August 2021

Virginia Department of Health Urges Caution In Advance of Severe Wet Weather

(Richmond, Va.)— Tropical Storm Fred may impact areas of the state this week. This storm, in addition to the storm events across Virginia this week, could create dangerous recreational water conditions in creeks, rivers, and the areas along the coast. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reminds people to take precautions to be prepared for severe weather and once the sun comes out, be aware of potential health risks before you participate in recreational water activities.

Heavy rains can increase the risk of animal waste and the potential release of inadequately treated wastewater from sewage treatment plants. Bacteria, debris, and other pollutants in rainwater runoff end up in rivers, lakes and streams, which can pose risks to human health and safety. Rain events also cause flooding and fast-moving waters, especially in low-lying areas.

The most common illnesses from contaminated water are gastrointestinal illnesses. This may cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or fever. These illnesses result from swallowing water contaminated by disease-causing microbiological organisms. Additionally, contact with contaminated water has the potential to cause upper respiratory (ear, nose, throat) and skin infections.

VDH recommends the following safety tips for people planning to swim, wade, kayak, canoe or go rafting in Virginia natural waters after heavy rain:

  • Avoid getting water in your mouth. Never swallow water from an untreated water source.
  • Don’t swim if you have broken skin. Bacteria, viruses and other organisms can infect wounds causing more serious illness.
  • Shower with soap and water after recreating in natural waters.
  • Don’t swim when you are ill.
  • Avoid swimming if dead fish are present.
  • Use extreme caution and avoid unnecessary risks if you encounter covered roads or fast-moving waters. The water may be deeper and moving faster than you think.

Residents or facilities that provide water to the public, including campgrounds, restaurants, summer camps, or daycares with private wells or septic systems should also take extra precautions in heavy rain and flooding, in case wells or septic systems are submerged by flood waters. Visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-health/responding-to-an-emergency-affecting-your-private-well/ for information and safety tips.

To find the location of local sewer treatment facilities, contact your local public works department.

For more information regarding recreation water safety tips, including the Virginia Department of Health’s “Safely Enjoy Virginia’s Natural Waters” brochure, visit: www.SwimHealthyVA.com.

New Psychiatrist Joins VCU Health CMH Behavioral Health Services in South Hill

South Hill, VA (8/16/21) – With the recent moratorium on new admissions in Virginia’s psychiatric hospitals due to staffing shortages, the need for mental health treatment is now more important than ever. While outpatient services won’t directly relieve this burden, it can help patients seeking care prevent those emergent situations that require inpatient hospitalization.

Enter Alvin Scott Parker, IV, MD, the new psychiatrist at VCU Health CMH Behavioral Health Services, located at 140 East Ferrell Street, in South Hill. Dr. Parker joins Dr. Anees in an already busy practice that just opened in March with dozens of patients scheduled for him to treat. Dr. Anees will continue to see children, adolescents and adults, while Dr. Parker will focus on adults only.

Dr. Parker earned his medical degree from American University of Integrated Sciences in St. Michael, Barbados, where he graduated with honors. He completed a psychiatry residency at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. He is a member of the American Psychiatric Association. 

“I am fascinated by how the mind works,” explained Dr. Parker. “I love studying the brain and how it functions. If I can make practical applications and help improve lives, then we’ll be much better off.”

Dr. Parker takes a holistic approach to patient care and customizes his treatment plans to his patients’ individual needs.

“I treat the individual more than the problem,” he said. “Mental health issues stem from lots of things: stressors, interpersonal relationships, finance, marriage, employment, genetics. If I can help someone identify who or what is contributing to the problem, we can make it better.”

Southside Virginia and northern North Carolina have a reputation for being underserved and there is a great demand for mental health care. Dr. Parker hopes to help everyone out by making a difference in each life he touches.

A resident of Raleigh, North Carolina, he enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife, children and pet Australian Shepherd. He has a daughter at East Carolina University and a son starting the sixth grade. He likes working out, hiking and playing chess.

To make an appointment at VCU Health CMH Behavioral Health Services, call (434) 584-5400.

Tricia Delano Re-elected Secretary to NACBH

Patricia H. Delano, President and CEO of Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services was recently re-elected Secretary of the Board of Directors of the National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health (NACBH).

NACBH is a national organization dedicated to enhancing the availability and delivery of services for children with emotional and behavioral disorders and their families. For over three decades, NACBH has been a force for change to help mentally ill children.  It leverages the knowledge and expertise of its members to serve as leaders to impact legislation and policy decisions regarding children’s mental issues.

With thirty-two years of experience, Ms. Delano has served as the CEO of Jackson-Feild since 2007. She has guided JFBHS through some of its most challenging times in its 161-year history especially during the COVID pandemic.  Jackson-Feild is more viable and meaningful than ever before thanks to her leadership.

Delano has helped Jackson-Feild become a major player on the national level. She is respected by her peers on the NACBH board and has rendered valuable service to its members.

Virginia Will Provide Third Doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines for Immunocompromised People

(Richmond, Va.) — Today the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that Virginia will make third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines available for moderately and severely immunocompromised Virginians, starting as early as August 14. This move comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its vaccination guidelines to recommend third mRNA doses for people who have significantly compromised immune systems. Vaccines are readily available throughout Virginia, and vaccine providers are expected to make third doses available over the next several days as they adapt their processes.

“This is important additional protection for people who have impaired immune systems,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “As COVID-19 cases rise across Virginia and the country, everyone who is eligible should get appropriately vaccinated as soon as they can.”

The CDC’s move is the final step in the authorization process for third doses of the mRNA vaccines for some eligible populations. Studies have shown that people with a compromised immune system can have a weak response to the standard vaccine regimen, and that a third dose is needed to strengthen immunity in these persons and protect them from serious COVID-19 complications. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluated those studies and recommended the change to the CDC on Thursday.

