November 2020

“The Thanksgiving Way”

Did it only happen yesterday
Or perhaps a whole lot more
Whereby you received so many gifts
What you never had before.
 
Now did you just feel deserving
Or look to as a blessing from above
In essence did it help in any way
For you to show your love?
 
Thanksgiving is a day of Grace
That exemplifies to share
A day for you to show the world
How for others you do care.
 
Your cup don’t need to run over
No ample sure will do
Just include someone in the harvest
That may have less than you.
 
Yes open up your eyes and see
There are many with the need
Some for more clothing on their backs
And those who have the lack of feed.
 
It won’t take you a long time
For those in need to find
Yet don’t wait for their gratitude
Just because you were kind.
 
Yes many are quite humble
So will look at as a debt
Still way down deep they’re thankful
And appreciate to get.
 
You give of want and from the heart
And try to be sincere
One never knows in passing time
What you may need next year.
 
                         - Roy E. Schepp

Legal state marijuana sales could overtake illegal trade by year four

By Sam Fowler, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia’s commercial marijuana market could yield between $30 million to $60 million in tax revenue in the first year, according to a new report by the state’s legislative watchdog agency.

The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission released a report this month that explores how the commonwealth could legalize marijuana. The agency, however, did not give its take on legalization. Shortly after the report was released Gov. Ralph Northam announced that “it’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia.”

The state’s tax revenue could grow to between $150 million to more than $300 million by the fifth year of sales, according to JLARC. The revenue depends on the tax and demand of marijuana products. 

 Most states with commercial marijuana markets tax the product between 20%-30% percent of the retail sales value, JLARC said. Colorado, one of the most mature and successful U.S. marijuana markets, currently has a tax rate close to 30%, showing that while the tax may be high, the market could still be successful, said Justin Brown, senior associate director at JLARC. 

“But in reality, there's no magic rate that you have to use, and I think that's one thing that the other states' experience shows,” Brown said. 

Virginia decriminalized marijuana possession earlier this year. The substance is still not legal, but possessing up to an ounce results in a $25 civil penalty and no jail time. In the past, possessing up to half an ounce could lead to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail. 

If the Old Dominion makes marijuana legal, it will follow in the footsteps of 15 states.

The legal marijuana market should overtake the illegal market in marijuana sales by the fourth year of legalization, JLARC said. The legal market could likely have two-thirds of sales by the fifth year of legalization. JLARC looked at the reported use rates compared to the use rates of other states to determine this figure, Brown said. 

“In the first year the minority of sales will be through the legal commercial market,” Brown said. “But then over time, particularly if supply and demand works out, you'll capture at least the majority of the full market through the legal market.”

JLARC said that if the General Assembly legalizes marijuana, the total sales tax would come out to around 25%-30%. This figure also came from the analysis of other states and how they taxed marijuana. 

The industry also could create over several years between 11,000 to more than 18,000 jobs, JLARC said. Most positions would pay below Virginia’s median wage. 

The revenue would cover the cost of establishing a market by year three, according to JLARC.

Northam said in a press release last week that his administration is working with lawmakers to finalize related legislation in preparation for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session, which starts Jan. 13. 

Racial equity obstacles in Virginia’s push to legalizing marijuana

By Brandon Shillingford, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Could legalizing marijuana in Virginia help address social disparities and inequities? That’s one of the topics the state’s legislative watchdog agency explores in a new report examining how the commonwealth could legalize marijuana. 

The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission report was published shortly before Gov. Ralph Northam announced he will support legislation to legalize marijuana in the Old Dominion.

Virginia decriminalized marijuana possession earlier this year and reduced possession penalties to a $25 civil penalty and no jail time for amounts up to an ounce. In the past, possessing up to half an ounce could lead to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail. 

Northam said legislation should address five principles including public health and social, racial and economic equity.

The report addresses the establishment of a commercial marijuana industry that protects minors, prosecutes illegal sellers and maintains the state’s medical marijuana program. JLARC director Hal Greer said the study also examines ways legalization could benefit individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by past enforcement of marijuana laws. 

