Covid-19

The Crater Planning District Commission Announces the Establishment of a New Loan Program for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

 

The Crater Planning District Commission has established a Business Continuity Loan Program to assist existing for-profit small businesses to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.  The goal is to provide working capital for small businesses to retain employees and support other working capital needs.

The Business Continuity Loan can range in size from $10,000 to $50,000 and the term of the loan can be up to 1-year.  The interest rate is fixed at the prime interest rate which is currently 3.25%.

The small business must be located within the Crater Region:  Cities of Colonial Heights, Emporia, Hopewell and Petersburg; and the Counties of Charles City, Dinwiddie, Greensville, Prince George, Surry and Sussex.

The Crater Commission is looking forward to doing its part to assist the region’s many small businesses that have been severely impacted by COVID-19.

This loan program is in total accord with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Blueprint for Getting Virginians Back to Work initiative.

For more detailed information, please visit the Crater Commission’s website- www.craterpdc.org.

 

Farmers and Ranchers in Virginia Can Now Apply for Financial Assistance through USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Online Tools and Toll-Free Number Available to Assist Producers

RICHMOND, VA, May 26, 2020 – Agricultural producers can now apply for USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides direct payments to offset impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. The application and a payment calculator are now available online, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff members are available via phone, fax and online tools to help producers complete applications. The agency set up a call center in order to simplify how they serve new customers across the nation.

We know Virginia producers are facing a tough time now, and we are making every effort to provide much needed support as quickly as possible,” said Nivin A. Elgohary, State Executive Director for FSA in Virginia. “FSA is available over the phone and virtually to walk you through the application process, whether it’s the first time you’ve worked with FSA, or if you know us quite well.” 

Applications will be accepted through August 28, 2020. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion for vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.

“We also want to remind producers that the program is structured to ensure the availability of funding for all eligible producers who apply,” Elgohary said.

In order to do this, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date nationwide, as funds remain available.

Producers can download the CFAP application and other eligibility forms from farmers.gov/cfap. Also, on that webpage, producers can find a payment calculator to help identify sales and inventory records needed to apply and calculate potential payments.

Additionally, producers in search of one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is a good first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center.

Applying for Assistance

Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local FSA office. Those who use the online calculator tool will be able to print off a pre-filled CFAP application, sign, and submit to your local FSA office either electronically or via hand delivery. Please contact your local office to determine the preferred method. Find contact information for your local office at farmers.gov/cfap.

Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested after the application is filed. FSA has streamlined the signup process to not require an acreage report at the time of application and a USDA farm number may not be immediately needed.

Additional Commodities

USDA is also establishing a process for the public to identify additional commodities for potential inclusion in CFAP. Specifically, USDA is looking for data on agricultural commodities, that are not currently eligible for CFAP, that the public believes to have either:

  1. suffered a five percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,
  2. shipped but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channel, or
  3. not left the farm or remained unharvested as mature crops.

More information about this process is available on farmers.gov/cfap.

More Information

To find the latest information on CFAP, visit farmers.gov/cfap

or call 877-508-8364.

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.  

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

 

WARNER, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO ENSURE NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS ACTIVATED IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 RECEIVE FULL BENEFITS DURING PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in introducing legislation to ensure that all National Guard troops activated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic receive full benefits. The National Guard COVID-19 Response Stability Act would extend Title 32 authority for all troops activated in response to the crisis through the end of the public health emergency – a move that would ensure that the federal government continues covering 100 percent of the costs of this activation. Currently, states have to continue requesting support to avoid a lapse in authorities or federal funding for the troops on the frontline of this crisis. While the Trump Administration gave an extension, it cynically chose a peculiar date that was later revealed to result in a hard deployment stop at 89 days for thousands of National Guard members – one day short of the 90-day threshold to receive additional federal benefits, like access to Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

“Our nation is lucky to be able to count on the men and women of the National Guard who are stepping up during this public health crisis,” said Sen. Warner. “While we may not be able to repay them for their selflessness and courage, the very least we can do is make sure they have access to full benefits as they work to fight this deadly pandemic.”

“The Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to nickel and dime members of the National Guard would be wrong under any circumstance, but it is particularly offensive when these troops are responding to a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has already killed more than 90,000 Americans,” said Sen. Duckworth. “This legislation would ensure that all National Guard troops activated to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic are provided with the full benefits they’ve earned and will give states much-needed certainty during these uncertain times.”

Specifically, this legislation would amend federal law to authorize state governors to order members of the National Guard to active duty in connection with COVID-19 response with full federal benefits. This enhanced authority would be in place through the end of the Trump Administration’s declared public health emergency, plus an additional 30 days to allow the Guard to shift away from Title 32 operations. Most recently, the public health emergency declaration was renewed on April 26, 2020 for a period of 90 days.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Duckworth, the legislation was co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for National Guard troops during this crisis. In March, he wrote a letter urging the President to approve Governor Northam’s request to deploy the National Guard to help combat the COVID-19 outbreak in Virginia.

Rep. McEachin Hosts COVID-19: Managing Our Grief, Mental Health, Stress & Trauma

RICHMOND, VA. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) yesterday hosted COVID-19: Managing Our Grief, Mental Health, Stress & Trauma, a virtual event to discuss mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. Congressman McEachin was joined by mental health experts who provided advice and tips for constituents who are struggling with the additional daily stress and worry caused by COVID-19. 

“I am so grateful that these incredible panelists were able to join me this evening to provide much-needed advice for my constituents,” said Congressman McEachin. “This is an incredibly stressful and heartbreaking time for us all, and I wanted to host this event to make sure that my constituents have the tools they need to take care of themselves. Maintaining our mental health is so critical, but it is easy to forget to check in on yourself with so much else going on. I hope tonight was an opportunity for folks to get connected to resources they may need.”

Moderated by Jessica Lark from WTKR, the panel included: Ms. Kathy Harkey, Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Virginia; Dr. Faye Belgrave, Virginia Commonwealth University Professor of Healthy Psychology; Dr. Rebecca Vauter, Virginia Board of Psychology; Mr. Jesse Wysocki, Chief Operating Officer, The McShin Foundation; Ms. Ashley Everette Airington, Children’s Mental Health Policy Analyst, Voices for Virginia Kids; and Ms. Frederika Jones, Interim Executive Director, Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance (SAARA) of Virginia.

"We are grateful to Rep. McEachin for shining a light on the impact this pandemic has had on the mental health of children and families,” said Ashley Airington. “Supporting and protecting the emotional well-being of our children is critical now, more than ever. The good news is that nurturing relationships between children and their caregivers are the most important factor in developing resilience and overcoming the negative impacts of this collective trauma."

“As we move into a new lifestyle norm, we must have the courage to go forward,” said Frederika Jones,  SAARA Interim Executive Director. “For some, it will be right on the surface of their mindset, but for others it will require reaching deeper within themselves to muster the strength needed to deal with each new day.  Nevertheless, we must stay hopeful because the sun will still shine and as Stevie Wonders sings, ‘Tomorrow Robins Will Sing.’”

“It was an honor and a privilege to be join this diverse panel of experts in their respective fields. We know that COVID 19 is real, causing harm throughout our community and nation [and] we must not forget about those who suffer from substance use disorders or mental health struggles,” said Jesse Wysocki, McShin Foundation Chief Operating Officer. “Having these open talks and panelists of experts to discuss and answer questions is part of the solution, but we must now turn our discussion into action, doing everything we can to continue to have access to services for those with SUD and MH.”

“COVID 19 has impacted the mental health of everyone through disruption in major life events such as unemployment, financial problems, changes in living situations and routines, and changes in the health status of self or loved ones,” said Dr. Faye Belgrave, VCU Professor. “Poor mental health is directly linked to poor physical health so we must always be attentive to our mental health.  Although there are many things we cannot control about COVID 19, there are things we can control.  Let's center ourselves and be mindful of every day mental health care.

FULL VIDEO LINK

Virginia Receives USDA Approval to Join SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot Program

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that for the first time, more than 740,000 Virginians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will be able to pay for their groceries online and have them delivered, after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Virginia to participate in an innovative online purchasing pilot program. 

“This continued public health emergency has made access to healthy, affordable food challenging, particularly for Virginians who live in food deserts, have disabilities, or face transportation barriers,” said Governor Northam. “Allowing Virginia families who receive SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online and have them safely delivered to their homes will give vulnerable populations additional flexibility to put food on the table without putting themselves at unnecessary risk.”

The program will launch statewide in Virginia on Friday, May 29 with online shopping access available through the Amazon and Walmart online platforms. Retailers interested in participating the program can find more information and apply by contacting USDA. Transactions will take place using SNAP customers’ secure Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). SNAP benefits cannot be used to pay for fees of any type, such as delivery, service, or convenience fees. 