Only Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are mRNA vaccines, and therefore the FDA has not recommended additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. Additionally, the FDA has not recommended booster vaccines for the general public. Those immunocompromised who have already received two doses of either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech should wait at least 28 days after their second dose before receiving their third dose.  The third dose should be the same manufacturer as the previous two doses when possible, but this is not required.

This EUA expansion is estimated to  include approximately 3% of people in the United States. Immunocompromised persons are those whose immune mechanisms are deficient because of certain immunologic disorders or immunosuppressive therapy.  As of today, approximately 4,144,080 Virginians have received two doses of an mRNA vaccine and approximately 124,322, or 3% of these Virginians, may be immunocompromised and therefore be eligible to receive a third dose. Individuals with questions about whether they are significantly immunocompromised should consult their healthcare providers.

While available evidence shows that a third dose provides a modest benefit to improving the immune response to mRNA vaccination, it is important to remember that immunocompromised persons might still not have a strong level of protection against COVID-19, even after receiving a third dose of vaccine. Additional COVID-19 precautions remain important for this population. These include wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance from others outside of the home, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.

Persons who are significantly immunocompromised should also discuss the possibility of monoclonal antibody treatment options with their healthcare provider in case they get infected with or are exposed to COVID-19. Household members and other close contacts of significantly immunocompromised persons should get fully vaccinated to provide increased protection to their loved ones.

VDH, physicians and healthcare workers, and vaccine providers across the Commonwealth stand ready to assist this vulnerable population to obtain the added protection a third vaccine dose will provide against COVID-19.  Just like previous EUA authorizations and CDC ACIP approvals, additional clinical considerations have been published that provide more detailed guidance. These clinical considerations will provide necessary guidance to assist COVID-19 providers in implementing these new  recommendations. In Virginia, providers may begin administration of third mRNA doses for this vulnerable population across the Commonwealth in accordance with these clinical considerations.

For more information on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus. Anyone age 12 or older can find free vaccination clinics near them by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1).

Governor Northam Announces Public Health Order to Require Universal Masking in K-12 Schools

Order reinforces state law SB 1303

RICHMOND—Governor Northam today announced a Public Health Emergency Order requiring universal masking in all indoor settings in Virginia’s K-12 schools. This order reinforces current state law, which requires Virginia schools adhere to mitigation strategies outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of July 28, CDC guidelines include universal masking for all students, teachers, and staff. SB 1303 was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the General Assembly earlier this year.
 
“We all share the same goal of keeping our schools open and keeping our students safe,” said Governor Northam. “That’s why the General Assembly passed this law with overwhelming bipartisan support. This Public Health Order makes it very clear that masks are required in all indoor K-12 settings, and Virginia expects all schools to comply. I’m grateful to the work of the General Assembly and the Health Department, and I look forward to a safe start to the school year.”
 
73 percent of all adults in Virginia have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of August 10, 40.3 percent of 12-15 year-olds in Virginia and 51.7 percent of 16-17 year olds in Virginia are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Children under 12 are not yet eligible to receive any available vaccination, which is one reason CDC updated its guidance to recommend universal masking in all K-12 schools. Masks are a proven tool to reduce in-school transmission, even in communities with high levels of spread. 
 
“We know that masking is an effective tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly among children who are not yet eligible for vaccination,” said Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver. “As cases rise in our communities, universal masking and other mitigation measures will ensure our schools continue to be the safest place for Virginia’s children.”
 
“The vast majority of school districts have chosen to follow the CDC and keep their school communities safe,” said State Superintendent Dr. James Lane. “Universal masking has worked in school settings across Virginia for the past year and a half, and it remains a critical part of our safety protocols. I’m grateful to Governor Northam and Dr. Oliver for this order, which will ensure uniformity across all school districts and keep students safely in their classrooms—no matter where they live in Virginia.”
 
In addition to this Public Health Order, Governor Northam has dedicated significant resources to improve the safety of K-12 schools. On Tuesday, Governor Northam signed House Bill 7001, which provides a total of $500 million to improve ventilation and air quality in public schools. Ventilation systems clean and disperse air, decreasing the risk of various airborne illnesses including COVID-19.
 
In 2020, Governor Northam directed $492 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to public schools and PreK-12 state-level education initiatives. This year, Virginia received approximately $939 million in ESSER II funds under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III funds directly allocate $1.9 billion to school divisions, with an additional state set aside of $211 million.
 
The Public Health Emergency Order is available here.

Extraordinary Nurse Recognized at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital

Vice President of Patient Care Services Mary Hardin, MSN, RN, OCN, NE-BC, and Stephanie Dorman, RN.

8/6/21 (South Hill, VA) – A nurse at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) was recently honored with The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses ®. The award is part of the DAISY Foundation's mission to recognize the extraordinary, compassionate nursing care they provide patients and families every day. 

The DAISY Award was given to Stephanie Dorman, RN, of South Hill, for exemplary care of a patient in the Emergency Room. The patient stated in the nomination, “Stephanie Dorman’s fortitude and willingness was amazing and a true blessing to me. I was the fortunate person that night to be on the receiving end of her stellar performance as a nurse. There is no question she goes way beyond the call of duty to help her patients.”

“Stephanie Dorman exemplifies nursing at its best,” said ER Nurse Manager Tammy Mull, BSN, RN, CEN. “She is compassionate to patients, families and her co-workers. We are proud she is part of the VCU Health CMH team!”

