Over 8,500 specimens have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States since Jan. 18, while the number of cases ticks up across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Almost 650 cases have been confirmed so far, and 25 people have died from the virus across the 36 U.S. jurisdictions that have been affected.

    Some healthcare professionals and members of Congress have expressed worry that not enough tests are available nationwide. 

    “We are very worried about the president’s incompetence and lack of focus on fighting the spread of coronavirus,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, told reporters. “We believe that his lack of focus is hamstringing efforts to address this public crisis and inflicting pain on the stock market.”

    Pence said an additional 4 million tests are expected to be distributed this week on top of the more than 1 million that are ready at CDC and U.S. Public Health Labs.

    Members of Congress grilled CDC Director Robert Redfield about the shortage of testing at a House Appropriations Committee labor and health subcommittee hearing. Redfield pointed out the growing capacity for testing now that clinical laboratory networks LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics can administer them.

    “We have slowed the spread of COVID19 through the United States as a consequence of the positive impact of the investment in public health that there has been at the federal, state, local and tribal level,” Redfield said in his testimony.

    As cases of the coronavirus multiplied, schools and universities announced plans to close or move to remote teaching, airlines continued cutting schedules and major events — like Washington’s Gridiron Spring Dinner, an annual gathering of media and political people — were canceled. 

    Both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, who are vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, announced they were scrubbing planned rallies.

    And Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League issued a joint statement that they were closing their team locker rooms to reporters because of the virus threat.  

    The administration and Congress also are exploring potential economic aid to industries that will be hit hard by a major consumer slowdown. 

    Trump said his administration is working closely with the cruise line and airline industries as people are canceling their travel plans, instead opting to stay home to lessen their chances of coming in contact with the virus. 

    “They’re taking very strong steps in terms of people going on and going off. But they’re spending a lot of money and they are working very hard...So we are working very closely with them,” the president said at the briefing. “We’re helping them. They’re two great industries, and we’ll be helping them through this patch.”

    Congress has been working on an economic package to alleviate financial strains caused by coronavirus response.

    The president, accompanied by National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin, pitched a temporary payroll tax cut to Senate Republicans on Tuesday afternoon. He had no updates to share on the path forward following the meeting.

    “We just had a great meeting. Tremendous unity in the Republican Party,” Trump said. “And we’re working on a lot of different things.  We’ve also had some very good updates on the virus. That’s working out very smoothly.”

    Mnuchin also met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to identify “common ground” on legislative efforts that would support people affected by the virus. 

    Pelosi told reporters that the “nature of it was pleasant” and that conversations will continue. 

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said after the meeting that he’d let the pair handle a bipartisan agreement.

    “The secretary of the treasury is going to have ball control for the administration and I expect that will speak for us as well,” McConnell told reporters. “We’re hoping that he and the speaker can pull this together.”
  34. SVCC Dean and Local Agritourism Operation to Participate in Virginia Agritourism Conference

    Dr. Dixie Watts Dalton, dean of Southside Virginia Community College’s division of Humanities, Social Sciences and Business, and chair of its agribusiness program, will serve as a presenter and moderator at the sixth annual Virginia Agritourism Conference to be held on March 30th through April 1st at the Smithfield Center in Smithfield, Virginia.   Parrish Pumpkin Patch of Kenbridge, Virginia, will be represented on the opening Virginia Agritourism Panel by Jeff and Liz Parrish and son Eli, who is an alumnus of SVCC’s agribusiness program and Virginia Tech’s Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences department. The morning panel on March 31st, immediately following the conference welcome from Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Jewel Bronaugh, will be moderated by Dalton.

    Dalton’s April 1st morning presentation, “Building the Business Plan,” will focus on the questions that aspiring agritourism operators should be asking, while also providing insights that can be helpful to existing businesses.  Following her presentation, the Parrishes will share their experiences as they started and expanded the Parrish Pumpkin Patch, providing insights on both what went well and what they could have done differently.

    Additional Southside-area connections will be a part of the state-level conference. Lunenburg County native, Heidi L Hertz, who serves as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry in the Office of Governor Ralph S. Northam, will provide a luncheon keynote address. Hudson Heritage Farm of Halifax County will be showcased during the April 1st sessions.  Owner Denise Hudson, who has hosted SVCC’s agribusiness students at her farm, will present two marketing sessions, one focused on the Barn Quilt Trail and a second on the Veteran Farming/HomeGrown by Heroes initiative.

    The 2020 conference, themed “Agritourism in Virginia’s New Economy,” will enable existing and planned agritourism entrepreneurs, economic development staff and local government leaders to explore different facets of Virginia agritourism, a growing industry recently shown to generate more than 2.2 billion dollars in economic impact. Tracks composed of concurrent sessions on a variety of topics have been designed to meet the needs of both beginning and experienced operations.  A highlight of the conference is the numerous networking breaks and networking luncheons that have been built into the programming, with access to exhibitors and resources during those breaks. 

    On March 30th, prior to the start of the presentation portion of the conference at the Smithfield Center, farm tours will take place in the adjoining area.  The detailed agenda, with a list of tour locations, is included on the registration site. Visit https://register.ext.vt.eduand search for “agritourism” or visit the direct link: https://register.ext.vt.edu/search/publicCourseSearchDetails.do?method=load&courseId=1043329&selectedProgramAreaId=25576&selectedProgramStreamId

    Attendees can register for each day separately or for the entire conference (at a discounted rate of $150 for all three days). For more information, contact Livvy Preisser of Virginia Cooperative Extension at 757-365-6261 or livvy16@vt.edu

    The conference is sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Tech, Virginia State University Small Farm Outreach Program, Farm Credit, Virginia Association of Counties, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia FAIRS, Virginia Farm Bureau, USDA Rural Development, Virginia Agribusiness Council, and the Agribusiness Program at Southside Virginia Community College.

    If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Livvy Preisser at 757-365-6261 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations at least 5 days prior to the event.  *TDD number is (800) 828-1120.

  35. Virginia colleges react to coronavirus pandemic

    By Hannah Eason, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia colleges and universities are extending spring break and adapting online classes amid the new coronavirus — along with more than 100 universities nationwide and still counting — after the flu-like illness was declared a world pandemic on Wednesday.

    There are nine presumptive positive COVID-19 cases in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Most of them are in Northern Virginia, with one confirmed case in Central Virginia.