“With so many Americans already opting to stay safe at home by ordering their groceries online, it’s only right that we make every effort to ensure our most vulnerable families are also able to take advantage of these services,” said United States Senator Mark R. Warner. “After having pushed USDA to approve Virginia’s participation in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program, I’m glad to know that many more families in the Commonwealth will soon be able to access nutritious food without requiring them to leave their homes.”

“I’m grateful that following our request, the USDA has approved Virginia’s inclusion in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program,” said United States Senator Tim Kaine. “Especially at this time of great food insecurity, it’s critical that Virginians have the resources they need to safely access food.”

The pilot, which was mandated through the 2014 Farm Bill, was designed to test the feasibility of allowing USDA-approved retailers to accept online transactions. The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) administers SNAP in the Commonwealth.

“Agencies and leaders across the Commonwealth are constantly collaborating on innovative ways to meet the needs of individuals, families and communities during this pandemic,” said VDSS Commissioner S. Duke Storen. “Addressing the adaptive needs of Virginians right now, particularly expanding access to food, remains at the forefront of everything we are doing.”

Additional information about SNAP benefits in Virginia is available on the VDSS website.

Commonwealth Deploys Artificial Intelligence-Powered Online Tool to Help Virginians Self-Screen for COVID-19

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginians can now use COVIDCheck, a new online risk-assessment tool to check their symptoms and connect with the appropriate health care resource, including COVID-19 testing.

“If you are feeling sick or think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, it is important that you take action right away,” said Governor Northam. “This online symptom-checking tool can help Virginians understand their personal risk for COVID-19 and get recommendations about what to do next from the safety of their homes. As we work to flatten the curve in our Commonwealth, telehealth services like this will be vital to relieving some of the strains on providers and health systems and making health care more convenient and accessible.”

COVIDCheck is a free, web-based, artificial intelligence-powered telehealth tool that can help individuals displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19 self-assess their risk and determine the best next steps, such as self-isolation, seeing a doctor, or seeking emergency care. This resource assists in identifying users who are at higher risk of COVID-19 and can help individuals find a nearby testing site. It is not to be used in place of emergency medical care. Virginians can visit vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covidcheck to learn more and use COVIDCheck.

COVIDCheck users who say they are experiencing symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19 are screened for occupational and medical risk factors and are given one of five care levels in accordance with the Virginia Department of Health’s categories.

“Because COVID-19 can affect people differently and cause illness ranging from mild to severe, this personalized assessment tool can help people sort through symptoms and decide if they need to seek medical care,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “While COVIDCheck is not a substitute for medical advice, it can help people decide what steps to take next to protect themselves, their loved ones, and the community.”

By answering a series of questions, an individual can receive a personalized, real-time self-assessment with information and recommendations on what to do next. The recommendations, based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include advice on when to contact a medical professional or seek emergency care, next steps for care based on zip code, and permission to follow up with the individual in three days to see how the person is doing.

“We’re proud to partner with the Commonwealth of Virginia to mobilize our AI-powered health assistant to provide the most accurate and helpful information to all Virginians during this vital time,” said Andrew Le, MD, CEO and cofounder of Buoy Health, which developed COVIDCheck. “And as the Commonwealth cautiously continues its phased approach to reopen, our primary goal at Buoy is to empower its residents to make the best decisions about their health so that they may re-enter society in a responsible way—for themselves, their loved ones, and the Virginia community-at-large.”

Buoy is a digital health company developed out of the Harvard Innovation Labs by a team of doctors and data-scientists, aimed at providing personalized clinical support through technology to individuals the moment they have a healthcare concern. Buoy helps remove the fear and complexity that often confronts people as they enter the system by navigating and engaging patients intelligently. The all-on-one technology is able to deliver triage at scale with transparency, connecting individuals with the right care endpoints at the right time.

First Virginia Case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children Associated with COVID-19 Reported

Richmond, Va. —The Fairfax Health District has confirmed a case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. This is the first case of MIS-C reported in Virginia. The child was hospitalized on May 5 and has since been discharged and is recovering at home. To protect privacy, no other patient information will be disclosed.

MIS-C, previously called Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, is a new health condition associated with COVID-19. The first reports of this syndrome came from the United Kingdom in late April. U.S. cases were first reported in New York City in early May.

MIS-C may cause problems with a child’s heart and other organs. Most children with MIS-C have fever lasting several days and may show symptoms of irritability or decreased activity, abdominal pain without another explanation, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, conjunctivitis, lack of appetite, red or cracked lips, red or bumpy tongue, or swollen hands and feet.

Virginia Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A., provided information and guidance on the syndrome to health care providers in Virginia in a May 15 Clinician Letter.

“I urge all health care providers in Virginia to immediately report any patient who meets these criteria to the local health department by the most rapid means,” said Dr. Oliver. “All Virginians should take steps to avoid exposure to COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing cloth face coverings if appropriate.” Cloth face coverings are not recommended for children under 2 years old.

Parents should watch for persistent fever in their children and contact their pediatrician if a child appears especially ill.

The CDC issued a Health Advisory on May 14 about the syndrome, which may include symptoms of persistent fever, hypotension, multisystem organ involvement and elevated markers of inflammation. It is not currently known how common it may be for children to experience these symptoms.

Tim Kaine to Host Virtual Latino Small Business Roundtable in Virginia

On Friday, May 22, Senator Tim Kaine will hold a virtual roundtable with Latino small business owners in Virginia to hear about the challenges and difficulties they are facing through the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Kaine and the small business owners will also discuss Vice President Biden’s plans to help both the Latino and the small business communities in Virginia.

The roundtable will be open to the press but, as with in-person roundtables, Q&A will be reserved for voters.

LOGISTICAL INFORMATION

Virtual Latino Small Business Roundtable with Tim Kaine in Virginia

Details are subject to change

FRIDAY, MAY 22 

Event Start Time: 5:30 PM ET

Event Attendance: Members of the public who wish to participate should RSVP HERE.

Governor Northam Announces Education Work Group to Help Guide Process for Safe, Equitable Reopening of Schools

Education stakeholders will develop recommendations to ensure continuity of learning and address the needs of all Virginia students

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a diverse set of education stakeholders participating in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Work Group to help chart a path forward for determining how schools can safely reopen later this year.

The group is comprised of representatives from Virginia’s public and private early childhood, K-12, and higher education systems, and includes teachers, superintendents, parents, college presidents, state agency personnel, special education advocates, museum directors, and student perspectives. This wide variety of education stakeholders represent the whole of Virginia’s education system and come from every region of the Commonwealth.

Secretary of Education Atif Qarni formed the work group and chaired its first meeting on April 23. Since then, the work group has been focused on developing recommendations to align policies throughout the Commonwealth’s preK-20 education system and ensure continuity of learning.

“I am deeply grateful for Virginia’s educators, administrators, school nutrition workers, support staff, parents, and students for the ways they have adapted to new learning environments over the past two months,” said Governor Northam. “As we make decisions about the path forward, this panel will help ensure that we are best supporting rural students, English language learners, students of color, and students with special needs. School closures have been necessary to protect health and safety, but lost class time has a disproportionate impact on Virginia’s most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged students. That’s why equity will remain at the forefront as we determine when and how we can safely and responsibly return to in-person learning.”

The work group is chaired by Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, and is staffed by Deputy Secretary Education Fran Bradford, State Council of Higher Education Director Peter Blake, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane. These four individuals comprise the steering committee for the COVID-19 Education Work Group.

“As we begin to think about how Virginia’s education system can operate in the summer and fall, it is crucial that we have the advice of a diverse, thoughtful group of education leaders,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “This group will use their expertise to guide our approach and help ensure that all voices are heard and all recommendations are made through the lens of equity.”