The DAISY Foundation is a not-for-profit organization, established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, by members of his family.  Patrick died at the age of 33 in late 1999 from complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), a little known but not uncommon auto-immune disease. (DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System.)  The care Patrick and his family received from nurses while he was ill inspired this unique means of thanking nurses for making a profound difference in the lives of their patients and patient families.

Nurses may be nominated by patients or families.  The award recipient is chosen by a committee at VCU Health CMH to receive The DAISY Award. Awards are presented throughout the year at celebrations attended by the Honoree’s colleagues, patients, and visitors.  Each Honoree receives a certificate commending her or him as an "Extraordinary Nurse."  The certificate reads: "In deep appreciation of all you do, who you are, and the incredibly meaningful difference you make in the lives of so many people."  Honorees also receive a DAISY Award pin and a beautiful and meaningful sculpture called A Healer’s Touch, hand-carved by artists of the Shona Tribe in Zimbabwe.

Bonnie Barnes, FAAN, President and Co-Founder of The DAISY Foundation said, "When Patrick was critically ill, our family experienced first-hand the remarkable skill and care nurses provide patients every day and night. Yet these unsung heroes are seldom recognized for the super-human, extraordinary, compassionate work they do.  The kind of work the nurses at VCU Health CMH are called on to do every day epitomizes the purpose of The DAISY Award.”

Vice President of Patient Care Services/Chief Nursing Officer Mary Hardin, MSN, RN, OCN, NE-BC, said, “We are proud to be among the health care organizations participating in The DAISY Award program as it is a prestigious award for nursing.  Nurses are true HEROES every day.  It’s important that our nurses know their work is highly valued, and The DAISY Foundation provides a way for us to do that.”                       

In addition to the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses, the Foundation expresses gratitude to the nursing profession internationally in more than 3,900 health care facilities and schools of nursing with recognition of direct care Nurses, Nurse-led Teams, Nurse Leaders, Nursing Faculty, Nursing Students, through the J. Patrick Barnes Grants for Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice Projects and for nurses participating in medical missions. More information is available at http://DAISYfoundation.org

"Hats Off to All"

Fire fighters across the nation
are special to us indeed
their hours are only decided
by whatever is the need.
 
Now the fires out west keep burning
and it seems they can't curtail
yet the firemen won't give up
and in time they will prevail.
 
It is a blessing to behold
to have the courage that they show
still until these fires are all put out
you will not see them go.
 
The loss of property and woodland
is very high indeed
yet these fire fighters will not give up
and in time they will succeed.
 
Now we pray for all their families
which we know that they all miss
yes now the get smoke in their eyes and exhaustion
instead of a big hug and kiss!
 
                         - Roy E. Schepp

COVID-19 Vaccination Required of VCU Health System Employees

South Hill, VA (8/9/21) –  Faced with mounting evidence of the threat posed by the COVID-19 Delta variant, and reviewing feedback from thousands of team members, we have decided to require COVID-19 vaccination for all VCU Health System team members and contractors, with few exceptions. The decision aligns our university and its health system with Governor Northam’s decision to require state employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It is also consistent with the recent actions of other academic health systems nationwide, and a growing number of health care systems in the Commonwealth.

Requiring the vaccine will protect our patients, many of whom are elderly or have health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to the effects of the virus. Everyone in our health care system has an ethical duty to do everything possible to keep them safe, including getting vaccinated. Although we’ll continue to wear masks and take other measures to prevent spreading COVID-19 to our patients, the Delta variant requires us to do more.

It also ensures the safety and the welfare of our team members and their families. Getting vaccinated will sharply reduce their risk of getting infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, and it will nearly eliminate their risk of getting severely ill or dying from the disease.

Now is the time to pivot from urging vaccination to requiring it. This is due to the sudden emergence of the Delta variant, which is more dangerous than prior strains that killed more than 600,000 Americans and millions of people worldwide. Delta is not only more contagious; it may cause more severe disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently declared that “The war has changed.” We agree.

In Virginia, predictive models indicate that if we don’t act quickly we could find ourselves back in the dark days of January and February 2021. That’s not something we want to go through again.

While we don’t want to lose a single team member over policy, but we must keep our facilities, staff, patients and guests safe from the growing threat of the Delta virus and other variants. Vaccination is the most effective way to do it.

Art Kellermann, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor and Senior Vice President for VCU Health Sciences
CEO of VCU Health System

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING CALLS FOR FASTER IMPLEMENTATION OF ANTI-ROBOCALL TECHNOLOGY

~ Herring is urging the FCC to accelerate deadline for STIR/SHAKEN adoption ~

RICHMOND(August 9, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fight back against the scourge of illegal robocalls by moving up the deadline for smaller telephone companies to implement caller ID technology. Attorney General Herring joined a bipartisan coalition of 51 attorneys general have in submitting comments to the FCC.

“Virginians continue to be plagued by illegal robocalls that are not only annoying but can also potentially scam consumers out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars,” said Attorney General Herring. “This technology has proven to be effective in reducing the number of robocalls that consumers receive, which is why I am calling on the FCC to move up the implementation date for smaller phone companies. My colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to put a stop to these annoying and illegal robocalls and protect consumers, but it’s imperative that tech companies doe their part as well.”

Under the TRACED Act, which became law in 2019, phone companies are required to implement STIR/SHAKEN technology on their networks. This caller ID authentication technology helps ensure that telephone calls are originating from verified numbers, not spoofed sources. Large companies were required to implement the technology by June 2021, and smaller phone companies were given an extension until June 2023.

However, some of the same smaller phone companies that are benefitting from this extension are also responsible for originating or facilitating high volumes of illegal robocalls that spam Americans and lead to financial or personal data loss. And without the STIR/SHAKEN technology in place, these smaller companies are failing to take a necessary step to minimize the continued onslaught of illegally spoofed robocalls that harm residents.