    Professors are quickly pivoting to get material online, and some schools, like Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, are offering resources to help teachers adjust. Many students have expressed concern over lack of digital equipment and internet access.

    Most universities are cancelling events with more than 100 attendees and have online resources for students to access updated information. Many colleges have canceled in-person classes, but faculty and staff will continue to work on campus. Below is a sample of universities that have changed schedules to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. 

    James Madison University will extend their spring break until March 23 and will teach online classes until April 5. JMU President Jonathan Alger said in a release that students will be updated on the remainder of the semester on March 27.

    Longwood University will be closed until March 18, cancelling in-person classes and events following a presumptive positive diagnosis for a Longwood student on Wednesday. In a release, Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley said faculty would continue to prepare for the possibility of online classes.

    Norfolk State University extended spring break until March 23 and will teach classes online until April 6. University residences will reopen March 22.

    Old Dominion University will resume classes online on March 23 after an extended spring break. ODU President John Broderick said in a statement posted on Facebook that the school would monitor the situation and reassess on April 6. 

    Radford University extended its spring break for an additional week and plans to teach online until April 17, according to the university’s website. The university – as most academic institutions are doing – asked that faculty, staff and students complete a voluntary travel declaration forms.

    “The information will be shared with local health officials as needed on a case-by-case basis,” Radford President Brian Hemphill said in a release. “For those who traveled, the University may ask individuals to self-monitor or self-isolate for two weeks depending upon the locations that were visited and the activities that were engaged in.”

    University of Richmond extended spring break, cancelling classes from March 16-20, and will hold online classes until at least April 3.

    The school’s website states that students with extenuating circumstances, such as international students, can submit a petition to stay in on-campus housing although access to student services and facilities will be limited.

    University of Virginia students will also move to online courses starting on March 19, according to a release from U.Va. President James Ryan posted on Wednesday.

    “We will not be holding classes on Grounds for the foreseeable future, quite possibly through the end of the semester,” Ryan said in a release. “We will reassess after April 5 at the earliest and periodically after that date.”

    Virginia Commonwealth University announced Wednesday that it will extend its spring break for an additional week. When the semester resumes on March 23, classes will be taught remotely for the “foreseeable future.” Classrooms are expected to use digital tools such as Blackboard, videoconferencing and online programs. 

    The release from VCU President Michael Rao said details regarding on-campus housing, student services and dining plans are forthcoming.

    “I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for being mindful and respectful of others during this outbreak, which is not limited to any particular age group, geographic region, nationality, ethnicity or race,” Rao said.

    Virginia Tech’s spring break is extended to March 23, with a transition to online courses for the remainder of the semester. All events with over 100 people are cancelled through at least April 30, though May commencement plans are still in place. 

    “Our campus administrators, public health experts, and community leaders have been continuously engaged in monitoring the situation in Blacksburg, across Virginia, and around the world,” a release stated. “In consultation with our partners in the Virginia Department of Health, we are adopting a range of principle-based actions, effective immediately.”

    William & Mary will start online classes March 23, after an extended spring break, to continue until at least April 1. University events are cancelled until April 3.

    Virginia State University announced Wednesday that it will cancel or modify all scheduled events for the next 30 days. Modifications include pre packaged options in dining halls and livestreams for events, like the Mr. and Miss VSU Pageant and student government activities. Christopher Newport University took a similar approach, by rerouting study abroad plans and limiting serve-served food, according to its website

    A few colleges remain open at this time: Liberty, Regent and Hampton universities and Reynolds Community College.

    As of Wednesday, there are 938 confirmed and presumed positive COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bulk of cases are in Washington, California and New York. The infection has caused 29 deaths in the states. Worldwide, more than 118,300 people have the infection, including over 80,900 individuals living in mainland China. The outbreak has killed 4,292, reported the World Health Organization.

    For more information about COVID-19 in Virginia, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

  36. ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING SECURES PRO-CONSUMER PROTECTIONS IN SETTLEMENT OVER T-MOBILE, SPRINT MERGER

    ~ The agreement includes terms to protect low income subscribers, extend access to underserved communities, and protect current T-Mobile and Sprint employees ~

    RICHMOND (March 11, 2020) – Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced a settlement with T-Mobile, resolving the Virginia’s challenge to the company’s merger with Sprint. The agreement includes terms to protect low income subscribers, extend access to underserved communities, and protect current T-Mobile and Sprint employees. T-Mobile also will reimburse Virginia for the costs and fees of its investigation and its litigation challenging the merger. This agreement resolves the legal challenge brought by Attorney General Herring and several other states, which alleged that the merger was unlawful and would lead to reduced competition and increased prices for consumers. 

    “My colleagues and I vigorously challenged the T-Mobile/Sprint merger because we were concerned that it would leave consumers with higher prices and less choices and would lead to reduced innovation in the telecom industry,” said Attorney General Herring. “I take my responsibility to protect Virginia consumers very seriously and strongly believed in our case. While I disagree with the Court’s decision to approve the merger, it still emphasized the importance of local market competition in mergers and the importance of state enforcers. This agreement will protect existing jobs in Virginia, give price protections for low-cost plans, and extend broadband access to our lower-income households with children."

    As required by the settlement, the merged company is required to:
    • Make low-cost plans available in Virginia for at least 5 years, including a plan offering 2 GB of high-speed data at $15 per month and 5 GB of high-speed data at $25 per month;
    • Extend for at least an additional two years the rate plans currently offered by T-Mobile pursuant to its earlier FCC commitment, ensuring Virginians can retain T-Mobile plans held in February 2019 for a total of five years;
    • Offer 100 GB of no-cost broadband internet service per year for five years and a free mobile Wi-Fi hotspot device to 10 million qualifying low-income households not currently connected to broadband nationwide, as well as the option to purchase select Wi-Fi enabled tablets at the company’s cost for each qualifying household;
    • Protect Virginia jobs by offering all Virginia T-Mobile and Sprint retail employees in good standing an offer of substantially similar employment. T-Mobile also commits that three years after the closing date, the total number of new T-Mobile employees will be equal to or greater than the current total number of employees of the unmerged Sprint and T-Mobile companies;
    • Increase diversity by increasing the participation rate in its employee Diversity and Inclusion program to 60 percent participation within three years; and
    • Reimburse Virginia and other plaintiff states up to $15 million for the costs of the investigation and litigation challenging the merger.
    Joining Attorney General Herring in this agreement are the attorneys general of Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