“As a first step in that effort, we analyzed data on marijuana arrests across the state in the last decade,” Greer said. “The data revealed a deeply troubling finding that Black individuals are being arrested for marijuana offenses at a much higher rate than others.”

The commission found that from 2010 to 2019 the average arrest rate of Black Virginians for marijuana possession was more than three times higher than that of white residents for the same crime—6.3 per 1,000 Black individuals and 1.8 per white people. This is despite the fact that Black Virginians use marijuana at similar rates as white residents. The conviction rate was also higher for Black individuals with marijuana possession charges. 

Over the last decade, Virginia has made about 20,000 to 30,000 arrests each year for marijuana-related offenses. Legalization and decriminalization would reduce marijuana related arrests by 84%, according to JLARC. Civil possession offenses would no longer occur if marijuana was legalized. Arrests would only take place if large amounts were illegally distributed, said Justin Brown, senior associate director at JLARC.

Legalization would eliminate some marijuana laws and create new ones, which would decrease some aspects of police work and increase others, the report said. 

Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of Marijuana Justice, a nonprofit pushing for the legalization of marijuana in Virginia, wants laws to allow the expungement of marijuana convictions.

 “Our platform is really to be a line of defense between Black communities as we legalize marijuana,” Higgs Wise said. 

Higgs Wise said Marijuana Justice seeks to repeal prohibition of marijuana, repair or expunge criminal records of Black Virginians who have been arrested for possession and begin the process of paying reparations to Black communities. 

Higgs Wise said she grew up watching family members such as her father suffer the consequences of unjust drug laws. Higgs Wise’s father was in and out of prison for non-violent drug offenses, she said. 

“I’ve been a child watching my family just having to struggle with housing, employment,” Higgs Wise said. “My siblings and I are first-generation college students trying to do better for our own legacy and family legacy.” 

Proponents of social equity argue that communities most affected by marijuana law enforcement should benefit from the commercial market if it were legalized, the JLARC report said. These communities would likely be composed of mostly Black Virginians since they have been arrested and convicted at the highest rates for marijuana related offenses, according to Greer. 

Social equity initiatives could include community reinvestment programs, providing business assistance programs to individuals in these communities, and promoting entrepreneurship and employment in the industry. 

“It looks like legalization is more on the minds of people but I will tell you that folks are looking at marijuana legalization as a way to fill gaps within our budget rather than really working to divert the revenue of cannabis that will be coming back into the communities that truly deserve it,” Higgs Wise said.

Virginia could not legally set aside business licenses for minorities, according to the report. 

“The main challenge for preference programs is ensuring that preferences flow to the intended parties,” said Mark Gribbin, JLARC chief legislative analyst. “Race cannot legally be used as a criterion.”

Individuals with a marijuana criminal record could be given preference for business loans, discounts or other assistance, but that may include unintended beneficiaries such as wealthy college students arrested for marijuana possession, the report said. Business assistance programs also can target individuals based on residence, but that includes new residents that have moved to a gentrified area. 

Another option is to provide business assistance and support based on an individual’s residence and marijuana criminal record. However, that method excludes people indirectly affected by marijuana law enforcement, such as an “eviction because of marijuana-related conviction of an immediate family member.” 

Brown said that some of the ideas in the report such as promoting entrepreneurship among the Black community were based on programs that have been implemented in other states. 

“I think what we've seen from other states is, you probably need to do more than that so we had some assistance programs that could be paired with that,” Brown said. 

Mentorships programs could partner startups with larger businesses so they can share administrative services and work space. 

“The idea is to set up some more experienced business owners so they could mentor less experienced business owners and try to help them compete in the marketplace,” Brown said. “We had to have options related to the licensing component as well as the assistance component for those people who get licenses.”

A 2019 report from the Portland City Auditor revealed that nearly 80% of recreational marijuana tax revenue went to public safety, which included money for police and transportation programs. The auditor concluded that the city needed to improve the transparency of tax allocation decisions and results. 

“I’m not confident that the General Assembly is truly thinking about a racial equity model, rather than just a way to bring in more revenue and that's something the people are going to have to bring forward,” Higgs Wise said. 