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues are asking the FCC to require these companies to implement the STIR/SHAKEN technology as soon as possible and no later than June 30, 2022.

Joining Attorney General Herring in submitting today’s comments are the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Virginia House and Senate Reach Agreement on Historic Court of Appeals Nominees

House Courts and Senate Judiciary to Certify Candidates During Committee Meetings Tuesday

RICHMOND, Va.: Leadership in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate announced agreement today on eight candidates to be nominated for certification and election to the Virginia Court of Appeals. 

With unprecedented cooperation between both chambers and in-depth review and vetting of all the candidates by the Virginia State Bar and several of the commonwealth’s top legal associations—including the Women’s Bar and Old Dominion Bar Associations—this historic agreement will diversify the Court to more adequately reflect the makeup of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The nominees also reflect a diverse makeup of legal practice, experience, and geographic representation, and include four women and four African-American nominees.

The agreed-upon list of eight candidates for certification include:

  • Dominique A. Callins of Front Royal
  • Doris Henderson Causey of Henrico
  • Vernida R. Chaney of Alexandria
  • Frank K. Friedman of Roanoke
  • Junius P. Fulton of Norfolk
  • Lisa M. Lorish of Charlottesville
  • Daniel E. Ortiz of Fairfax
  • Stuart A. Raphael of Arlington

On Tuesday both the House Courts Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee will meet to certify these candidates. They will then be put before the both chambers for election to the position.

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said: “The unprecedented review, and coordination between the House and the Senate has resulted in the selection of the most diverse and highly qualified candidates to be elected to the Court of Appeals in Virginia history. 

“I want to thank my colleagues in the House and Senate, especially Majority Leader Herring and Chairman Edwards, for their dedication and work in conducting a thorough process that resulted in the selection of these candidates. I would also like to thank the Virginia State Bar and other legal associations for the months of work that went into interviewing and vetting each of the candidates who applied to provide us with their crucial feedback and reviews which contributed to our selections.”

Majority Leader Dick Saslaw and Caucus Chair Mamie Locke said: “Expanding the Court of Appeals was a major victory for justice in the Commonwealth earlier this year. I’m proud to see the work we’ve put in coming to fruition, enabling Virginians to appeal any case to the Court一making sure every person has the right to a fair trial.

“Senate Democrats applaud the hard work of the Senate Judiciary and House Courts of Justice Committees on their collaboration, providing the Commonwealth with an experienced, diverse, knowledgeable, and forward-thinking bench.”

Majority Leader Charniele Herring, Courts of Justice Chair said: "We are taking a historic step forward in making our legal system more equitable, expanding people's rights, as the Court of Appeals comes in step with state appellate courts across the country. We are bringing forward an opportunity for an unprecedented level of diversity to the bench, as we move to certify these candidates. Asking for input from experts across the Commonwealth, we have a great combination in race, gender, practice area, and geography."

Judiciary Chair John Edwards said: “With eight vacancies on the Virginia Court of Appeals and many qualified applicants, the decisions made for nominations depended on thorough vetting and a respect to racial, gender, geographical and practice diversity. The new judges for the Virginia Court of Appeals will provide the kind of justice Virginians deserve in the 21st century.”

Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan, Chair of Judicial Subcommittee said: "Working collaboratively with our colleagues, we have narrowed an impressive field of applicants to some of the best legal minds Virginia has to offer.  Our process was inclusive and exhaustive, and included public input and merit-based decision making. As these nominees work their way through the public process of certification and election, the depth of legal knowledge and strength of conviction for public service that each of these individuals possess will be apparent. In the end, we will have a stronger judiciary and a stronger Commonwealth for their election.”

Senator Scott Surovell said: “Expanding the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals means every case, civil or criminal, can be heard again by a three-judge panel. This once-in-a-generation opportunity will change the Court for many years to come, ensuring Virginians attain justice. Further, expanding the Court’s jurisdiction will help maintain the Commonwealth’s rating as the #1 state for business.

“Appointing a diverse slate of judges brings in points of view from varying areas of practice, geographic locations, and life experiences. When our judicial system more closely represents the people it serves, it can be more effective and fair in the administration of justice.”

Virginia Department of Health Announces Significant Increases in Delta Variant in Virginia

(Richmond, Va.) — Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced a significant increase in the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) throughout the Commonwealth. The Delta variant is  dominant nationwide and is the most common variant in Virginia. The Delta variant spreads more than twice as easily as earlier strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  Eighty percent of infections that occurred during the week ending July 10th that were caused by a variant of concern and reported to VDH were the Delta variant. This is an increase of 45% since the week of June 19th. The more infectious delta variant is contributing to a surge of cases in Virginia.

Currently a subset of COVID-19 positive specimens are available for the specialized testing that is required to see which variant type they are. The Delta variant has been identified in all of Virginia’s five health regions.

“The Delta variant is here in Virginia, and it is hitting our unvaccinated population especially hard,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D, M.A. “We have a very effective tool to stop transmission of COVID-19: vaccination. There is no question that COVID-19 vaccination is saving lives and preventing and reducing illness. I urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Do it for your families, your friends, your neighbors, yourself, and join the millions of others who are protected.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), infections in fully vaccinated people, also known as breakthrough infections, happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated. Moreover, when these infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild. However, preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who do become infected with the Delta variant may be infectious and might spread the virus to others.

COVID-19 variants have emerged and circulated around the world throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States are effective at protecting persons  from circulating variants of the COVID-19 virus. To protect yourself and others, get vaccinated for COVID-19. 