Members of Virginia’s COVID-19 Education Work Group include:

Steering Committee

  • Atif Qarni, Secretary of Education, Chair of COVID-19 Education Work Group  
  • Fran Bradford, Deputy Secretary of Education for Higher Education and Museums
  • Peter Blake, Director, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
  • Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Virginia Department of Education
     

Work Group Members

  • Jenna Conway, Chief School Readiness Officer, Office of the Governor
  • Holly Coy, Assistant Superintendent for Policy, Communications, and Equity, Virginia Department of Education
  • Dr. Laurie Forlano, Deputy Commissioner for Population Health, Virginia Department of Health
  • Jennifer O. Macdonald, Director, Division of Child and Family Health, Virginia Department of Health
  • Dr. Lynn Clayton Prince, Director of Special Education, Powhatan County Public Schools and President-Elect, Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Pam Simms, Program Director, Gladys H. Oberle School
  • Dr. Donna Henry, Chancellor, University of Virginia’s College at Wise and Chair, Council of Presidents in Virginia
  • Dr. Michael Rao, President, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Taylor Reveley, President, Longwood University
  • Dr. Makola Abdullah, President, Virginia State University
  • Dr. Sharon Morrissey, Senior Vice Chancellor, Virginia Community College System
  • Dr. John Downey, President, Blue Ridge Community College
  • Dr. Eric Williams, Superintendent, Loudoun County Public Schools
  • Dr. Jared Cotton, Superintendent, Chesapeake Public Schools
  • Dr. Dennis Carter, Superintendent, Smyth County Schools
  • Kathy Burcher, Representative, Virginia Education Association   
  • Melinda Bright, Representative, Virginia Education Association
  • Dr. Travis Burns, Principal, Northumberland High School and President, Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals
  • Dr. Andrew Buchheit, Principal, T. Clay Wood Elementary School and President, Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals
  • Ann-Marie Ward, Council Treasurer, Virginia Parent Teacher Association
  • Pamela Croom, President-Elect, Virginia Parent Teacher Association
  • Teddy Martin II, Member, Henry County School Board and Regional Chair, Virginia School Boards Association
  • Karen Corbett-Sanders, Chair, Fairfax County School Board
  • Grace Creasey, Executive Director, Virginia Council for Private Education
  • Robert Lambeth, President, Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia
  • Dr. Larry Stimpert, President, Hampden-Sydney College
  • Dr. Tiffany Franks, President, Averett University
  • Dan Gecker, President, Virginia Board of Education
  • Marianne Radcliff, Representative, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
  • Jared Calfee, Executive Director, Virginia21          
  • Rich Conti, Director, Science Museum of Virginia
  • Dr. Betty Adams, Executive Director, Southern Virginia Higher Education Center
  • Ingrid Grant, Member, Governor’s African American Advisory Board
  • Hyun Lee, Member, Governor’s Asian Advisory Board
  • Diana Brown, Member, Governor’s Latino Advisory Board
  • Ashley Marshall, Chair, Virginia Council on Women
  • Shan Lateef, Rising Senior, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and Governor’s STEM Phenom Award Winner
     

On March 13, Governor Northam directed all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks in response to the spread of COVID-19. On March 23, Governor Northam was one of the first governors in the country to issue a statewide order closing schools for the remainder of the academic year. The Virginia Department of Education established the Continuity for Learning (C4L) Task Force consisting of more than 120 teachers, leaders, and collaborating educational partners across Virginia to help school divisions to develop and implement continuous learning plans in partnership with local county health departments, families, staff, and local boards of education.

Virginia’s COVID-19 Education Work Group will develop recommendations on key issues schools must address before reopening and help determine how to ensure continuity of learning for Virginia students from cradle to classroom to career. After this guidance is developed, the work group will transition to focus on long-term recovery plans to include addressing learning gaps and social emotional needs of students resulting from school closures.

In the coming weeks, Governor Northam will outline a roadmap for Virginia schools, colleges, and universities to return to in-person learning in a safe, equitable, and responsible manner. The data-driven and science-based approach will include recommendations from the COVID-19 Education Work Group, and will be coordinated with the Forward Virginia plan to gradually ease public health restrictions. The Forward Virginia plan is grounded in federal CDC guidelines, and includes specific goals to contain the spread of the virus through increased testing, contact tracing, and ensuring adequate medical capacity.

Information Regarding Economic Impact Payments for Social Security and SSI Beneficiaries with Representative Payees, and People Living in U.S. Territories

 

The Social Security Administration issued an update today about COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments (EIP) to certain groups of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries.  Beneficiaries who have their regular monthly payments managed for them by another person, called a representative payee, will begin receiving their EIPs from the IRS in late May.

Special rules apply to beneficiaries living in the U.S. territories: American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  In general, the tax authority in each territory, not the IRS, will pay the EIP to eligible residents based on information the IRS will provide to the territories.  It is anticipated that beneficiaries in the territories could begin receiving their EIP in early June.

“The Social Security Administration has been working with the IRS to provide the necessary information about Social Security and SSI beneficiaries in order to automate and expedite their Economic Impact Payments,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security.  “While millions of our beneficiaries have already received their EIPs from the IRS, we continue to work hard for those beneficiaries who are awaiting their payment from the IRS.”

For additional information about payments to beneficiaries with representative payees, please refer to www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus/#reppayee.

For the territories, people should contact their local tax authority with questions about these payments.  Please note their website may use the term “Economic Impact Payment” or “stimulus payment.”

The eligibility requirements and other information about the Economic Impact Payments can be found here: www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center.  In addition, please continue to visit the IRS at www.irs.gov/coronavirus for the latest information.

Social Security will continue to update the agency’s COVID-19 web page at www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus/ with additional information.

To get more Social Security news, follow the Press Office on Twitter @SSAPress.

 

Governor Northam Announces Phase One Guidelines to Slowly Ease Public Health Restrictions

Phase One will begin no sooner than Friday, May 15

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order Sixty-One and presented a detailed framework for the first phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to safely and gradually ease public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19. The Phase One guidelines will be implemented when the data meets the public health criteria outlined by the Commonwealth. The new executive order modifies public health guidance in Executive Order Fifty-Three and Executive Order Fifty-Five and establishes guidelines for Phase One.

The Governor’s phased approach is grounded in science and data and includes mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus through enhanced safety practices. The plan allows localities to consider delaying implementation of Phase One guidelines based on local conditions.

“I am proud of the millions of Virginians who have stayed home and helped to flatten the curve, but our work is not done,” said Governor Northam. “These guidelines represent one step forward in a gradual process, establishing the necessary modifications to business operations to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for employees and customers. When we move into this first phase, it will be important for Virginians to act cautiously—especially our most vulnerable populations, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions.”

Under Phase One, the Commonwealth will move to a Safer at Home strategy, which continues the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people and maintains recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and wearing face coverings. All businesses should make modifications to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitization of high contact surfaces, and provide enhanced workplace safety measures. 

Retail establishments will be allowed to operate at 50 percent occupancy, restaurant and beverage establishments may offer outdoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, personal grooming services may begin operating with one patron per service provider, and fitness centers may offer outdoor exercise services. Campgrounds may also begin taking reservations for short-term stays.

Places of worship have had a 10-person limit and have been allowed to hold drive-in services allowed. In Phase One, drive-in services may continue, and services may be held inside at 50 percent capacity. Specific guidelines for religious services can be found here.

Many of the restrictions put in place by Executive Order Fifty-Three will remain in place in Phase One. Entertainment and public amusement venues will remain closed and beaches will continue to be open only for exercise and fishing. Childcare centers remain open for children of working families. Overnight summer camps will remain closed in Phase One.

See more about the changes in Phase One below:

Phase One guidelines for specific sectors are available here or at virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia.

View the graphs and slides from the Governor’s presentation here

The full text of Executive Order Sixty-One and Order of Public Health Emergency Three is available here.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FIGHTS DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTHCARE DURING COVID-19

~ Coalition of 24 attorneys general are urging the Trump Administration to not finalize a rule change that would eliminate protections against discrimination for women, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable populations ~

RICHMOND (May 1, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of 24 states in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging it not to finalize its proposed rule during COVID-19 that would allow discrimination in providing healthcare. The “Nondiscrimination in Health and Health Education Programs or Activities” (Section 1557 Rule) is an antidiscrimination provision that prohibits discrimination in healthcare based on gender, race, ethnicity, sex, age or disability. If finalized, the proposed changes to this provision would seriously undermine the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critical anti-discrimination protections at a time when they are most needed to help address the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“No one should ever be afraid of being discriminated against by a healthcare provider, especially during a national health crisis,” said Attorney General Herring. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color in Virginia and around the country, exacerbating the racial and ethnic disparities in our healthcare system. We cannot allow the Trump Administration to make it easier for healthcare providers to discriminate against their patients.”

The proposed rule would roll back anti-discrimination protections for communities of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, those with limited English proficiency, and people with disabilities by undermining critical legal protections that guarantee healthcare as a right. Data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is already exacerbating racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare that the ACA attempted to address, particularly in states that have not expanded Medicaid. Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted, and recently more than 100 national and local organizations signed on to an open letter to the healthcare community about how COVID-19 may pose an increased risk to the LGBTQ population. HHS itself has long noted that discrimination within the healthcare system contributes to poor coverage and health outcomes, and exacerbates existing health disparities in underserved communities. Individuals who have experienced discrimination in healthcare often postpone or forgo needed healthcare, resulting in adverse health outcomes.  
 
In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that moving forward with this rule change in the midst of this unprecedented healthcare crisis will create unnecessary confusion and administrative burdens for state agencies, healthcare providers, and patients at a time when the healthcare system is battling to save lives. Data suggests that increased access to healthcare could assist with prompt COVID-19 detection and increase early treatment, which helps diminish spread of the disease. For these reasons, the coalition warns the Trump Administration that making this major regulatory change in the midst of the current crisis is not only irresponsible, it is potentially deadly.