Northam said that in addition to undoing harm caused by racial discrimination, upcoming legislation should also include substance abuse prevention efforts in schools and communities. The governor said that any legislation must include protections for Virginia’s youth, including age limits and mandatory ID checks. Northam also said that legislation should ensure the state collects appropriate and ongoing information on safety, health and equity.

Once the General Assembly begins in January, there may be another formal presentation to legislators who may draft legislation related to legalization. 

“Our goal was to basically give them a menu of things they could do, and they could do all of these things or they could do some of them or they could do none of them,” Brown said. “Hopefully we gave them enough information to at least help them understand the various trade offs there across all those options.”

CNS reporter Ada Romano contributed to this story. 

Traditional Thanksgiving off the table for many

By India Jones, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Many Americans are grappling with ways to make one of the nation's most celebrated holidays safe amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Richmond resident Caroline Kaschak will feast at home to protect at-risk elders in her family. 

“It is just going to be my husband and I,” Kaschak said. “We are going to order in fancy takeout instead.”

Colleges like Virginia Commonwealth University are offering COVID-19 exit testing to students before they return home for the holidays. Some Americans still have scheduled traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with their families. 

“I plan on going to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving,” said VCU student Rickaya Sykes. “They live in the same town as me, and we are very close. If I am not at home, I am at their house spending time with them.”

The Centers for Disease Control recently issued guidance for gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday. The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is at home with people who live in the same household, the CDC said. Gatherings with family and friends who live outside of the home can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. 

The agency recommends that hosts limit the number of guests, disinfect surfaces and keep windows open to decrease coronavirus risk. For attendees, guidance includes bringing and eating food from home with their own utensils and staying out of the kitchen. 

COVID-19 cases and deaths have sharply risen in the past two weeks across the nation and in Virginia, according to the New York Times. Over the past week, there has been an average of 2,262 new cases per day in Virginia, an increase of 62% from the average two weeks earlier, according to the Times.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced a coronavirus mandate in Virginia to limit private gatherings and some public events to 25 people. The restrictions took effect Nov. 15, less than two weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday. 

The CDC urged Americans to consider alternative Thanksgiving Day activities such as virtual celebrations, eating meals outdoors, post-holiday shopping online and using curbside pickup. 

Virginia State Parks is encouraging families to gather at its 39 parks— which have remained open during the pandemic—over the Thanksgiving holiday. The “Opt Outside” promotion will be celebrated throughout the holiday weekend from Nov. 26 to Nov. 29. Visitors have a chance to win a $500 Virginia State Parks gift certificate if they submit up to five photos of their trip and enter it into the annual photo contest. The Virginia State Parks promotion started 10 years ago as “Green Friday'' to motivate families to visit the park instead of post-Thanksgiving shopping on “Black Friday.”

“Since the promotion started, we have seen more people visiting parks over the holidays,” said Tim Shrader, the eastern region field operations manager for Virginia State Parks. “You have all this family coming in, you probably need to get outside and enjoy each other’s company outside for physical and mental health.”

AAA released its annual Thanksgiving travel forecast, which anticipated at least a 10% drop in travel. The agency said that is the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008. In mid-October, AAA expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for the holiday. Now they say it could be lower given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and health notices.

The nation’s airports saw an uptick in travelers over the weekend, despite the CDC advisory to avoid traveling. The Transportation Security Administration reported almost 4 million travelers from Nov. 19 to Nov. 22, but the rate of travelers was still much lower than at the same time last year.

Gratitude and Wellbeing

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

In 2015, National Day Calendar established November as National Gratitude Month in the United States and Canada. The designation had been advocated by Stacey Grewal, author of Gratitude and Goals, who said “Gratitude is an essential ingredient of a happy, fulfilling life.”

To help people incorporate gratitude into their lives, Grewal instituted a 30-day gratitude challenge. She explained, “Research shows that practicing daily gratitude can enhance our moods, decrease stress, and drastically improve our overall level of wellbeing."

After all the unexpected twists and turns 2020 has delivered, practicing an attitude of gratitude brings a much-needed respite from the daily news. I find myself especially grateful for family, friends, and colleagues.