VDH advises Virginians to: 

  • wear a mask in indoor settings even if you are vaccinated,
  • get fully vaccinated, 
  • stay at least six feet from others outside of your household, 
  • avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, 
  • wash your hands often 
  • stay home if you are infected with COVID-19, and
  • stay separate from others and get tested if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19. 

The best way to stop variant strains from developing in the first place is to stop the spread of COVID-19.  Please see the Variants of Concern (VOC) dashboard for more information about all variants of concern identified in Virginia.

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital Visitation Update

South Hill, VA (8/9/21) – Two recent changes to visitation at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) include allowing an additional adult visitor for pediatric patients and opening visitation by advanced scheduling back up at The Hundley Center. 

General Visitation Rules

  • • All visitors must be screened and provided a visitor badge or armband.
  • • All visitors must be always masked.
  • • Visitors must comply with physical distancing guidelines in all common areas.
  • • The second-floor lobby waiting area is reserved for outpatient surgical patients and their support person only, all other visitors will be asked to return to their car.
  • • All visitors will be encouraged to use hand sanitizer upon entering the facility and frequently during their stay.
  • • If patient clinical needs dictate no visitors (i.e. chemotherapy), visitors may be redirected to waiting areas.

Inpatients

• Visiting Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
• One visitor (18 or older) allowed at a time per patient for all non-COVID patients. COVID-positive patients are still not allowed to have visitors, unless they are pediatric patients.
• Labor and Delivery unit: 1 adult visitor (18 or older) at a time, allowing 1 to spend the night.
• Pediatric patients in all units: 2 adults (18 or older) visitor at a time, allowing 1 to spend the night. Parent/POA/guardian may trade off. COVID-positive pediatric patients may have 1 parent or caregiver at a time.
• Patients who are at the end of life: The number of visitors is determined by the patient’s care team.
• Special needs patients that require 24/7 assistance may have a caretaker stay with them if in the best interest of patient care.
To reach a patient, please dial (434) 584-****, followed by the four digits of the patient's room number.

Outpatients and C.A.R.E. Building Appointments

• Surgery patients may be accompanied by one adult companion.
• Patients arriving for doctor’s appointments, evaluation, or diagnostic or therapeutic procedures may be accompanied by one adult companion.

Emergency Department Patients

Visitation is currently suspended except for the following circumstances:

  • Pediatric patients: Up to 2 parents and/or legal guardians.
  • Patients who are at the end of life or critical condition: The number of visitors are determined by the patients’ care team.

Hundley Center

  • Two visitors are allowed at a time for 30 minutes, and it must be scheduled in advance. Please call (434) 584-4570 or (434) 584-4579 between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to schedule a visit for 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

It is very important that all visitors maintain appropriate physical distancing in all waiting areas.  The health and safety of all patients and staff will continue to be of the utmost importance through this pandemic. Your best defense is to make sure you and your family are vaccinated. Look for further updates as VCU Health CMH continues to make progress in the fight against COVID.

Greensville County Crash Kills One Adult and Two Children

Preliminary investigations reveal that the driver of a 2012 Ford Taurus, Raven S. Mason of Jarratt, was traveling northbound on Slagles Lake Road, when she lost control of the vehicle, ran off the roadway and struck a guardrail. After striking the guardrail, the vehicle continued down the embankment and was airborne before landing in a creek bank. Mason died upon impact. The two backseat passengers, both 10 year old females, also died upon impact and injuries sustained from the crash. 

Speed is a contributing factor in the traffic crash. 

All occupants were wearing their safety belts at the time of the incident. 

Notification has been made to family members. 

Slagles Lake Road had been shut down and blocked for the investigation. The roadway was open to traffic at 7:49 p.m.

Five ways to apply for social security benefits online

By Jacqueline Weisgarber, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Richmond, Virginia

We continue to make it easier for you to access our programs and benefits.  Our website offers a convenient way to apply for benefits online. 

You can apply online for:

  • Retirement or Spouse's Benefits– You must be at least 61 years and 9 months in age andwant your benefits to start in no more than four months.  Apply at www.ssa.gov/retireonline.
  • DisabilityBenefits – You can use our online application, available at www.ssa.gov/disabilityonline, to apply for disability benefits if you:
  • Are age 18 or older;
    • Are not currently receiving benefits on your own Social Security record;
    • Are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death; and
    • Have not been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days.  If your application was recently denied, our online appeal application, is a starting point to request a review of the determination we made.  Please visit www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.html.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)–  SSI is a federal income program funded by general tax revenues, and helps people who have little or no income and who are age 65 or older, blind, or have disabilities.  If you meet certain requirements, you may apply online at www.ssa.gov/benefits/ssi.   If you are not able to apply online, call your local Social Security office to apply.
  • Medicare– Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people age 65 or older, some people younger than 65 who have disabilities, and people with end-stage renal disease.  If you are not already receiving Social Security benefits, you should apply for Medicare three months before turning age 65 at www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare.
  • Extra Helpwith Medicare Prescription Drug Costs–People who need assistance with the cost of medications can apply for Extra Help at www.ssa.gov/i1020.

WARNER & BOOKER REINTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO LOWER PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS FOR CHILDREN

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced legislation to help lower the costs of needed medical care and prescription drugs for children. The Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act would give states the ability to purchase prescription drugs at the lowest price possible, reducing the cost of prescription drugs for children who receive coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and generating immediate savings for states and the federal government.

“It’s an absolute tragedy that in one of the richest nations in the world, families still face a steep price tag for their child’s lifesaving prescription drug,” said Sen. Warner. “This commonsense bill would cut through bureaucratic red tape and give states the ability to secure the best possible price – something that is currently forbidden under current law.”