     

     

     

  37. William Lawrence Rodgester, Jr.,

    September 01, 1939 - March 09, 2020

     

    Visitation Services

    1 p.m. Wednesday, March 11

    Owen Funeral Home
    303 S. Halifax Rd
    Jarratt, Virginia

     

    2 p.m. Wednesday, March 11

    Owen Funeral Home
    303 S. Halifax Rd
    Jarratt, Virginia

     

    William Lawrence Rodgester, Jr., 80, of Ivor, passed away Monday, March 9, 2020. Born September 1, 1939; he was the son of the late W. L. Rodgester and Josie Vincent Rodgester and was also preceded in death by a son-in-law, Hugh Pittman. William is survived by his wife, Barbara J. Rodgester of Ivor; three daughters, Nancy R. Suits (Ronnie) of Drewryville, Lisa R. Henry (Chris) of Suffolk and Robin R. Pittman of Capron; grandchildren, Dustin L. Suits (Kim), Ryan K. Suits, Mackenzie Ferguson (Phillip), Zach Gray (Alyssa), Josh Gray, Tori Gray and Mayson Henry; great-grandchildren, Hunter Suits, Kaysen Everett; and Job, Gracie Ann and Jameson Ferguson; His sisters, Dolly Wray (Aubrey) and Polly Bowen (Charles), all of Jarratt and a number of nieces and nephews.

    The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 11 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, Virginia where the family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Interment will be private at Circle R. Farm in Ivor, Virginia.

    In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to the American Cancer Society (https://donate3.cancer.org/ety) or to the Alzheimer’s Association (https://act.alz.org/donate).

  38. Bill to manage wildlife collision rate passes General Assembly

    By Macy Pressley, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- The General Assembly recently passed a measure that will create a plan to reduce wildlife-related vehicle accidents, though opponents tout the bill as an example of wasteful government spending.

    The bill, introduced by Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, directs the Virginia departments of Game and Inland Fisheries, Transportation, and Conservation and Recreation to conduct a study to identify areas where wildlife habitat is fragmented by human development and roads with a high wildlife collision rate. 

    Marsden said the measure, known as the Wildlife Corridor Action Plan, is intended to help prevent wildlife related car accidents. There were 61,000 such collisions reported in 2016, according to VDOT.

    “People get killed in wildlife collisions, mostly with deer,” Marsden said. 

    There were 211 deaths from such collisions in the United States, according to State Farm, which tracks deer-related insurance claims across the nation.

    The bill would give the DGIF two years to complete a study. Marsden said that after the study is done, the General Assembly will look into building wildlife overpasses along roads identified as problem areas. He said wildlife overpasses were successfully implemented in Charlottesville. 

    “They tried this on I-64 in Charlottesville and reduced wildlife collisions by 98%,” Marsden said. 

    Ryan Brown, DGIF executive director, said the bill addresses a complex issue and is intended to protect wildlife in two ways. 

    Brown said his department will work with other agencies to identify places where development has fragmented wildlife habitats and address the work needed to avoid human and wildlife conflict.

    “Wildlife moves around and they don't read road signs,” Brown said. 

    The agencies will identify wildlife corridors and study migration routes of native, game and migratory species using existing state data. They will assess human barriers such as roads, dams, power lines and pipelines and determine areas with a high risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions. The study will contain maps to detail such wildlife corridor infrastructure, as well as recommendations for creating safe wildlife crossings. Brown said options might include fencing along problem roads and bridge-like structures to assist wildlife with safe crossing.

    Brown said this issue is likely to get worse over time. 

    “As wildlife habitat becomes more and more fragmented in an urbanizing Virginia, that makes it difficult in terms of management of wildlife population,” he said. 

    Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, voted against the bill. He said the measure would be too costly. 

    “ I do not believe the legislation is needed and it will end up creating another bureaucratic process that will cost time and money for no real benefit,” Cole said in an email. “The government is very good at establishing needless bureaucratic hurdles.”

    Marsden said the legislation is worthwhile, considering Virginia is one of the top states for wildlife collisions. In 2018, Virginia ranked 12th for deer collisions, with drivers facing a 1 in 99 chance of hitting a deer, according to data from State Farm.

    “It’s good for the animals and the drivers,” Marsden said. “It’s worth the effort to save property and save lives.”

    The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

  39. Walmart provides funds to Jackson-Feild for an Online Curriculum

     

     

    The Emporia Walmart store celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2020 serving Emporia and its environs. In recognition of this special milestone a special ceremony was recently held where checks were presented to local charities. Jackson-Feild was one of the beneficiaries.

    The funds from Walmart will be used to purchase a one-year license to use ICEV for online vocational education training in a wide range of vocations.  The courses are designed to educate students for career readiness from a wide range of vocational education courses. The goal of this effort is to complete the course and help them pass certification tests from nationally recognized certification bodies to attest to their knowledge in a specific trade to prepare them to enter the working world.

    The use of these online courses is a game changer for the students and teachers at Jackson-Feild. The program provides for automatic grading giving student’s instant feedback in real-time to help them adjust and modify their work. It also allows teachers to track student’s proficiency and identify areas that need attention and improvement.

    ICEV is a national leader in online vocational education. The students, faculty and staff of the Gwaltney School at Jackson-Field are very grateful to the Walmart Foundation and to management and associates of the Emporia Walmart store for supporting vocational education at Jackson-Feild

  40. ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING SHUTS DOWN DECEPTIVE HOMELESS VETERANS CHARITY

    ~ Settlement involves Center for American Homeless Veterans, Inc., Circle of Friends for American Veterans and Brian Arthur Hampton, will shut down the organization and $100,000 will be distributed to help homeless veterans; the charity allegedly misused more than $13 million that was supposed to go to homeless veterans ~

    RICHMOND (March 5, 2020) – As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that he has shut down an allegedly deceptive organization that exploited goodwill towards those in the military and misused more than $13 million that was supposed to go towards homeless veterans. The settlement involves Center for American Homeless Veterans, Inc. and Circle of Friends for American Veterans, two Virginia-based organizations, and their founder Brian Arthur Hampton that raised funds across the country through telemarketers ostensibly to provide education and assistance for homeless veterans, but a majority of which actually went towards paying telemarketers and the salaries of the founder and staff. The settlement shuts down the organizations, permanently bars Brian Hampton from soliciting charitable contributions and holding a fiduciary position with any charitable organization, and requires the organization to distribute $100,000 to charities that provide real assistance to homeless veterans including Virginia Supportive Housing in Richmond, the Bob Woodruff Family Foundation, and Homes for our Troops.
     