 

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending this letter are the attorneys general of California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Governor Northam Announces Expansion of Payment Relief for Student Loan Borrowers

Borrowers are encouraged to contact their loan servicer immediately

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia has secured relief options for more than 200,000 Virginians with privately held student loans. The payment relief is the result of a new initiative by Virginia and several other states to work with the major private student loan servicers to expand on protections for federal student loan borrowers through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“Virginians are facing unprecedented hardships as a result of this ongoing public health crisis, and student loan borrowers should not have to deal with the added pressure of how they are going to make their loan payments,” said Governor Northam. “This initiative will provide an important financial lifeline and repayment flexibility to Virginia residents who were not eligible for relief under the CARES Act.” 

The federal CARES Act provided much-needed relief for students with federal loans, including the suspension of monthly payments, interest, and involuntary collection activity until September 30, 2020. However, millions of student loan borrowers with loans made by private lenders and federal loans not owned by the U.S. Government were left out. 

Under this initiative, Virginians with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) loans, Perkins loans, or privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief. Borrowers in need of assistance must immediately contact their student loan servicer to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances. Relief options include:

  • Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance

  • Waiving late payment fees

  • Ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting

  • Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days

  • Working with borrower to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income-based repayment

These options will provide short-term relief for borrowers with significant changes in their income, which is advisable over the option of non-payment which can lead to default. Borrowers should note that these solutions will impact the terms and conditions of the loans. Before exercising these options, carefully consider the impact of the interest that accrues during the 90-day forbearance and how it will extend the repayment schedule for the loans.

“Borrowers did not have a choice in whether their FFEL loans were held by the federal government or by the commercial lender, and yet 65 percent of all FFEL loans are not eligible for the CARES Act relief,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “The principle of equity demands that we provide relief for all federal borrowers, regardless of whether the federal government or a commercial lender backs the loan.”

The Office of the Qualified Education Loan Ombudsman at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) is responsible for helping Virginia student borrowers understand their rights and responsibilities. The Student Loan Advocate serves as a liaison between student loan borrowers and loan servicers or other agencies, helping them explore repayment options and aiding in the resolution of complaints against loan providers.

“As a result of this collaboration with servicers, lending institutions for privately held loans, and several other states, we are pleased to expand the relief options for Virginia’s student loan borrowers who are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Virginia’s Student Loan Advocate Scott W. Kemp.

Other states in the initiative include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington.

Private student loan servicers providing relief include:

  • Aspire Resources, Inc.
  • College Ave Student Loan Servicing, LLC
  • Earnest Operations, LLC
  • Edfinancial Services, LLC
  • Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation
  • Lendkey Technologies, Inc.
  • Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA)
  • Navient
  • Nelnet, Inc.
  • Scratch
  • SoFi Lending Corp.
  • Tuition Options, LLC
  • United Guaranty Services, Inc.
  • Upstart Network, Inc.
  • Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA)
  • Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC)

Borrowers can visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid or call Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 or 1-800-730-8913 (TDD) to determine the types of federal loans they have and who their servicers are. Borrowers with private student loans can check their monthly billing statements for contact information. Borrowers can also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here.

Borrowers experiencing trouble with their student loan servicer or looking to better understand the implications of these relief options are encouraged to contact Virginia’s Student Loan Advocate at studentloan@schev.edu or (804) 786-2832.

For additional information about relief options for federal loan borrowers, visit schev.edu/studentloan.

Update to School Lunches during Coronavirus Emergency

 

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.  We will bus meals to certain locations throughout the school district.

Please continue to check the division’s media outlets for updates.

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

 

 Location      

  Days of Service

Greensville County High School

403 Harding Street, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.–12:00 pm

Old Brink School

Brink Road, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.–9:15 am

Skippers Post Office

5334 Skippers Road, Skippers, VA 23879

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 9:30 am.–9:45 am

Cain’s Mobile Home Park

299 Liberty Road, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

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

Brook Ridge Apartments

1325 Skippers Road, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 10:05-10:20 am

Washington Park Store

29 Easter Street, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 10:30 am.­­-10:45 am

Meherrin River Park

1001 Meherrin Park Road, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 10:55 am.–11:05 am

Spring Hill Village Mobile Home Park (Both sides)

Lowground Road, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 11:10 am.–11:25 am

Falling Run Apartments

South Main Street, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 11:30 am.–11:45 am

Purdy Store

14 Smokey Ordinary Road, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.–9:15am

Jarratt Ball Park

South Braxton Ave, Jarratt VA 23867

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 9:30 am.–9:45 am

Blanks Lane

Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 9:55 am.–10:10 am

Greensville Elementary School

1011 Sussex Drive, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 10:20 am.–10:45 am

Woodruff Store

5559 Pleasant Shade Drive, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 9:00 am.–9:15 am

Scottsdale Trailer Court

Carter Road, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 9:20 am.–9:35 am

MS 58 Plaza

1001 Pleasant Shade Drive, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 9:40 am.–9:55 am

Reese Village

311 Bond Court, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 10:05 am.–10:20 am

Northwood Village

300 Lewis Street, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 10:25 am.–10:40am

McDonald’s Bus Parking Lot

905 Market Drive, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 10:45 am.–10:55 am

Top Hand Foundation

203 W Atlantic Street, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 11:00 am.–11:15 am

Unkle Odie’s

121 Courtland Road, Emporia, VA 23847

May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th

Breakfast & Lunch 11:25 am.–11:40 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.     

Governor Northam Acts to Ensure Liability Protections for Healthcare Workers

Executive order reinforces statutory liability protections for healthcare providers during COVID-19 emergency

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today signed Executive Order Sixty, which reinforces certain existing statutory liability protections for Virginia healthcare workers. Due to COVID-19, public and private healthcare providers are operating with limited resources and may be forced to serve patients outside of conventional standards of care.

“Virginia’s healthcare workers are heroes,” said Governor Northam. “We must ensure that they can continue to provide high-quality and compassionate care during this tremendously challenging time.” 

Virginia’s code offers protections for healthcare workers and first responders in cases of emergency. This order clarifies that these statues protect healthcare workers operating during the COVID-19 crisis. Nothing in this order prevents liability in the case of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

The full text of Executive Order Sixty is available here.

WARNER, KAINE APPLAUD MORE THAN $1.8 MILLION IN FUNDING FOR RURAL VIRGINIA HOSPITALS

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $1,854,974 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assist the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in supporting rural hospitals across the Commonwealth as they combat the COVID-19 crisis. The federal funding was made possible through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which allocated $150 million to assist hospitals funded through the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP) respond to this public health emergency.

“Hospitals everywhere are being squeezed during this pandemic, but those in rural areas face an additional set of challenges as they strive to make the most of limited resources to treat patients and fight this crisis,” said the Senators. “We are very pleased to see this funding go towards helping rural hospitals in Virginia keep their doors open to the community and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Per the CARES Act, this flexible funding can be used to expand testing and laboratory services as well as to purchase of personal protective equipment to minimize COVID-19 exposure. 

The funding was awarded through the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP) which helps states support rural hospitals with 49 beds or fewer. SHIP allows small rural hospitals to become or join accountable care organizations (ACOs), participate in shared savings programs, and purchase health information technology (hardware and software), equipment, and/or training to comply with quality improvement activities such as advancing patient care information, promoting interoperability, and payment bundling.

Supplemental Security Income Recipients, Act Now – Go to IRS.gov – A Message from Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul

Action Needed for People Receiving SSI with Dependents and Who Do Not File Tax Returns to Receive $500 Per Child Payment

“Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who don’t file tax returns will start receiving their automatic Economic Impact Payments directly from the Treasury Department in early May.  People receiving SSI benefits who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes, and have qualifying children under age 17, however, should not wait for their automatic $1,200 individual payment.  They should immediately go to the IRS’s webpage at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here and visit the Non-Filers: Enter Your Information section to provide their information.  SSI recipients who have dependent children and did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes need to act by Tuesday, May 5, in order to receive additional payments for their eligible children quickly. 

By taking this proactive step to enter information on the IRS website about them and their qualifying children, they will also receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment.  If people in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, their payment at this time will be $1,200 only.  They would then be required to file a tax year 2020 tax return to obtain the additional $500 per eligible child.

I urge SSI recipients with qualifying children and who do not normally file taxes to take action now.  Immediately go to IRS.gov so that you will receive the full amount of the Economic Impact Payments you and your family are eligible for.

Lastly, a word of caution.  Be aware of scams related to the Economic Impact Payments. There is no fee required to receive these payments.  Don’t be fooled.

Visit the agency’s COVID-19 web page at www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus/ for important information and updates.”

Click here to view the IRS press release about this important issue.

Governor Northam Extends Ban on Elective Surgeries, Closure of DMV Offices

Virginia State Police also directed to take additional administrative action under expanded executive directive

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today extended the current ban on elective surgeries by one week, until May 1, and the closure of Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) public-facing offices by two weeks, until May 11. Virginia State Police are directed to continue suspending the enforcement of motor vehicle inspections and take several additional measures through July 31.