“Skyrocketing health care costs – including prescription drug costs – have left many families unable to afford critical life-saving medication for their children,” said Sen. Booker. “Our bill will make important changes to the CHIP program, lowering drug prices for over 4 million children and helping states save money. Health care is a fundamental right and this legislation is critical to ensuring that more of our nation’s children have access to quality, affordable care.”

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides low-cost health coverage to low-income children who would otherwise be uninsured. Currently, states can either have a standalone CHIP that is separate from Medicaid, or they can expand Medicaid eligibility to achieve the same goal of providing health insurance to low-income children. States can also have a combination program.

However, states that have a standalone CHIP are not allowed to participate in the Medicaid Drug Rebate program (MDRP), which allows state Medicaid programs to purchase products from drug manufacturers at “Medicaid best price” – the lowest price offered to any other commercial payer. This means that these states are forced to pay higher prices for the same prescription drugs, which can result in higher costs for families and reduced access to medicines and other forms of needed care. In the most recent report released by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, there are more than 4 million children nationally enrolled in a separate CHIP program.

The Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act would give states the option of purchasing prescription drugs for their standalone CHIP through the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program. This would generate immediate savings for individual CHIP programs and the federal government, opening the door for states to use those excess dollars to ensure even more families and children have access to essential medical care and prescription drugs.

The Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act is endorsed by numerous organizations, including the Little Lobbyists, Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, First Focus Campaign for Children and the Children’s Hospital Association. In addition, the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families included this cost-savings concept in their January 2019 report, “How to Strengthen the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program to Address Rising Medicaid Prescription Drug Costs.”

“We are grateful to Senators Warner and Booker for reintroducing the Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act, which will extend Medicaid’s best price provisions so all CHIP programs get the medication patients need at the lowest possible price,” said Sarah Kaminer Bourland, Legislative Director at Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. “States and families across the country need relief from the burden of high drug prices and this legislation is an important step towards providing that relief to many of those who need it most.”

“We are pleased to support the Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act. We thank Senators Warner and Booker for this bill that will help lower costs for stand-alone CHIP programs and allow states to cover more kids,” said Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus Campaign for Children

A copy of the bill text can be found here. A copy of the one-page summary can be found here.

"Did We Put In Office?"

Our leaders found time and funds
to take down statues; and gravesites rearrange
yet nothing has been done to improve Baker Street
now doesn't that seem strange?
 
This is one of the biggest eyesores
that our city does proclaim
still the ones we put in office
just hang their heads in shame.
 
We direct tourist to the chamber
which is quite close indeed
yes and when they see this awful sight
a tour they will not need.
 
Now the first impression fills the mind
which is quite hard to change
it is for sure something must be done
and our leaders must arrange.
 
It is a danger to the public
and for all that do walk past
something must be done to repair
I'm sure this complaint, won't be the last!
 
                         - Roy E. Schepp

USDA Announces Dates for Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands Signups

RICHMOND, VA, July 12, 2021 –– Agricultural producers and landowners in Virginia can apply for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands signup from today until August 20. This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated signup options to provide greater incentives for producers and increased the program’s conservation and climate benefits, including setting a minimum rental rate and identifying two national priority zones.

The CRP Grassland signup is competitive, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide for annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes.

“USDA is excited to roll out our new and improved CRP Grasslands signup,” said R. Kevin Bohon, Acting State Executive Director for FSA in Virginia. “USDA is providing a bigger return on investment in terms of protecting natural resource benefits. The Grasslands signup is just one of the many tools available through CRP to help protect our nation’s working lands.”

Grasslands Signup

CRP Grasslands helps Virginia landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland, and pastureland and certain other lands, while maintaining the areas as working grazing lands. Protecting grasslands contributes positively to the economy of many regions, provides biodiversity of plant and animal populations, and provides important carbon sequestration benefits.

FSA has updated the Grasslands Signup to establish a minimum rental rate of $15 per acre, which will benefit 1,300 counties.

To focus on important wildlife corridors, FSA also identified National Grassland Priority Zones, providing extra incentives to producers for enrolling grasslands in important migratory corridors and environmentally sensitive areas – the Greater Yellowstone Elk Migration Corridor and the Severe Wind Erosion – Dust Bowl Zone. Counties within these two zones get extra ranking points as well as $5 added to their rental rate. The CRP Grasslands Ranking Factors fact sheet has additional information.

How to Sign Up

To enroll in the CRP Grasslands signup, producers and landowners should contact USDA by the August 20 deadline. Service Center staff continue to work with agricultural producers via phone, email, and other digital tools. Because of the pandemic, some USDA Service Centers are open to limited visitors. Contact your Service Center to set up an in-person or phone appointment. Additionally, more information related to USDA’s response and relief for producers can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

More Information on CRP

Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest voluntary private-lands conservation programs in the United States. It was originally intended to primarily control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. The program has evolved over the years, providing many conservation and economic benefits. The program marked its 35-year anniversary this past December.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect our nation’s lands, biodiversity, and natural resources, including our soil, air and water. Through conservation practices, USDA aims to enhance economic growth and create new streams of income for farmers, ranchers, producers and private foresters. Successfully meeting these challenges will require USDA and our agencies to pursue a coordinated approach alongside USDA stakeholders, including state, local, and tribal governments.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

$7.5B Awarded in Shuttered Venue Operators Grants

Unique program distributes +10K grants to venues impacted by COVID-19

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration reached a new milestone of successfully awarding over $7.5 billion in Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG) to more than 10,000 hard-hit live entertainment small businesses, nonprofits, and venues. The SVOG program is designed to assist in getting the nation’s cultural institutions, which are critical to the economy and were among the first to shutter, back on track.  

The SBA worked closely with the White House and other federal partners to process SVOG applications faster after the first two weeks of awards did not set the pace needed for this emergency funding. While more work is still needed to help businesses recover from the pandemic, the SBA took swift action to expeditiously process loans for SVOG and get funding into the hands of hard-hit operators.