    Following an extensive investigation, Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section found that the organizations had violated the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions (VSOC) law by misleading donors into believing that the funds they collected would be used for veterans’ assistance programs and organizations. Additionally, the organizations made other false statements in state and federal filings.
     
    “It is despicable that there are organizations out there that will deceive kind-hearted Virginians who just want to help homeless veterans in our communities,” said Attorney General Herring. “My office will vigorously go after these bad actors who take advantage of the kindness of Virginians to benefit themselves. I would encourage Virginians to remain vigilant when donating to charities and make sure you are donating to trustworthy, legitimate organizations.”
     
    The Attorney General’s complaint, filed in Circuit Court in Falls Church, alleges that both organizations engaged in a number of acts and practices in violation of the VSOC law. Through telemarketers that generally retained 90% of funds raised, the enterprise allegedly led donors to believe that their donations would help homeless veterans with food and shelter or job training and support, when in reality, only tiny amounts of donated money benefitted homeless veterans. Funds that ultimately made their way to the organization primarily went to salaries for the founder and other staff, among other things not related to programming. Millions of dollars remained with the telemarketers that the organization hired.
     
    Additionally, solicitation literature and other materials from the organization led donors to believe that it provided direct services to veterans, and that it gave funds to transitional facilities that get veterans off the streets and into productive lives. Attorney General Herring’s complaint alleges that the organization did not operate any transitional facilities, and provided only the smallest amount of direct funding for that purpose. Literature from the organization claimed that donated funds would help provide “our hungry and homeless war heroes food and shelter,” when that was not the case. Appallingly, the cost of the organization’s telemarketing campaigns with the problematic solicitation scripts was misleadingly characterized in the charities’ financial disclosures as program expenses to inflate those numbers and lead prospective donors to believe that the organization was providing more support to homeless veterans than it actually was. Moreover, the organization allegedly also had a host of troubling internal processes and business practices with no real board oversight.
     
    The settlement includes:
    • Dissolution of the entities
    • A monetary payment in the amount of $100,000 to be provided to three charities which provide real support and assistance to homeless veterans. The three charities that will receive funding are:
    • Virginia Supportive Housing - $33,333.33
    • Bob Woodruff Family Foundation - $33,333.33
    • Homes for our Troops - $33,333.34
    • Injunctive relief in the form of a ban on the founder from engaging in charitable solicitations or holding any fiduciary position with any charitable organization
    • Suspended judgments of $10,000 for civil penalties, $10,000 for attorneys’ fees, expenses in investigating this matter, and costs, and $3,711,965.17 for the use and benefit of charities assisting homeless veterans, and as disgorgement of funds solicited nationwide over a period of time by one of CAHV’s professional solicitors, which can be enforced if the other terms of the settlement are not complied with
     
    Virginia’s settlement is in the form of a Consent Judgment, which has been filed for approval with the Falls Church Circuit Court.
     
    Tips to remember when donating to charities and other organizations:
    • On crowdfunding sites:
      • Check the creator or page owner's credentials and try to confirm its authenticity and seriousness
      • Look for indicators of endorsement or legitimacy that the page is actually collecting donations for a particular victim or organization. Some sites offer verification and transparency measures for campaigns. Look for those markers of authenticity, and check out the site's fraud protection measures
    • Be cautious, and if you feel uneasy, contribute to a more established charity in the community
    • Be wary of charities that spring up overnight in connection with a current event or natural disaster. They may make a compelling case for you to make a donation but even if they are legitimate, they may not have the infrastructure or experience to get your donation to the affected area or people
    • Only give to charities and fundraisers you can confirm are reliable and legitimate. Scrutinize charities with consumer advocates or friends and find out how much of your donation will go to the charity's programs and services
    • Beware of "copy-cat" names that sound like reputable charities. Some scammers use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations
    • Be especially cautious if you do not initiate the contact with the charity
    • Do not be pressured into giving. Legitimate organizations will not expect you to contribute immediately
    • Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number. Legitimate organizations will give you materials about the charity's mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax-deductible. Just because a "charity" has a tax identification number does not mean your contribution is tax-deductible
    • Avoid cash donations. Make checks payable to the charitable organization and not to an individual collecting a donation. For security and tax record purposes, you may wish to pay by credit card
    • If contributing over the Internet, be sure the web site you are visiting belongs to the charity to which you want to donate. See if other legitimate web sites will link to that web site. Make sure the web site is secure and offers protection of your credit card number
    • If a charity is soliciting contributions in Virginia, verify its registration with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs ("OCRP") at (804) 786-1343, or by searching OCRP's Charitable Organization Database online
    • While a legitimate charity should be registered with OCRP to solicit contributions in Virginia, registration alone does not mean that the organization will be effective
     
    Who to Contact
    You can report charitable solicitation fraud to the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (OCRP) and the Office of the Attorney General at the following addresses and telephone numbers:
     
    P.O. Box 1163
    Richmond, Virginia 23218
    (804) 786-1343
    (804) 225-2666 (fax)
     
    OCRP administers the provisions of the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions ("VSOC") law, Virginia Code §§ 57-48 through 57-69, and registers charitable organizations soliciting in Virginia. OCRP investigates complaints where there is an alleged violation of the VSOC law by a charitable organization or its professional fundraiser while soliciting contributions in Virginia. If it has reason to believe violations have occurred, OCRP can make an investigative referral to the Attorney General's Office and/or other agencies for a possible law enforcement action.
     
      
    OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
    Consumer Protection Section
    202 North Ninth Street
    Richmond, Virginia 23219
    (800) 552-9963 (if calling from Virginia)
    (804) 786-2042 (phone) (if calling from Richmond area)
    (804) 225-4378 (fax)
     
    The Virginia Attorney General has authority under state and federal consumer protection statutes to investigate and prosecute charitable solicitation and other consumer fraud and misrepresentation. If an action is brought, the Attorney General can seek injunctive relief to halt fraudulent or deceptive conduct in Virginia and obtain restitution for injured consumers. 
     
    Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Complaint Form
  41. Bill removing race requirement in marriage records passes

    By Zach Armstrong, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- When William Christiansen married his college sweetheart, he was disturbed that they had to disclose their race to the registrar, considering they are an interracial couple. 

    “It reminded me and my wife of a time when interracial couples were unable to get married,” said Christiansen. “It's an unneeded reminder of the discriminatory practices that dominated the South during Jim Crow.”

    Both chambers of the General Assembly passed legislation to eliminate the race requirement on the marriage license application. Under Senate Bill 62, married couples will not have to disclose their race when filing marriage records, divorce and annulment reports to the state registrar. 

    The bill was introduced by Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke. The legislation moved through every committee and legislative chamber without opposition from any lawmaker. 

    “Asking for race seems completely unrelated to whether a state should recognize a marriage,” Christiansen said. “It sends a signal that those in charge of policy related to marriage applications care little about removing the legacy of discriminatory practices of their predecessors.”

    Under current law, the race of the marrying parties along with other personal data is filed with the state registrar when a marriage is performed in the commonwealth. 

    A lawsuit filed in September 2019 sparked the bill after three Virginia couples refused to declare their race while applying for marriage. The lawsuit resulted in Attorney General Herring declaring that couples applying for marriages would not be forced to disclose their race to the registrar.

    “This is another Jim Crow law that should have been out of the books and I’m so grateful that the younger generation isn't judging people based on color of skin,” said Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr., D-Chesapeake.

    In October 2019, a federal judge struck down the race requirement as unconstitutional. Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. found that the law violated due process under the 14th Amendment. Alston said the law didn’t hold scrutiny against the U.S. Constitution.

    “This new generation is much different,” Spruill said. “During my time, whites and blacks were thought of more differently.”

    Other measures to repeal antiquated state laws were introduced during the 2020 General Assembly session. The General Assembly passed legislation that removes the crime of premarital sex, currently a Class 4 misdeameanor. 

    “We are looking at old laws created by an older white establishment and just removing those,” Spruill said. “It's another step to say whites and blacks have the right to do what they want to do.”

    Virginia is home to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia that overturned laws banning interracial marriage. In 1958, a judge sentenced Richard and Mildred Loving to a year in prison for marrying each other. He suspended the sentence for 25 years if the couple moved to the District of Columbia. After the Supreme Court of Virginia upheld their sentences, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned their convictions. The court found that the law violated equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment. 

    “This made both of us curious why questions like this were still on the application,” Christiansen said. “If people are of age, they should only need to identify them via Social Security number or something similar.”

  42. Brian C. Simmons

    June 27, 1972-March 4, 2020

    Visitation Services

    6-8 Monday, March 9

    Owen Funeral Home
    303 S. Halifax Rd
    Jarratt, Virginia

     

    2 p.m. Tuesday, March 10

    Owen Funeral Home
    303 S. Halifax Rd
    Jarratt, Virginia

     

    Brian C. Simmons, 47, of Skippers, passed away Wednesday, March 4, 2020. He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline Simmons; two sons, Dylan Simmons (Sydnee Hargrave) and Zachary Simmons; his mother, Patricia Simmons; two brothers, Jeffrey Simmons and James Richard Simmons, III and two nieces, Cheyna and Abbey.

    The family will receive friends 6-8 Monday, March 9 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd, Jarratt, Virginia where a memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 10.

    Online condolences may be made at www.owenfh.com.

  43. Richmond’s Falcon Cam Is Live

    High-Speed Internet Connection from Comcast Business Allows Nature Lovers to Follow the Falcons Via a Live Video Feed

    RICHMOND, VA — It’s that time again – when a pair of peregrine falcons return to the 21st floor of the Riverfront Plaza building in downtown Richmond to nest. Comcast Business is providing the connectivity that will allow nature lovers to follow the falcons via a live video feed of the nest that is available for viewing at dgif.virginia.gov/falcon-cam/.

    This is the fourth year that the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), which manages the threatened birds, is collaborating with Comcast Business to provide connectivity for the live broadcast, which is managed by HDOnTap.

    “We have confirmed that last year’s new male, identifiable by his bands, is back again with an unbanded female,” said Sergio Harding, Nongame Bird Conservation Biologist for DGIF. “In the past two years, there has been a lot of turnover in falcons at this site and unfortunately, no nesting, although the birds did appear on camera quite a bit. The return of the male is a sign of some stability, and we are hopeful and optimistic that this pair will breed successfully.”

    Each year, the viewing public from around the country has grown fonder of watching the drama of the fast-flying birds — the first egg being laid, chicks emerging from their shells and, during ‘fledge watch,’ the nail-biting reports of the initial flight of the falcon chicks. Like any TV nature show, there is real-life drama: sometimes the chicks thrive and sometimes the nest fails.

    March is typically a busy month as falcons tend to nest during this time following a period of courtship, with the first egg laid around mid- to late-March. 

    “Comcast Business is proud to again partner with DGIF to provide fast, reliable and secure Internet service that enables nature lovers throughout the Greater Richmond Area and beyond to watch the peregrine falcon video stream,” Juan Dominguez, Vice President of Comcast Business in Comcast’s Beltway Region.

    The falcon cam will remain live until July 2020.

    Tags: 

  44. Legislature approves mental health training for Virginia teachers

    By Joseph Whitney Smith, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- The General Assembly passed a bill that will require full-time teachers to complete mental health awareness training, though some advocates are split on how the training should be implemented.

    Del. Kaye Kory, D- Fairfax, sponsored House Bill 74, which incorporated HB 716 and HB 1554. Kory, a former school board member, said teachers and faculty may be better able to understand and help prevent related issues if they are trained properly to recognize signs of mental health problems. The bill requires school boards to adopt and implement policies for the training, which can be completed online. School boards may contract the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, a community services board, a behavioral health authority, a nonprofit organization, or other certified trainer to provide such training. 

    Kory said the bill was requested by several teacher groups in last year’s General Assembly. 

    “My intention is that the training provides the ability to ask the right questions at the right time,” Kory said via email. “As substance abuse becomes more common in young people, the need for early detection and response becomes more and more clear.”

    The intent of the bill is good, said 4th District Richmond City School Board Member Jonathan Young, but there are potential flaws with the online training program..