The ban on elective surgeries will continue while the Governor and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA continue to evaluate, in conjunction with hospitals and other medical facilities, how to safely ease restrictions on non-essential medical procedures, and the availability of personal protective equipment.

“My top priority is protecting public health, and that includes ensuring that our frontline medical staff have the equipment they need to stay safe as they treat Virginians who are sick,” said Governor Northam. “We have increased our supply of PPE, but before we allow elective surgeries to resume, we must first be assured that the doctors, nurses, and medical staff who are fighting this virus or conducting emergency surgeries have the necessary supplies. We are working with medical facilities on plans to ensure that we can resume elective surgeries safely and responsibly.”

The public health emergency order does not apply to any procedure if the delay would cause harm to a patient. The order also does not apply to outpatient visits in hospital-based clinics, family planning services, or emergency needs. The full text of Public Health Emergency Order Two as amended is available here. View the Frequently Asked Questions Guide here.

Hospitals continue to treat emergency patients and perform essential surgeries, and Virginians should feel safe going to hospitals if they are experiencing a medical emergency, such as a heart attack. Governor Northam also amended Executive Order Fifty-Seven to allow licensed physician’s assistants with two or more years of clinical experience to practice without a collaborative agreement. The text of the amended executive order is available here.

Governor Northam also extended Executive Directive Seven, which closed Virginia’s 75 DMV offices and its mobile units to the public and extended the validity of driver’s licenses and vehicle credentials that were due to expire. Today’s action decrees that those credentials will be valid through July 31. Virginians who need to renew a license or vehicle registration are encouraged to do so online. Read the full text of Executive Directive Seven here.

Governor Northam expanded Executive Directive Eight, directing the Virginia State Police to suspend enforcement of the time period in which new Virginia residents must get a driver’s license or register their vehicles, the expiration of temporary license plates, and the time period in which temporary residents may operate vehicles with out-of-state plates. This directive continues the suspension of enforcement of motor vehicle inspections by Virginia State Police. While local law enforcement may still issue citations for expired vehicle inspections, Governor Northam encourages them to refrain from doing so during this pandemic. The directive is in effect until July 31. Read the full text of Executive Directive Eight here.

Act Now – Go to IRS.gov – A Message from Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul

Action Needed for Social Security Beneficiaries with Dependents and Who Do Not File Tax Returns to Receive $500 Per Child Payment

 “Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who don’t file tax returns will start receiving their automatic Economic Impact Payments directly from the Treasury Department soon.  People receiving benefits who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes, and have qualifying children under age 17, however, should not wait for their automatic $1,200 individual payment.  They should immediately go to the IRS’s webpage at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here and visit the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here section to provide their information.  Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability insurance beneficiaries with dependent children and who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes need to act by Wednesday, April 22, in order to receive additional payments for their eligible children quickly.  SSI recipients need to take this action by later this month; a specific date will be available soon.

By taking this proactive step to enter information on the IRS website about them and their qualifying children, they will also receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment.  If beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, their payment at this time will be $1,200.  People would then be required to file a tax year 2020 tax return to obtain the additional $500 per eligible child.

I urge Social Security and SSI recipients with qualifying children who do not normally file taxes to take action now.  Immediately go to IRS.gov so that you will receive the full amount of the Economic Impact Payments you and your family are eligible for.

People with Direct Express debit cards who enter information at the IRS’s website should complete all of the mandatory questions, but they may leave the bank account information section blank as Treasury already has their Direct Express information on file.

Additionally, any new beneficiaries since January 1, 2020, of either Social Security or SSI benefits, who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, will also need to go to the IRS’s Non-Filers website to enter their information as they will not receive automatic payments from Treasury.”

Governor Northam Announces Expansion of ‘Virtual Virginia’ to Support Distance Learning During School Closures

New resources available for K-12 schools and teachers

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a dramatic expansion of Virtual Virginia, the Virginia Department of Education’s existing online learning system, to allow every teacher in the Commonwealth to host virtual classes while schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. These resources include a platform that enables all Virginia public school teachers to share lessons and activities with their students through June 30.

“While there is no perfect substitute for in-person classroom instruction, this is an unprecedented public health crisis and we must do everything we can to ensure all children have equitable learning opportunities,”  said Governor Northam . “I want to thank our educators, school administrators, and superintendents for their extraordinary efforts to keep students connected and learning. The expansion of Virtual Virginia will help ensure that the closure of schools and interruption of formal instruction this spring does not lead to a widening of achievement gaps.”

Virtual Virginia will expand its offerings to include elementary and middle school content as an option for students to learn content missed this spring. Courses will begin in May and the new course content will be available to any school division that enrolls students and teachers in the program, at no cost to the division.

Virtual Virginia content can be loaded onto devices for use by students in homes without sufficient internet access to support online learning. The expansion does not affect the more than 6,000 students already enrolled in one or more of Virtual Virginia’s 81 high school-level courses.

“The expansion of Virtual Virginia will provide additional options for school divisions to present the instruction and content that they are unable to provide this spring in traditional classroom settings,”  said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane . “Access to the Virtual Virginia platform will be especially helpful for teachers and students in school divisions without robust distance learning systems.”

The expansion of Virtual Virginia is the third major action the Commonwealth has taken within the last week to mitigate the impact of school closures on students.

Today, Monday, April 13, marks the launch of “VA TV Classroom” by four Virginia public media stations. Blue Ridge PBS, VPM, WETA, and WHRO Public Media worked closely with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to create the programming to provide teacher-led, on-air instruction aligned with the Commonwealth’s academic standards for students who are unable to access other distance learning options.

In an effort to support Virginia educators, VDOE established the Continuity for Learning (C4L) Task Force consisting of more than 120 teachers, leaders, and collaborating educational partners across Virginia. Working with the C4L Task Force, VDOE launched Virginia Learns Anywhere, a hub of resources and recommendations to reinforce much-needed structure while also empowering individual teachers to support students in learning remotely. The C4L Task Force encourages divisions to develop and implement continuous learning plans in partnership with local county health departments, families, staff, and local boards of education.

Virginia Learns Anywhere includes a guidance document for teachers and schools on providing equitable learning opportunities for students and preventing the widening of achievement gaps and meet the social and emotional needs of students while schools are closed. Sample instructional modules cover essential knowledge and skills for all content areas and grade levels and provide recommendations on integrating the skills and attributes known as the “5 C’s” (critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship) into distance learning.

A comprehensive list of resources, guidance, and support documents for K-12 public schools in Virginia during the COVID-19 school closures is available here. Find answers to frequently asked questions here.

Governor Northam, University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute, RAND Corporation Present Infectious Disease Modeling on Impact of COVID-19 Mitigations in Virginia

Modeling suggests social distancing efforts have slowed the spread of the virus in the Commonwealth

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam, in partnership with researchers from the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute and the nonprofit RAND Corporation, released new infectious disease modeling on the impact of COVID-19 mitigations in Virginia.

Current models presented during a briefing held yesterday show that social distancing efforts beginning in mid-March have paused the growth of the COVID-19 epidemic in the Commonwealth. While data and testing remain limited, current trends suggest that Virginia’s statewide hospital bed capacity will be sufficient in the immediate future.

“We are proud to be working with some of the top minds in the country on these projections,” said Governor Northam. “While the data is limited, we can draw a few key conclusions: First, social distancing is important, and it’s working in Virginia. Second, while we continue to work closely with our hospital systems and other health care partners to prepare for a potential surge in acute cases, we are optimistic about our statewide hospital bed capacity. Finally, it’s clear we need to be responsible about how we ease restrictions, so we can keep Virginians safe and protect public health.” 

“From the beginning, Governor Northam has made it clear that everything we do must be grounded in science, public health expertise, and data,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, M.D. “These models change every day, but we can use various models to help inform a range of outcomes we may be facing so we can make sure that Virginia is ready for all possible scenarios. Like every other state and many other countries, we are preparing for how we can move forward in a way that does not trigger another medical surge.”

Key takeaways from infectious disease models developed by the UVA Biocomplexity Institute include:

  • Current social distancing efforts starting March 15 have paused the growth of the epidemic in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In this scenario, “paused” growth means that the rate of new cases is holding steady rather than increasing.

  • Current trends suggest that Virginia’s statewide hospital bed capacity will be sufficient in the near future.

  • Lifting social distancing restrictions too soon can quickly lead to a second wave.

To understand the impact of COVID-19 mitigations in Virginia, the UVA Biocomplexity Institute developed a model of the pandemic that incorporates disease dynamics such as transmissibility and incubation period as well as population density and social behavior. The Institute modeled five potential scenarios, exploring slowing growth vs. pausing growth with social distancing in place until April 30 and June 10 compared to no mitigation.  