I give thanks for being selected to serve Southside Virginia Community College as its sixth president. Our college is one of the most diverse institutions in Virginia, and our commitment to inclusivity and excellence helps every student shine. Their success stories are built on a solid foundation established by my predecessors who have shaped the college throughout its illustrious history.

SVCC celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. Construction for the college’s first buildings began in Brunswick county in 1969, and the college opened to students in 1970. A groundbreaking ceremony for SVCC’s second campus in Keysville was held on October 30, 1970.

SVCC’s first present, Dr. Kenneth Dawson, brought with him experience gained through college and university leadership positions in Georgia and Kentucky. He also inaugurated our attitude of service, bringing with him a belief forged through personal commitments, including his work as a consultant to the American Red Cross in Liberia, West Africa.

Through the years, SVCC’s respect for diversity has had many advocates. The college’s fourth President, Dr. John Cavan remarked, “A mosaic of colors and shapes is pleasing to the eye. A mosaic of diverse people is pleasing to society.”

I also appreciate the pioneering work done in many fields by the college’s dedicated faculty. Under the direction of Dr. John Adams, SVCC welcomed its first online students in 1998. Today, cybercourses and other distance-learning options continue to be an integral component of education, and I am grateful for the experienced leadership SVCC personnel bring to this task.

Dr. Edward Chernault established much of the groundwork for current workforce programming options. Dr. Chenault developed regional partnerships for identifying the skills and competency levels required by local employers, and he deployed the Work Keys System developed by American College Testing to document achievement. Today, Workforce Development Services at SVCC continue in this tradition by offering credentialling programs that lead to jobs with family-sustaining wages.

Additionally, I am grateful for all our students. They are amazing people who continue to work with diligence. I am also thankful for our graduates who serve the community as first responders, healthcare providers, truck drivers, information technology workers, powerline workers, electricians, HVAC technicians, members of our nation’s armed services, and more. Their leadership as engaged citizens in our everchanging world gives me hope for a bright tomorrow.

In short, I am so proud to be part of the SVCC family. Although we have been impacted by novel challenges during 2020, there is still so much for which to be grateful. I invite you to begin your own gratitude challenge. If you’re like me, it will indeed help you discover an increased sense of happiness and wellbeing.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE URGING MOTORISTS TO SLOW DOWN AND PUT SAFETY FIRST THIS THANKSGIVING

RICHMOND – For many Virginians, Thanksgiving is going to look different than in previous years, with social distancing and outdoor meals. But, the rules of the road have not changed - slow down, wear a seatbelt and don’t drive distracted. Whether traveling to the grocery store or to grandma’s house, the same rings true, put your safety and the safety of others first.

“With lighter traffic on the roads, there may be a temptation to speed and a false sense of security that leads to drivers and passengers not wearing their seatbelts,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “This year overall, state police have seen fewer crashes on Virginia highways but those crashes have been more deadly. Making sure you are driving the posted speed limit, driving for conditions and wearing your seatbelt are the best ways to stay safe on the road. Whatever your holiday celebrations look like this year, Virginia State Police want to make sure you arrive at your destination safely.”

To further prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police will once again be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. - Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. As part of the state-sponsored, national program, state police will be increasing its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period that begins at 12:01 a.m., Nov. 25, 2020 and concludes at midnight on Nov. 29, 2020.

The 2019 Thanksgiving holiday C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 490 individuals who failed to buckle up on Virginia’s highways. State police also cited 5,221 speeders and 1,798 reckless drivers. A total of 83 drivers were taken off Virginia’s roadways and arrested by state troopers for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

There were eight traffic fatalities during the 2019 five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period and 12 traffic fatalities during the same period in 2018.

With increased patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.

McEachin Statement on House Passage of National Apprenticeship Act of 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today released the following statement on the House passage of the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020, legislation to invest more than $3.5 billion over five years to create nearly 1 million additional apprenticeship opportunities in the United States:

"As our nation builds back  from the devastation caused by the COVID-19 crisis, it is critical that we provide opportunities to get more people back to work safely.

“Today I was pleased to support the reauthorization of the bipartisan National Apprenticeship Act, legislation that will accelerate our economic recovery by expanding access to apprenticeship opportunities which will connect workers across our country to stable, good-paying jobs. Together, we will secure these vital pathways for Americans of all backgrounds to gain the knowledge they need to compete in a global, 21st century economy."