    “It often ends up being nothing more than a check in the box,” he said. “I’m not interested in another check in the box, I’m interested in real mental health training for our teachers.”

    Young said teachers need professional development opportunities “to increase their awareness and develop some new skill sets.”

    Schools currently offer online training programs with modules tackling cyber security and conflict of interest training, Young said. He said learning about something as important as mental health through a computerized training module may not be effective enough to combat the current mental health crisis. 

    Mental health training needs to be scaled up in schools and the solution has to be legitimate, Young said. 

    Only 7% of expenditures for mental health go to children under 18, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness of Virginia, an advocacy and education group. Studies show that early intervention might reduce the prevalence of serious mental health cases, according to the organization.

    Approximately 130,000 children and adolescents live with a serious mental illness and only 1 out of 5 children get the help that they need,according to the advocacy group Voices for Virginia’s Children. 

    Bruce Cruser, the executive director of Mental Health America of Virginia, said the youth suicide rate has gradually increased in the state. He said that usually the people who need mental health services are people that have experienced trauma, for example, any youth that has been abused or lost their parents at a very young age.

    The General Assembly also recently passed an amended bill that will allow K-12 students excused absences for mental health issues. The bill gives the Virginia Department of Education until Dec. 31 to establish guidelines for public school districts to grant students excused absences if they are dealing with mental or behavioral health issues.

  45. Martha Earline Bowen Matthews

    Visitation Services

    1:00 p.m. Thursday, March 5, 2020

    Independence United Methodist Church
    4438 Independence Church Rd

    Emporia, VA

    2:00 p.m. Thursday, March 5, 2020

    Independence United Methodist Church
    4438 Independence Church Rd
    Emporia, VA

    Martha Earline Bowen Matthews, age 91, of Lawrenceville, Va. passed away March 3, 2020.  She is the daughter of the late Curtis and Martha Bowen and is preceded in death by her husband, Thomas William Matthews, Sr. of 67 years; and her daughter, Linda Jones.  She is survived by her daughter, Judy Egeland and husband Ray; her son, Thomas William Matthews, Jr. and wife Kimberly; her grandchildren, Paula Jones, Marty Lewis (Dave), Melissa Egeland and Michelle Mavis (Tony); her great grandchildren, Haley, Ethan, Hannah, Kylie and Michael; and many nieces and nephews.  Funeral services will be conducted 2:00 p.m. Thursday, March 5, 2020 at Independence United Methodist Church, Emporia, VA with interment in the church cemetery.  The family will receive friends Thursday from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., prior to the service at the church.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Brunswick County Cancer Association, P.O. Box 522, Lawrenceville, VA  23868.  Online condolences for the family may be made at www.williamsfuneralhomeva.com.

  46. Joe Garnet “Jody” Whitley, Jr.

    July 11, 1949-March 1, 2020

    Joe Garnet “Jody” Whitley, Jr., of Emporia, VA passed away on March 1, 2020, after a short illness.

    He was born in Page, VA., on July 11, 1949 to the late Joe Garnet and Julia Wallace Whitley, Sr. He was preceded in death by his sister, Irene “Pat” Whitley Pearson. He is survived by his sister, Brenda Whitley Klassen of Placentia, California; nephew Martin (Ari) Klassen and niece, Michelle Klassen (T.R.) Lind; his brother, Reese J. (Bonnie) Whitley of Bedford, VA.; nephew Reinor Jay (Patricia) Whitley of Brambleton, Virginia and niece Jennifer Whitley (Rob) McCarthy of Tampa, Florida.

    Jody graduated from Garden High School in 1967, and attended two years of Diesel Mechanic School in Abingdon, VA. He spent the majority of his working years in Ford-Mercury-Lincoln dealerships and heavy duty truck and earth moving equipment dealers.

    While he described himself as “Just an auto mechanic”, Jody, throughout his life, loved building engines for professional race cars. He enjoyed years of friendship with people involved in NASCAR racing. As a hobby, he enjoyed rebuilding old cars to the point where they appeared to have just rolled off the assembly line. His favorite “rebuild” was a 1967 Mustang “Boss” model, painted candy apple red and white. When something broke around the house, be it a lawn mower, the washing machine, a stove, or even a watch, Jody could fix it. He also enjoyed reading and spending time with “Fuzz”, his cat.

    In keeping with Jody’s wishes, there will be no funeral services. There will be a private family burial service later at the family burial site in Bluefield, VA.

  47. ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING ENCOURAGES VIRGINIANS TO KNOW THEIR RIGHTS DURING NATIONAL CONSUMER PROTECTION WEEK

    ~ Throughout the week, Attorney General Herring will have a special focus on consumer education and enforcement actions by his Consumer Protection Section ~

    RICHMOND(March 1, 2020)—From March 2-6, Attorney General Mark R. Herring and his Consumer Protection Section will mark National Consumer Protection Week with a weeklong campaign to help Virginians understand their rights as consumers, and to help Virginia businesses understand their responsibilities to their customers. Each day, Attorney General Herring will highlight a common consumer protection challenge and ways that Virginians can protect themselves and their hard-earned money:
     
    • Monday – What can the OAG Consumer Protection Section do for you?
    •  Tuesday – Student debt; AG Herring’s ongoing fight to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the opioid crisis
    •  Wednesday – Veterans' consumer protection issues; News on deceptive charity that purported to help veterans
    •  Thursday – Predatory lending including payday loans, online, car title, and open-end loans
    •  Friday – Scams and frauds, in-person, online, or on the phone
     
    “Consumer protection has been one of my top priorities as your attorney general, whether that’s warning consumers about a current scam, protecting veterans from illegal debt collection, protecting student borrowers from fraudulent for-profit schools, or warning financially vulnerable Virginians about the dangers of predatory loans,” said Attorney General Herring. “Unfortunately, we have seen the Trump Administration continue to shirk its responsibility to protect consumers on the federal level, making it even more important for my team and me to pick up the slack at the state level. I will continue to make sure that Virginia consumers have all the tools and information they need in order to protect themselves from fraudulent, abusive, or illegal business practices.”
     
    During Attorney General Herring's administration, his Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $323 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators and transferred more than $55 million to the Commonwealth's General Fund.
     