“After making improvements to the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, the SBA is now delivering money quickly, efficiently and fairly to highly-impacted small businesses and venue operators that are critical to America’s cultural fabric and local economies,” SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman said. “When I began my tenure at the SBA, this first-of-its-kind SVOG program was not where I wanted it to be. I’m proud that, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our talented team, we have turned the ship around. America’s small businesses can rest assured that the SBA will continue to work around the clock to provide the relief that is needed to revitalize local economies and build back better from the pandemic and economic crisis.”

“I am proud to have joined Senators Cardin, Klobuchar, and others to pass the Shuttered Venue Operator Grants into law in December and add even further funding for the program in the American Rescue Plan and am so happy that the live entertainment and other cultural arts venues in New York and across the country are receiving this desperately needed financial aid,” said Majority Leader Schumer. “Over the last year, I have visited music halls, theaters and other cultural institutions throughout New York that had been forced to shutter their doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. From comedy clubs to concert halls, these cultural institutions are the true heart and soul of New York, and I cannot wait to watch, listen and laugh as they bounce back bigger and better than ever, and I’ll keep working with the SBA to get all of the program’s assistance out the door as soon as possible to help all eligible venues recover.”

“I am grateful that live venues and cultural institutions in Maryland and nationwide are beginning to receive the aid they need to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and recover from the worst economic crisis in nearly 100 years,” Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship said. “I have already heard from many venue operators in Maryland who intend to use their SVOG funds to catch up on bills, quickly rehire staff, and prepare for reopening. Last year life changed for all of us, practically overnight, so I am looking forward to the return of winding box office lines and lit-up marquees in the months ahead as our communities continue to recover from COVID-19.”  

Under Administrator Guzman's direction to make changes based on the successes of the Paycheck Protection Program and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, in approximately seven weeks, the SBA has gone from awarding just over 100 SVOGs on June 10, to more than 10,000 to date, awarding over $7.5 billion in grants, helping venues reopen and stay open. More than two thirds of the awards have gone to venues with fewer than 10 employees, helping the smallest of small businesses – a priority of Administrator Guzman.  

“Thanks to the dedicated and continuing work by the SBA’s SVOG team, and especially, the relentless efforts of our own Senator Chuck Schumer, Broadway’s plans to reopen are steadily moving forward.  The SVOG grants are imperative to Broadway’s recovery.  We credit, with gratitude, the grants that have been received by shows and also those that are forthcoming and in process.  Broadway stages remain dark, however, our amazing artists, talented workers, and excited audiences are preparing to come back in just a few short weeks, and we so look forward to the full return of Broadway.  The SBA’s Shuttered Venue Operator Grant funding is crucial to our return, and we applaud the efforts by the SBA to focus on delivering crucial funding to businesses most in need, “ said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League.

“The shuttered venue grants were meant for places like the Smith Center that employ local musicians and entertain local people,” said  Myron Martin, president and CEO for the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, Nevada. “The SBA is helping us to get back to where we want to be. We’re thankful for that.” 

Another SVOG recipient, Katherine Fritchie, owner of Garland Theater, in Spokane, Washington, shared that after she received the award she was able to successfully balance her budget. “It brings us back to where we were,” Fritchie said. “We’ve paid our debt off, and we get a cushion for our payroll.” Tyrus Joseforsky, owner of indie concert and festival promoter Flight Levelz Entertainment in Hobart, Indiana, added. “I plan to use these funds to invest in future shows and jumpstart my business, which in turn will put artists back on tour, bring revenue back to indoor and outdoor venues, put set-up and break-down crews back to work, bring customers back to the restaurants, retailers and food trucks surrounding venues…the list goes on and on. It’s a good thing for everyone.”    

With the grant funds, venues like the Downtown Cabaret Theatre Company of Bridgeport, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, are returning to operation.  “The sheer weight and excitement by the staff and friends when we got that notice of award was great cause for celebration,” Hugh Hallinan, executive producer of the Downtown Cabaret Theatre said. “The grant will enable us to have a more organized and human approach to open up and we can do it at an accelerated rate.” 

The SVOG portal remains open and funding is still available for all eligible applicants. SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET to provide technical assistance with the SVOG application portal and can be reached at 1-800-659-2955 or, for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, 1-800-877-8339.

Further, SBA’s resource partners, including SCORE Mentors, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers, are available to provide entities with individual guidance on their applications. Applicants can find a local resource partner via a zip code search at  http://www.sba.gov/local-assistance. For weekly SVOG funding data reports, visit www.sba.gov/svog.  

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant background

The SVOG program has appropriated more than $16.2 billion for grants via the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. Of these funds, at least $2 billion is reserved for eligible SVOG applications with up to 50 full-time employees. Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue up to a maximum amount of $10 million for a single grant.   

On July 22, the SBA publicly shared information via the SVOG Frequently Asked Questions about the opportunity for SVOG awardees who received less than they anticipated to request an award amount reconsideration and how those with declined applications can appeal the decision. The notifications for the appeal and award amount reconsideration opportunities are expected to begin August 2 and August 4 respectively and will remain open for two weeks. Following then and per funds remaining available, on August 23, the SBA will open the program for supplemental SVOGs for 50% of the original award amount for grantees and cap at a total SVOG award (initial and supplemental) of $10 million.