About the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 

During a time of record unemployment, H.R. 8294, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020, invests more than $3.5 billion over 5 years in expanding opportunities and access to Registered Apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeships. The proposal would create nearly 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities on top of the current expected growth of the apprenticeship system. It would also yield $10.6 billion in net benefits to U.S. taxpayers in the form of increased workers productivity and decreased spending on public-assistance programs and unemployment insurance.

By increasing investments in the national apprenticeship system, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 will begin to bring America’s investments in apprenticeship more in line with countries around the world. The U.S. spends only about 0.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on workforce training and employment programs, while our peer industrialized nations spend roughly six times as much as a share of GDP.

This legislation is critical to expanding the nation’s workforce development system during our nation’s deepest economic decline since the Great Depression and to increasing diversity within the national apprenticeship system. This legislation does not authorize or fund the Trump administration’s “industry-recognized apprenticeship programs” (IRAPs).

55 PRIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT GRADUATE VIRGINIA STATE POLICE ACADEMY

The 55 members of the Virginia State Police 133rd Basic Session were presented their diplomas Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 at 10 a.m. in a special, physically-distanced, outdoor graduation ceremony at the state police Academy. In accordance with Governor Ralph Northam’s latest directives related to COVID-19, no family, friends or media will be in attendance. The class will be divided into three separately-spaced groups in the parking lot and will be streamed live via the Virginia State Police Facebook page.

“To the very day of their graduation, the dedicated men and women of this Basic Session academy class have demonstrated their ability to adapt, overcome and succeed,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Fortunately, we were able to livestream the occasion for families and friends to witness this significant milestone for their loved ones. Not only was this a unique setting for the ceremony, but this is also only the second time in the Department’s 88 year history an Accelerated Lateral Entry Program has been held.”

The Accelerated Lateral Entry Program only accepts pre-certified Virginia law enforcement officers with at least three years of active-duty experience at the local and/or state level. Each candidate for trooper must have been in good standing with their former law enforcement employer(s) and underwent an extensive background investigative and testing process. Collectively, the 133rd Basic Session accounts for 426 years of prior law enforcement experience.

The 133rd Basic Session trooper trainees received more than 300 hours of classroom and field instruction in nearly 50 different subjects, including defensive tactics, cultural diversity, bias-free and community relations, crime scene investigation, ethics and leadership, police professionalism, firearms, judicial procedures, officer survival and crisis management. The members of the 133rd Basic Session began their eight weeks of academic, physical and practical training at the Academy on Sept. 28, 2020. 

For their final phase of training, each Trooper will spend an additional six weeks paired up with a Field Training Officer learning his or her new patrol area.

State police is currently hiring for 2021 Basic Session Academy classes. Those interested in joining the ranks of the Virginia State Police are encouraged to visit www.vatrooper.com for more information.

133rd  BASIC GRADUATING CLASS

 

133rd Basic Graduate                                                                         Assignment               

Austin Kenrick Anders                                                                         Franklin County

Dylan Wade Billiter                                                                             Tazewell County

Jonathan William Bloom                                                                    Chesterfield County

Christopher Stuart Boblett                                                                  Franklin County

Bryce Alan Campbell                                                                          Henrico County/Richmond

Jesse Bethlynnie Campbell                                                                 Bath County

Jason Gregory Carico                                                                          Bland County

Jermell Lamonte Chatman                                                                  Arlington County

Dylan Storm Coleman                                                                         New Kent County

Rickie Lewis Compton, Jr.                                                                   Halifax County

Scott Thomas Craig                                                                            Rockingham County

Zachary Ryan Davis                                                                             Rockbridge County

Peter Lawrence Dayton                                                                      Lunenburg County

Matthew James DeMoss                                                                    Norfolk/Virginia Beach

Michael Anthony Dunford                                                                  Giles County

Tyler Steven Easter                                                                             Franklin County

Andrew Thomas Ehrhard                                                                    Shenandoah County

Jonathan Thomas Fitch                                                                       Rockbridge County