    In November 2016, Attorney General Herring announced the completion of a reorganization of his Consumer Protection Section to more efficiently and effectively enforce Virginia's consumer protection laws, provide exceptional customer service in resolving complaints and disputes, and provide robust consumer education to keep Virginians from being victimized by fraud, scams, or illegal or abusive business practices.
    
    Virginians who have a question, concern, or complaint about a consumer matter should contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section:
     

     

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  48. Jackson-Feild Recognizes and Applauds its Residential Staff

    At Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services (JFBHS), the residential counselors, coordinators and supervisors devote tremendous amounts of time, energy and patience to the youth in their care.  On any given day, they bear the behavior of adolescents who are inordinately angry, impatient, and – in many cases – sad.  Their work is vital, but all-too-often thankless. For that reason, JFBHS would like to recognize and applaud several members of its staff.

    Every day, recently promoted Residential Coordinators Shenda Cooke, Shanika Morgan, Tiffany Moses, Stacy Tann, and Rhondell White work with the youth and the Residential Counselors to ensure that treatment plans are followed and benchmarked. While maintaining professional boundaries, they serve as role models of healthy behavior, teach life skills, lead recreational activities, and supervise youth in the cottages as well as during off-campus activities and appointments.

    Also deserving of praise and recognition are Residential Supervisors Katrinka Phillips, Myra Pugh, Michael Stokes, Kisha Tucker, and Sophelia Wyche-Harrison.  In their role, these five staff members provide overall leadership and management of their cottages. They teach, coach, and empower the Residential Counselors and Coordinators to develop their skills and maximize their potential in their work with the youth. They also collaborate with Senior Residential Supervisor Shadhri Stith to develop and maintain JFBHS’ mission, philosophy, goals, and objectives. Michael was recently promoted from Residential Coordinator to Residential Supervisor.

    JFBHS is fortunate to have such a dedicated team of staff members with the skills, determination, and compassion to work with mentally ill children. It is thanks in great part to them that the boys and girls find wellness.

  49. Legislature passes bill to extend kindergarten hours

    By Zobia Nayyar, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- A Senate bill that almost doubles the instructional hours of kindergarten classes required for school accreditation from 540 hours to 990 hours passed its final hurdle in the House Thursday with a vote of 94-6.

     Senate Bill 238, introduced by Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, directs the Board of Education to adopt regulations by July 1, 2022, along with the requirement that the standard school day for kindergarten students average to at least 5.5 instructional hours in order to qualify for full kindergarten accreditation. Local school boards may approve a four-day weekly calendar, so long as a minimum of 990 hours of instructional time is provided.

    Not every school system currently offers a full day of kindergarten. Supporters of the bill said this legislation helps establish standards of quality.

    “We're down two school systems in the state that are not yet at a level where all students go for full day kindergarten, one of those Virginia Beach, the other is Chesapeake,” Barker said in front of a House subcommittee meeting. “Virginia Beach has a plan where they're moving forward on it and Chesapeake is also increasing the number of students.”

    Barker said that a full day of kindergarten benefits students’ academic performance, social interaction and involvement with teachers and other adults. “There are significant benefits to it,” he said. 

    According to the bill’s 2020 Fiscal Impact Statement, the additional 450 hours would not affect funding paid from the state to local school divisions based on attendance. School divisions that do not currently provide the 990 hours of instructional time may experience additional costs to add classroom space and hire new staff. The fiscal impact to local school divisions cannot be determined.

    “Ironically we are already paying them as if they had full-day kindergarten,” Barker said. 

    Del. Elizabeth Guzmán, D-Fairfax, inquired about the timeliness of the bill during the House meeting. She asked why the bill will be enacted in 2022 and not next year.

    “What I tried to do was to be sensitive to some of the issues that some of those school systems might encounter or in some cases will encounter, but I would certainly be happy if they move faster,” Barker said.

    Chesapeake and Virginia Beach are already taking steps to establish a full day of kindergarten for their schools. A representative of Chesapeake schools told the House panel that the school district had to gradually implement full days due to space limitations. Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, asked why the legislation was needed if the districts were already implementing the changes.

    Loudon County representatives have said they might in the future reverse the full day format, Barker said, and his legislation would guarantee all school systems are meeting the full day standard. 

    Director of Government Relations at the Virginia Education Association Kathy Burcher said the VEA supports Barker’s bill, and the organization looks forward to the progress the bill will make.

    “Putting it in code, ensuring that the requirement is there, will make sure that no school division slides off, particularly as we're looking at that continuum from birth through entering the workforce,” Burcher said. “We want to make sure there's no child that can possibly fall through the cracks in part-time kindergarten because it's a tremendous impact on their ability to stay on track for graduation.”

    The bill now moves to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for approval.

  50. Legislature approves excused absences for student mental health

    By Will Gonzalez, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- The General Assembly passed an amended bill that will allow K-12 students excused absences for mental health issues and create uniformity for how Virginia school districts address emotional and mental health needs within its schools.

    House Bill 308, introduced by Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, would give the Virginia Department of Education until Dec. 31 to establish guidelines for public school districts to grant students excused absences if they are dealing with mental or behavioral health issues.

    Charles Pyle, director of media relations at the DOE, said it’s too early to know what guidance the DOE would issue, including whether a student would be required to provide a written doctor’s note and if a limit would be instated on the amount of time or consecutive number of absences from school.

    Virginia currently has no standard for addressing mental health in schools, and each school approaches it differently.

    “There are some high schools and middle schools that have mental health clubs, so to speak, where they are trying to provide more peer support,” said Bruce Cruser, executive director of Mental Health America of Virginia. “There is at least one teacher who is involved in helping recognize symptoms of mental health problems and can direct kids to the appropriate resources. In other places, it’s not in the open like that.”

    The House worked closely with the DOE on several bills this year. There are three other House bills in which the department has been tasked with drafting standards or guidelines. HB 753 requires the DOE to establish a definition of social-emotional learning and develop standards for social-emotional learning across public schools from grades K-12. HB 836 requires the DOE to develop a plan to adopt and standardize microcredentials of teachers in STEM fields. HB 817 requires the DOE, in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Health, to develop health and safety best practice guidelines for the use of digital devices in schools.

    Pyle said when the General Assembly passes legislation that tasks the DOE with drafting standards or guidelines, the organization combines its expertise with contributions from the public.