“Currently, it appears as if the Commonwealth of Virginia is tracking with the pause scenario, which means that the residents of Virginia are doing an excellent job with mitigation,” said Bryan Lewis, Research Associate Professor for the Network Systems Science and Advanced Computing division for the Institute. “Even without perfect projections, we can confidently draw conclusions. We know that social distancing is working and lifting restrictions too early can lead to a second surge. We will continue to improve our models as more data become available. We plan to incorporate outcomes specific by age, integrate the role of seasonality, and analyze mitigation techniques such as a Test-Trace-Isolate approach.”

The UVA Biocomplexity Institute has been on the forefront of epidemic modeling and mitigation since 2002, supporting the U.S. federal government and other countries through several epidemics, including planning for H5N1, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the MERS outbreak of 2012, and the Ebola outbreaks of 2014 and 2019. Institute researchers have worked in partnership with U.S. government agencies since early 2020 to inform evidence-based decision making for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Several groups have produced models to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic might progress and to explore potential policy options,” said Carter Price, a senior mathematician at the RAND Corporation. “Each of these models has strengths and weakness, and they are likely to evolve as more and better data become available. We are helping the leadership of the Commonwealth of Virginia assess the different models so that policy can be made with the best available information.”

Additional information, including slides from yesterday’s briefing are available here. The full video of the briefing is posted here.

Virginia Uses Genetic Technology to Combat COVID-19

~State public health laboratory is one of the first in the nation to do this work~

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Department of General Services’ (DGS) Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) is one of the first public health labs in the nation to use genetic technology to help public health officials better understand and track the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen prevention and response efforts.

DCLS is using next-generation sequencing to genetically decode some Virginia samples that contain the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. Looking at this genetic fingerprint can help public health officials track how the virus is changing and provide insights into how it is being transmitted.

“Advances in genetic sequencing allow us to track and analyze COVID-19 better than previous outbreaks,” said Governor Northam. “This innovative technology, combined with the work of our public health laboratory and epidemiologists around the Commonwealth, will help us understand the virus, how it spreads, and how it may change. And that will give us more tools to fight it.”

DCLS is working alongside the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and international public health and university partners using specialized lab equipment and computer software to piece together the genetic makeup of the virus found in COVID-19 patients. DCLS is working collaboratively to create a library that stores the information of not only the positive samples it identifies, but also those tested at private facilities, healthcare systems, and universities in Virginia.

Hidden in the genetic makeup of the virus are clues to its origin. Soon after the virus appeared in China, scientists used sequencing to tease out its genetic information and made that information available to the international public health community. As the virus travels from one person to another, it makes copies of itself and sometimes makes small genetic changes called mutations. Scientists can read these mutations like a road map, tracing how cases are related.

Next-generation sequencing generates enormous amounts of data, which is analyzed by specialized bioinformaticians at DCLS. The lab shares the data with public health officials and uploads it to GISAID, an online repository where genomic data it is openly available to epidemiologists and virologists around the globe. Nextstrain, an online resource for scientists to visually track the genomics of the virus, creates diagrams that favor family trees showing the evolutionary relationships between different samples collected throughout the world.

“This genetic fingerprint gives us tremendous insight into this novel virus, helping us understand where Virginia cases originated and how they are being transmitted in our communities,” said DCLS Director Dr. Denise Toney. “Providing this information in real-time is unbelievably valuable for public health officials as they determine how to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in our communities.”

In Virginia, the sequences uploaded so far show evidence of multiple introductions of the virus into Virginia communities, suggesting that the emergence of COVID-19 is due to multiple distinct events. This is suggested by looking at the similarity of the virus in Virginia to the virus sequences obtained from Asian and European patients. There is also clear indication of person-to-person spread within suspected COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Epidemiologists at the Virginia Department of Health can use these data during investigations of outbreaks in nursing homes and other settings to determine whether all of the cases originated from the same source or multiple sources,” said Virginia State Epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake.

For more information, visit the DGS website at dgs.virginia.gov, including this Next-Generation Sequencing in Virginia document that explains more about how DCLS is using genetic technology to combat COVID-19 in Virginia.

Governor Northam Announces Additional Actions Providing Relief for Restaurants and Distilleries Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic

~Executive directive defers collection of annual fees for ABC-issued licenses and permits, allows delivery of mixed beverages~

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today issued an executive directive authorizing the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) to defer annual fees for licenses and permits that would be up for renewal through June. The Governor also directed the Virginia ABC to allow establishments with mixed beverage licenses, such as restaurants and distilleries, to sell mixed beverages through takeout or delivery, effective at midnight Thursday.

Under the Governor’s executive directive, the Virginia ABC will defer the collection of license renewal fees for 90 days from original expiration date for establishments with licenses expiring in March, April, May, and June. Any penalties that would normally be associated with the late payment of such fees will be waived. If a business loses their license, they would have to go back through the application process, which takes at least 30 days. This deferral will allow more than 6,000 licensed retail, wholesale and manufacturing businesses to reopen and conduct business more quickly once the crisis is passed. An estimated $4.5 million in payments will be deferred.

“This unprecedented health crisis has had a tremendous impact on businesses across the Commonwealth, and restaurants have been hit especially hard,” said Governor Northam. “Allowing restaurants and distilleries that remain open to sell mixed beverages with takeout or delivery orders will help them augment their revenue streams, so they can continue serving their customers and employing Virginians. These actions will give establishments with mixed beverage licenses greater flexibility to operate while their dining rooms are closed.”

Many Virginia restaurants have pivoted from dine-in establishments to a combination of takeout, delivery, or makeshift drive-thrus in an effort to maintain operations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These establishments often rely on alcohol sales to meet profit margins, and this temporary privilege will support restaurants that have lost a substantial stream of revenue from the sale of mixed beverages, and distilleries that have been unable to provide their products to the public and suffered financial losses.

“These deferrals will allow businesses to continue to operate without concern over choosing between keeping an employee or renewing a license,” said Virginia ABC Chief Executive Officer Travis Hill. “Without this relief, some closed businesses would be in the position of paying a fee for a license they can’t exercise or risk losing their license. Virginia ABC is committed to supporting retailers, restaurants and their employees during this pandemic.”

Earlier this week, Virginia ABC announced temporary in-state direct to consumer shipping privileges for local distilleries to provide industry members both small and large with a mechanism to get their product to consumers.

On March 20, Virginia ABC adjusted licensing regulations to permit businesses with only on-premise licenses to exercise off-premise privileges such as allowing the sale of wine or beer in sealed containers for curbside pickup in a designated area (parking lot, etc.), and delivery of those products to customers’ homes without needing a delivery permit. In order for licensed businesses to use this feature, both curbside pickup and delivery must be facilitated by a customer’s electronic order either online, over the phone or through an app.

Additionally, licensees with off-premise privileges, including breweries, farm wineries and wineries were allowed to sell products for curbside pickup in a designated area or deliveries to customers’ homes without obtaining an additional delivery permit. Distillery stores were enabled to deliver products to customers seated in their vehicle on the premises or in the parking lot of the distillery.

The full text of Executive Directive Ten is available here.

Visit abc.virginia.gov/covid-19 to learn more about actions Virginia ABC has taken in response to COVID-19. For additional information and resources to support Virginians impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus.

*CONSUMER ALERT* ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING URGES VIRGINIANS TO REMAIN WARY OF COVID-19 SCAMS

~ Scammers are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to try and take money from hardworking Virginians ~
 
RICHMOND (April 1, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today issued a consumer alert urging Virginians to continue to be wary of COVID-19-related scams including federal stimulus related scams, cyber scams, telephone and text messaging scams, counterfeit product offers, bogus door-to-door tests and virus-related products, and phony charity donation requests.
 
“The sad truth is that we continue to see bad actors in Virginia and across the country taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and trying to scam money from people,” said Attorney General Herring. “I again want to urge all Virginians to remain vigilant during this time and use common sense when you encounter seemingly too good to be true offers either online, over the phone or in person. Before purchasing any coronavirus related products or donating to any charities please do your research and make sure that you are giving your money to a legitimate business or organization.”
 
Last week, Attorney General Herring warned of scammers trying to get personal information as part of a new federal stimulus payment scam. There have been reports of scammers using the news that, as part of the federal stimulus package, the government will be sending one-time payments to millions of Virginians and Americans as an opportunity to try and steal personal information. These phishing scams will likely ask for things like bank account information under the guise of direct depositing money from the stimulus package into your bank account. Also, remember that the government will not ask you to pay any money up front to get a stimulus check. So if someone asks you to pay something, it’s a scam.
 
Utility or Government Imposter Scams
Many people are understandably very concerned when they get an e-mail, letter or phone call from someone identifying themselves as a representative of a government agency or one of their utility companies. Scammers are constantly improving their techniques to fool their intended victims into thinking they work for the government or utility, including fake identification and spoofed phone numbers on Caller ID. This scam employs the fear factor to lead you to part with your money or provide financial information to them. They may even threaten to have you arrested or cut off your electricity or water if you do not comply.
 