AHEAD OF SPECIAL SESSION, ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING REQUESTS FUNDING FOR COMBATING HUMAN TRAFFICKING

~ Herring has asked for funds to be included in the introduced budget to expand the OAG’s human trafficking initiatives into other jurisdictions ~

RICHMOND(July 30, 2021) – Ahead of Monday’s special session, Attorney General Mark R. Herring is asking that funds be included in the introduced budget that will expand the Office of Attorney General’s (OAG) human trafficking initiatives into other jurisdictions and provide support for victims in all corners of the Commonwealth. Currently, the OAG manages two major, successful human trafficking initiatives: the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force and the Richmond Minor Victims of Human Trafficking Project. Attorney General Herring is proposing $2 million from the American Rescue Plan to create additional human trafficking teams that will allow the OAG to hire support staff and expand its human trafficking initiatives across Virginia.
 
“I am incredibly proud of the work my team has done to combat human trafficking and support victims in the Hampton Roads and Richmond regions. It is clear that our comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach works, which is why it’s so important that we get the funding to expand our efforts statewide,” said Attorney General Herring. “Human trafficking robs its victims of their humanity and oftentimes preys on vulnerable individuals who are only looking for financial support, stability, or acceptance. By raising awareness about human trafficking and providing crucial resources, we can give victims a path towards justice and healing and help end this heinous crime in Virginia once and for all.”
 
With this funding, the OAG will be able to expand it successful human trafficking initiatives into every corner of the Commonwealth. The OAG will hire human trafficking support staff in each regional office – Central Virginia, Northern Virginia, and Southwest Virginia – in addition to the coordinators already working in Hampton Roads and Richmond to lead efforts in those regions using the same models that have already proven effective in Hampton Roads and Richmond to support victims. Additionally, the funding will allow the OAG to:
  • Create or support existing local and regional human trafficking task forces and coordinate multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) comprised of local law enforcement, local social services offices, Commonwealth’s Attorneys, local hospitals, and domestic violence service providers to address juvenile trafficking cases;
  • Provide response protocols for accessing case management services and provide training to partner agencies on the human trafficking of minors, effective forms of response and intervention, and screening methods used to identify potential victims; and
  • Heighten community awareness of human trafficking issues and engage community partners in prevention activities.
This funding will allow the OAG to expand its human trafficking services to support juveniles who are minors, expand training efforts in schools, special victims units, the hotel/motel industry, the transportation industry, construction and labor, and expand partnerships with probation and parole and university and college communities, as well as continue efforts to support the LGBTQ+, non-English speaking and Native American populations.
 
Successes of the Hampton Roads and Richmond human trafficking initiatives to date:
  • Since 2016, the multi-disciplinary task force in Hampton Roads, staffed by a coordinator from the OAG, has identified victims, promoted awareness of the realities of human trafficking, and investigated and prosecuted trafficking crimes
  • In 2020, the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force conducted 60 new investigations, made 27 arrests, and identified 52 confirmed victims of human trafficking
  • The Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force also expanded its outreach efforts by creating an LGBTQ and a Native American outreach subcommittee and coordinated an outreach initiative targeting airports and bus stations throughout the region
  • In 2020, eight juveniles who were victims of human trafficking received services through the new Richmond-area project, which has quickly become a robust program that includes case management, assistance with treatment referrals, community support, and court assistance
Attorney General Herring has made combating human trafficking in the Commonwealth a top priority. In December 2014, Attorney General Herring launched a statewide human trafficking awareness campaign to raise awareness in Virginia of human trafficking and the resources available to victims and a year later he added an online component to that campaign. In November 2016, Attorney General Herring secured a $1.45 million grant that funded the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, which then launched in January 2017. The OAG partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Samaritan House, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Virginia State Police, and law enforcement agencies from Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake for the task force. Attorney General Herring and the task force launched a regional awareness campaign in May 2018 and place billboards on major highways across Hampton Roads encouraging victims or those with information about possible human trafficking to contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline. In November 2019, Attorney General Herring and members of the Richmond Regional Human Trafficking Collaborative announced new initiatives to improve the way the Richmond region responds to human trafficking, including a new case manager position, housed in the OAG, that is focused on juvenile victims; stakeholder trainings; and expanded victims services.

Giving the Young People of Emporia a Safer and More Private Facebook/Instagram Experience

Social media is a platform for the young people of Emporia to connect with friends, and in some cases, earn money as creators and influencers. However, unwanted interactions and safety concerns can take away from their experience. 

That’s why, today, Facebook is announcing a series of changes across both Facebook and Instagram designed to protect the safety and privacy of teens in Emporia on the platforms. Specifically, the new components include:

  • Defaulting Emporia’s young people into private accounts on Instagram
  • Making it harder for potentially suspicious accounts to find young people on Instagram
    • This new technology prevents accounts associated with users under 16 from showing up in Explore, Reels or ‘Accounts Suggested For You’ for adults with potentially suspicious accounts
  • Limiting the options advertisers have, to reach young people with ads on Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger.

These changes are part of Facebook’s broader efforts to give the young people of Emporia all the things they love about social media platforms with updated safety protections, while also keeping them safe.

Of the new privacy settings changes, Facebook says, “We're testing new ways to help teens understand their privacy options and encourage them to choose private accounts. This is part of our ongoing efforts to make sure teens have a good experience on our platforms."

Facebook is using AI technology to help detect the true age of users. The company is using the data to stop adults from messaging young people that don’t follow them on Instagram. And shared that they will no longer show posts from young people’s accounts, or the accounts themselves, to adults that have shown potentially suspicious behavior. This means young people’s accounts won’t show up in Explore, Reels or ‘Accounts Suggested For You’ to these adults.

Facebook plans to apply this technology across all of its apps to create more age-appropriate experiences and safety measures for young people. Similar technology is being built to find and remove accounts belonging to people under the age of 13.

The safety of the young people of Emporia is a priority and since social media is a huge piece of their lives, it is important to make sure it stays as safe for them as possible.

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