    “The Department of Education is always happy to support legislators by answering their questions and providing information about related statutes or board regulations,” Pyle said.

    Mental health issues among young people in the U.S. have become more prevalent over the past few decades. Fifty percent of people with mental illnesses start showing symptoms by age 14, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. According to the organization, 16.5% of Americans ages 6-17 -- or 7.7 million people -- experienced a mental health disorder in 2016. Only half of those people received treatment.

    Cruser said it’s important to take the mental health of young children and teens seriously, especially with mental illness as stigmatized as it is.

     “The suicide rate of youth in Virginia continues to increase and the number of children with serious emotional disturbances continues to increase, so it’s definitely a serious issue,” Cruser said. “The sooner any kind of emotional or behavioral disturbances can be identified, the better the treatment is.”

  51. Sanders urges voters to participate in ‘most consequential and important election’

    By Ada Romano, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Thousands of supporters greeted the Democratic presidential candidate and front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders in Richmond Thursday, just days ahead of Super Tuesday. 

    Hopefuls were turned away despite the venue change from a 1,500-occupancy music hall to the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center which holds 6,000 people. The bleachers roared as supporters held up signs, chanted and stomped with excitement. 

    Hometown musicians Lucy Dacus and No BS! Brass warmed up the crowd before activists, community members and one of the state’s first-elected Latina legislators stumped for Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont. 

    The crowd cheered as Charlottesville City Councilman Michael Payne called for a political revolution.

    “The reason I am here this afternoon is the same reason that each and every one of you are here,” Payne said. “Because you see in yourselves, in your families and in your communities that every single day that goes by where we do not challenge and change the status quo means homelessness, it means rationing insulin and medicine, it means choosing between rent and healthcare.”

    Del. Elizabeth Guzmán, D-Prince William, took to the stage, asking: “Are you guys feeling the Bern?” 

    “He has a consistent message of progress,” Guzmán said, who was elected to the House of Delegates in 2017 as part of the state’s blue wave. “We had a base here in Virginia in 2016 that believed in his message and voted for him.”

    Sanders’ platform includes providing a path to citizenship for immigrants without documentation, medical care for all and free public college for all. These ideas have been considered radical by some, but Sanders argues that these are basic human rights.

    “We know that our immigration needs fundamental reform,” Sanders said. “We’re going to sign an executive order that ends all of Trump’s racist immigration policies. As the son of an immigrant, I take this issue personally.” 

    Since his 2016 campaign, Sanders has called for free college education for all and to eliminate student debt in the U.S.

    “The world has changed. The economy, technology have changed,” Sanders said. “Public education from K-12 is no longer good enough. We need to make our public colleges and universities tuition free.” 

    Sanders, who supports universal healthcare, has long criticized the U.S. healthcare system. He told the crowd about traveling to Canada with a group of diabetics. According to Sanders, the cost on insulin went down to one-tenth of the U.S. market price.

    “Together we are going to end the international embarrassment of the U.S. being the only major country on Earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people everywhere,” Sanders said. 

    The crowd cheered as Sanders promised to legalize marijuana by executive order. Sanders said he would expunge the records of those previously convicted of marijuana possession.

    Protesters like George Paton stood outside and voiced opposition to Sanders’ political ideology.

    “I am a capitalist; I think Bernie is a socialist and a communist,” Paton said. “If there is a communist in Richmond, I want to be there on the sidelines.” 

    Sanders ranks No. 1 in an average of national polls for the Democratic nomination; a frontrunner with twice the lead over Joe Biden in second place. After a slim victory in the recent New Hampshire primary, Sanders easily clinched a win in Nevada.

    The Virginia Democratic primary will take place on Tuesday, March 3. In the 2016 primary, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received 64% of the Democratic votes to Sanders’ 35%. Sanders garnered the most votes in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. Richmond ranked No. 4, with just over 14,000 votes cast for Sanders. 

    Sanders encouraged the crowd to go out and vote. 

    “This primary takes place in the midst of the most consequential and important election in the modern history of America,” Sanders said. “I am asking of all of you, please come out to vote.”

  52. Legislature OKs bill allowing new birth certificate for transgender people

    By Rodney Robinson, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. -- The state legislature recently passed a bill that will allow transgender individuals to receive a new birth certificate, something advocates said will help transgender people acquire documentation in alignment with their identity.

    Senate Bill 657, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, will allow a person to receive a new birth certificate to reflect the change of sex without the requirement of surgery. The individual seeking a new birth certificate also may list a new name if they provide a certified copy of a court order of the name change. 

    The bill requires proof from a health care provider that the individual went through “clinically appropriate treatment for gender transition.” The assessment and treatment, according to Boysko’s office, is up to the medical provider. There is not a standard approach for an individual's transition. Treatment could include counseling, hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery or a patient-specific approach from the medical provider.

    A similar process is required to obtain a passport after change of sex, according to the State Department. Once the paperwork is complete, it is submitted to the Virginia Department of Health's vital records department.

    “Having your documentation accurately reflect your identity and match your other documentation is huge for transgender people,” Ted Lewis, executive director of Side by Side, said in email. 

    Side by Side is an advocacy group whose primary work involves creating supportive communities for LGBTQ youth. Lewis believes that this bill removes the “unnecessary and costly requirement of surgery,” and it would allow transgender people “to have documentation of who they are.” 

    Boysko said her constituents have reported issues when they need to show legal documents when leasing apartments, opening a bank account or applying for jobs.

    “This bill removes an unnecessary hurdle for transgender people,” Lewis said.

    This is the third year that Boysko has introduced this bill. In 2018 Boysko introduced  HB 407, and last year she introduced SB 1643. Neither bill made it out of subcommittee. Boysko said that it’s “really heartening” to see the legislation passed. 

    “It’s going to make a difference for folks, and I’m really happy about that,” Boysko said. 

    By law an individual can only receive a birth certificate from the state where they were born. An amended version of Boysko’s bill allows a person residing in Virginia to apply for the new document, but if it is approved by a judge, they still have to file for the new certificate from their home state. “Virginia doesn’t give you a birth certificate, you take the information from the courts here in Virginia and take that back to the place where you were born to get the new birth certificate,” Boysko said.   

    Lawmakers also recently passed Boysko’s bill requiring the Department of Education to develop policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools. 

    Senate Bill 657 now goes to the Governor’s desk for approval.