If someone reaches out to you saying they are from a government agency or a utility company DO NOT give your information to them over the phone. Instead find a legitimate phone number on the utility company or the government agency’s website and call them back to check and see if they actually need you to send them something.
 
Cyber Scams
Look out for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and other healthcare organizations, offering to share information about the virus. Do not open attachments or click on links within unknown emails, as scammers are using phony COVID-19 tracking websites to infect electronic devices with malware, putting residents at risk for identity theft and financial exploitation.
 
Take extra precaution to avoid spoofed or phony websites by only visiting websites with clearly distinguishable URL addresses. Scammers seek to exploit individuals by directing web traffic to similar, but falsely identified website names where they can provide misinformation or attempt to gain consumers’ personal information or finances in exchange for pandemic updates.
 
Be on the lookout for emails asking for the verification of personal data, including Medicare or Medicaid information, in exchange for receiving economic stimulus funds or other benefits from the government.  Government agencies are NOT sending out emails asking for residents’ personal information in order to receive funds or other pandemic relief opportunities.
 
Telephone and Text Messaging Scams
If you find that you’ve answered a robocall – Hang Up. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are calling with offers involving everything from COVID-19 treatments and cures, to work-from-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will direct you to a live operator or even remove you from their call list, but it also might lead to more robocalls.
 
Similar to email phishing scams, text messages from unknown sources may offer hyperlinks to what appears to be automated pandemic updates, or interactive infection maps.  These are just two examples of ways scammers can install malware on your mobile electronic device, putting you at increased risk for identity theft and financial exploitation.
 
Counterfeit Product Offers & High Demand Goods
Ignore offers for COVID-19 vaccinations and home test kits. There are currently no vaccines, pills, medications, or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure the Coronavirus disease. This applies to offers made online, in stores, by electronic message, or over the phone. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not authorized any home test kits for COVID-19.
 
As many have seen firsthand, some consumer products are in extreme demand. Household cleaning products, sanitizers, personal hygiene products, and health and medical supplies may be offered via online or in-person sellers aiming to capitalize on under supplied or unavailable products. When buying online, be sure to research the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” If everything checks out, pay by credit card as opposed to debit, and keep a record of your transaction. 
 
If you are concerned about price gouging in your area, please reach out 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.
 
Bogus Door to Door Tests and Virus-related Products
To ensure your personal safety, DO NOT answer the door or allow into your home or residence any unknown individuals or business representatives moving door-to-door offering to sell consumer products, medical kits, vaccines, cures, whole-home sanitization, or in-person COVID-19 testing. There are no FDA approved at-home tests, medicines, cures, vaccines, prescriptions or other coronavirus-related products and anything like this that someone is trying to sell is a scam.
 
Phony Charities & Donation Requests
Coming together in a time of need and extreme hardship is testament to the kindness of Virginians; however, when disasters and life changing events such as the current pandemic occur, be cautious as to where donations are going. 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. Be especially cautious if you do not initiate contact with the charity. Beware of "copy-cat" names that sound like reputable charities. Some scammers use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations.
 
Crowdfunding sites are particularly popular. Here are a few things to remember:
  • 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.
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.
 
Remember these tips to avoid becoming a victim:
  • Never wire money or send cash or a pre-paid card—These transactions are just like sending someone cash! Once your money is gone, you can’t trace it or get it back.
  • Don’t give the caller any of your financial or other personal information—Never give out or confirm financial or other sensitive information, including your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you know exactly who you're dealing with. Scammers can use your information to commit identity theft. If you get a call about a debt that may be legitimate — but you think the collector may not be — contact the company to which the caller claims you owe money to inquire about the call.
  • Don’t trust a name or number—Scammers use official-sounding names, titles, and organizations to make you trust them. To make the call seem legitimate, scammers also use internet technology to disguise their area code or generate a fake name on caller ID. So even though it may look like they’re calling locally or somewhere in the United States, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Join the National Do Not Call Registry and don’t answer numbers you don’t know—This won’t stop scammers from calling but it should make you skeptical of calls you get from out of the blue. Most legitimate sales people generally honor the Do Not Call list. Scammers ignore it. Putting your number on the list helps to “screen” your calls for legitimacy and reduce the number of legitimate telemarketing calls you get.
Attorney General Herring advises consumers to watch out for the following red flags and to keep these tips in mind to avoid becoming a victim of consumer fraud:
  • The Offer Seems Too Good to be True—If it seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Examples include money left to you from an unknown relative, being awarded a loan or grant for which you did not apply, winning a lottery you did not enter and being selected to receive a share in funds in return for using your bank account.
  • Requests for Fees or Payment in Advance—Scammers will want advance payments or fees to clear the funds or complete their offer. It might not be clear what the fees are for, but the scammer will tell you they have to be paid or the money can’t be released. They might suggest they are only trying to help you out and the fees are a small sum compared to what you will be receiving. Never pay fees or taxes in advance.
  • Pressure—Scammers will often put pressure on their victims and urge them to pay immediately or lose the opportunity, or may even threaten them with legal consequences or disconnected utilities unless a payment is sent right away. A genuine business or government entity will not pressure you to act immediately.
  • Know who you are dealing with—Technology has made it easy for scammers to disguise or spoof their telephone number or create a website that looks very legitimate. Do an online search for the company name and website and look for consumer reviews. If you cannot find a seller’s physical address (not a P.O. Box) and phone number it should be a red flag. It is best to do business with websites you know and trust. If you buy items through an online auction, consider using a payment option that provides protection, like a credit card.
  • They Want Private Information—Many scams involve getting hold of your bank account details. Scams involving identity theft also seek personal information. A common scenario is an email supposedly from a bank asking you to click on a link to confirm your bank details and password. Banks generally don’t do this, but if you think the email has really come from your bank, pick up the phone and confirm with them. Never click on links or attachments in emails from people you don’t know or you risk your computer becoming infected by viruses, trojans, or other malware.
  • Untraceable Payment Method—Scammers prefer payment methods that are untraceable, such as wiring money through Western Union or other services. Be very suspicious of demands for wire transfers or cash payments. Never wire money to someone you do not know. 
  • Grammatical Errors or Poor Production Values—Scammers may be clever, but they are not always careful and English may not be their first language. Their grammatical errors can give them away. If the correspondence you receive is full of errors, low-resolution images, or unsophisticated formatting, be very suspicious.
  • Suspicious Email Domains and Web Addresses—Look carefully at email addresses and domain names. Businesses rarely use free email services like Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo, or Gmail. Even if the business seems legitimate, do some research to make sure they have readily available contact information and have not scammed others.
  • Suspicious or No Addresses—Scammers do not want their victims to know where they live. If there is no physical address and your contacts won’t give you one, it’s a sure bet you’re being scammed. If there is a physical address, check it out using the Internet or Google Earth and see if it’s a real address.
  • Request for Access to Your Computer—A common scam is a phone call from someone claiming to be a technician who has detected problems with your computer and would like to fix them for you free. Never give anyone remote access to your computer
If you think you have been a victim of a scam please reach out to Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section:

Prep continues at old hospital site, precautions a constant at CMH

Editor’s Note: In an effort to inform our communities about changes at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, we are releasing this additional information about the stand up of the old hospital building on Buena Vista Circle and precautions taken routinely by CMH in dealing with infectious diseases.

“As VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital continues to prep the old CMH on Buena Vista to possibly accept patients, we felt it was important to let the community know about precautions we at the hospital take daily to help control the spread of this virus and other infectious diseases and to protect our patients, staff and the community as a whole,” said Scott Burnette, CEO of CMH. 

He explained, “At CMH we have taken extensive precautions through the years to protect everyone from the spread of infectious diseases. That was true in 1954and it is true today, although medical research has provided us with many more tools over the years. There are important steps each and every employee takes to reduce the possibility of spreading a disease to patients, other staff members and the community.”

“We practice a strict regimen in what is called donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE). Every employee who works in direct patient care has been specifically trained in this thorough procedure that protects everyone,” he said. 

This protective equipment includes disposable gowns, gloves, masks and eye protection. Further, as staff members put on (don) or take off (doff) the PPE, an observer is to be present to make sure the procedure is followed correctly.

“When infectious diseases are present and those diseases have an airborne component like COVID-19, patients are placed in what is called a negative pressure room or can be managed by leaving the patient room door closed to the hallway at all times,” he added. 

Negative pressure rooms bring in air from the hallway outside the room at all times and then the air in the room is exhausted through the roof at CMH where it dissipates and is no longer an issue. 

Burnette explained that if a COVID positive patient is in a negative pressure room, the airborne virus cannot escape the room except being expelled harmlessly through the roof.

Employees remove their PPE in a very specific manner at the door of the negative pressure room before exiting the room and wash their hands during each step of removing their equipment. This keeps those staff members and others safe from contact with the airborne virus.

Burnette explained that this procedure is utilized at hospitals across the country and is the accepted practice of the World Health Organization and the Centers For Disease Control with the federal government.

But he added that everyone has a responsibility to help slow or stop the spread of infectious diseases.

“The most important thing everyone can do is practice social distancing.  Six feet is the magic number.  Staying six feet away from people, being careful what you touch, avoid touching your face and washing your hands often with soap and water or sanitizer is the best way to slow or stop the progression of this virus,” Burnette said. 

Burnette said that the decision to prepare the old hospital to possibly receive patients was appropriate and necessary.

"Preparing the old hospital for COVID-19 patients is a precautionary step to make sure we have the capacity to handle any and all patients who present at CMH.  If precautions are not put into motion right now there could be a scenario where people in our community, our friends or family, could be in need of health care and CMH would not have room for them.  Having the CMH facility on Buena Vista Circle available as an option is a way to prevent this horrible scenario from taking place.  We are in the business of providing the best possible care for our patients and having this facility available to us will give us the best chance to do just that."  

If anyone has questions about COVID-19 they should visit the CDC website at: cdc.gov.

Greensville County Board of Supervisors to Livestream April 6 Meeting

(Friday, April 3, 2020) Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the scheduled April 6, 2020 Greensville County Board of Supervisors and Greensville County Water and Sewer Authority meetings will be live-streamed.  The Board of Supervisors meeting will begin at 6 pm, followed by the Water and Sewer Authority meeting.

In accordance with the Stay at Home Order and the restrictions on public gatherings, the public will not be allowed to attend the meeting in person.  If you have public comments that you want the Board to consider, submit those in writing via email to admin@greensvillecountyva.gov by Monday, April 6 at 4 pm.  Please provide your first and last name, address and phone number.

The public is encouraged to view the live-streamed meeting by entering one of the web addresses below in an Internet browser:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCckhluQu1NDf3FgwoWkpTLQ

or

https://tinyurl.com/gcvaboard

Meherrin Regional Library Remains Closed

Due to the current COVID-19 crisis the Meherrin Regional System will remain closed until further notice. This closure also includes the use of the library's meeting rooms. The library will not charge fines and item due dates will continue to be extended until normal operations resume. Wi-Fi continues to be available in parking spots closest to library entrances. If you have questions concerning your account or other library resources please email the library at mrlsweb@gmail.com. The library appreciates the patience and understanding of the community during this time. The Meherrin Regional Library includes the Brunswick County Library, Lawrenceville and the Richardson Memorial Library, Emporia.

Gun Group Asks Northam to Reopen Indoor Ranges as March Gun Sales Increase

By Chip Lauterbach, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia gun owners are calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to remove indoor gun ranges from the list of non-essential businesses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Meanwhile, this comes as background checks for firearm purchases saw double digit growth from February to March. The Second Amendment advocacy group Virginia Citizens Defense League said that indoor ranges aren’t places of entertainment, rather places where people can practice lifesaving skills. 

The group has rallied its supporters to urge Northam to reconsider the closing of indoor ranges, which are part of two recent executive orders requiring Virginians to stay at home and non-essential businesses to close until June 10.

 Under Northam’s orders gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited. Indoor gun ranges, along with many other businesses deemed recreational and entertainment facilities, have been required to close. That includes racetracks and historic horse racing facilities, bowling alleys, arcades and movie theaters. 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 stores, electronic and hardware retailers, and banks can remain open.

“The governor’s view of ranges is that they are for entertainment, or that has been what he has classified them as,” VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said. “Ranges are where people get to practice lifesaving skills, and there are so many new gun owners now that have realized that their safety is in their own hands.”

Gun sales have spiked in some areas around the nation since the COVID-19 outbreak began, according to NPR. In Virginia, gun stores conducted 83,675 background checks in March, a 20% increase over January and February data which were 68,420 and 67,257 respectively, according to FBI firearm background check statistics. Background checks are required for a purchase, but multiple firearms could be purchased for each background check.

Though Northam’s order does not designate firearm and ammunition retailers as essential retail businesses, they can remain open but must abide by the social distancing order and not allow more than 10 customers at a time.

The VCDL has sought legal counsel to push back against Northam’s executive order, deeming indoor gun ranges as non-essential businesses, Van Cleave said. William J. Olson, the organization’s lawyer, sent two letters to Northam. The first asked for the indoor ranges to be removed from the list of non-essential businesses, and the second notified the governor of the Department of Homeland Security guidance to list jobs at gun manufacturers, retailers and U.S. gun ranges as being part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.” 

Citing the silence from the governor’s office and the issuing of Executive Order 55, which extended the timeline businesses must remain closed, Van Cleave said the VCDL Board of Directors voted to advance a lawsuit to put a stay on the closure of indoor gun ranges.

“The Board of Directors voted, and we are going to move forward with the lawsuit, but I can’t give any further details at this time,” Van Cleave said Wednesday.

Colonial Shooting Academy in Henrico County closed its indoor shooting ranges to comply with Northam’s order. Peyton Galanti, Colonial Shooting Academy’s marketing department manager, said the decision to close should be left up to businesses and not the governor.

“A lot of people don’t know that indoor gun ranges are under a lot of scrutiny with a lot of different government departments anyways,” Galanti said. 

Galanti explained that indoor ranges like Colonial Shooting Academy have to meet guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to include proper ventilation of indoor ranges due to lead particulates that are released when a gun is fired.

 “The practices that we have on a daily basis are so much stronger than other businesses in terms of our cleaning standards on every level that we have to comply with.”

Van Cleave said that indoor ranges “can easily limit the number of people allowed” by putting an empty lane in between shooters to keep people several feet apart and comply with the governor’s order.

There are approximately 70 shooting ranges in Virginia, according to the National Rifle Association data. Northam’s order doesn’t include outdoor shooting ranges, though a majority of outdoor ranges require paid memberships. 

The VCDL also implored the governor to veto House Bill 264, which would require Virginians to take an in-person class and demonstrate competence with a firearm to obtain a concealed handgun permit, ending the current option to take an online class in order to qualify for such a permit.

“Applicants would be socially isolated, while still getting training. That would be impossible if HB 264 becomes law,” VDCL said in a newsletter.

 If signed by Northam, HB 264 would take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE ENFORCEMENT PRACTICES OF GOVERNOR’S EXECUTIVE ORDERS AND DIRECTIVES

RICHMOND – The Virginia State Police encourages all Virginians to adhere to Virginia Governor Northam’s directives and do their part by staying home in order to best mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19 within the Commonwealth. State troopers, for their personal protection and for the safety of the public, are minimizing their direct contact with the public. All Department recruitment events, public presentations, training, ceremonies, etc., have all been canceled or postponed through June 10, 2020.

Governor Northam has directed state and local law enforcement to initially address violations of the following Executive Order 53 and Executive Order 55 directives with education and warnings. Persistent violation of these Executive Order (EO) directives can result in an individual(s) or business being charged with a class one misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail and $2,500 fine:

  • Prohibition of all public and private in-person, indoor and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 individuals – with the exception of the operation of businesses not required to close under EO 53 and the gathering of family members living in the same residence;
  • Closure of all dining and congregation areas in restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms and farmers markets;
  • Any brick and mortar retail business (not listed in paragraph 5 of EO 53) failing to limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment. If any such business cannot adhere to the 10-patron limit with proper social distancing requirements, it must close.
  • Closure of all public access to recreational and entertainment businesses;
  • Closure of public beaches for all activity, except for exercising and fishing;
  • Cancellation of in-person classes and instruction at institutions of higher education;
  • Cessation of all reservations for overnight stays of less than 14 nights at all privately-owned campgrounds

 Virginia State Police have been and will continue to assess Virginia EO violations on a case-by-case basis.

 State police is required to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth and will continue to have a visible presence within our communities and on the roads for the safety of those living, working and traveling in Virginia. The law still requires law enforcement to have reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop on a vehicle. Virginia State Police will not be making random traffic stops on vehicles nor conducting checkpoints to determine if a driver is traveling for a permissible reason, as granted by EO 53 and EO 55.

The current Governor’s Executive Orders related to COVID-19:

  • Do not require an individual to carry documentation related to one’s purpose of travel;
  • Do not close Virginia roads/interstates to Virginia residents;
  • Do not restrict non-Virginia residents from traveling into and/or through Virginia;
  • Do not prevent Virginians from traveling out of the state. State police does encourage any Virginian(s) traveling out-of-state to check, in advance, the other state(s) for any travel restrictions in effect for that state(s). Governor Northam has advised Virginians returning from out-of-state and/or international travel to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

For any additional questions related to the statewide “Stay at Home” order, please go to www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/faq.

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.

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