Michael Floyd Fury                                                                              Fluvanna County

Nicholas Ryan Graham                                                                       Hampton/Newport News

Jeffery Todd Hackney                                                                         Giles County

Corey Michael Hall                                                                             King George County

Joel Riley Hodges                                                                                Franklin County

Matthew Ryan Hoppes                                                                       Bedford County

Mario Jamar Hunter                                                                           Isle of Wight County

Kenneth Wayne Joyner                                                                       Campbell County

Christopher Scott Kesler                                                                     Orange County

Ryan Thomas King                                                                              Roanoke County

James Clifton Kirkland                                                                        Campbell County

Seth Walker Layton                                                                             Henrico County/Richmond

Adam Eugene Martin                                                                          Mecklenburg County

Paul David McMillan                                                                          Botetourt County

Tyler Clifton Miller                                                                              Augusta County

Justin Randall Myrick                                                                          Pittsylvania County

James Henry Newby                                                                            Pittsylvania County

Alison Amber Nowacki                                                                        Richmond County

Matthew Joel O’Dell                                                                           Franklin County

Meet Ravjibhai Parbadia                                                                    Prince William County

Charles Hugo Parsons, III                                                                    Rockbridge County

Ronnie McCoy Pearce, Jr.                                                                   Sussex County

Joseph Christian Rader                                                                       Augusta County

Michael Lee Rogers                                                                            Henrico County

Barry Alan Schell                                                                                 Highland County

Sean Christopher Scott                                                                       Chesterfield County

Eric Byron Smith                                                                                 Page County

Gary O’Neil Smith                                                                               Henrico County/Richmond

Paul Anthony Sprouse                                                                        Rockbridge County

Matthew Prescott Stafford, II                                                             Bedford County

Joseph Michael Utt                                                                             Franklin County

Daniel Colby Vaughan                                                                         Henrico County/Richmond

Michael Dale Wade, II                                                                         Franklin County

James Douglas Waller                                                                        Bath County

Dylan James Welsh                                                                             Botetourt County

Charles Hubert Wheeler                                                                     Caroline County

Alison Jean Willis                                                                                Rockingham County

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING SECURES $113 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH APPLE OVER IPHONE THROTTLING

~ Herring alleges Apple concealed a product defect in its iPhones by installing a software update that reduced performance; Virginia to receive more than $2.6 million as its share of the settlement ~

RICHMOND (November 18, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has secured a $113 million settlement with Apple, Inc. regarding Apple’s alleged 2016 decision to throttle consumers’ iPhone speeds to address unexpected shutdowns in some iPhones. Attorney General Herring joins a bipartisan coalition of over 30 state attorneys general in reaching this settlement with Apple. Under the terms of the agreement, Apple will pay Virginia $2,648,658.22.

“For years, Apple willingly and knowingly concealed defects in its iPhone models, going as far as to install a software update to intentionally hide those defects,” said Attorney General Herring. “Apple did not tell consumers that the software update reduced the performance of their phones, and, in fact, profited off the intentional slowdown when consumers upgraded their phones because of the reduced performance. I will not allow businesses like Apple to take advantage of Virginia consumers and I’m glad that we were able to reach a settlement that holds them accountable for their deceptive conduct.”

Based on the multistate investigation, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues allege that Apple discovered that battery issues were leading to unexpected shutdowns in iPhones. Rather than disclosing these issues or replacing batteries, however, Apple concealed the issues from consumers. Apple’s concealment ultimately led to a software update in December 2016 that reduced iPhone performance in an effort to keep the phones from unexpectedly shutting down. 

Additionally, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues allege that Apple’s concealment of the battery issues and its decision to throttle the performance of consumers’ iPhones led to Apple profiting from selling additional iPhones to consumers whose phone performance had, in fact, been slowed by Apple. In his Complaint, Attorney General Herring alleges that this conduct violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

Under the settlement, Apple will pay Virginia $2,648,658.22. In addition to the monetary payment, Apple also must provide truthful information to consumers about iPhone battery health, performance, and power management. Apple must provide this important information in various forms on its website, in update installation notes, and in the iPhone user interface itself. Apple also recently entered into a proposed settlement of class action litigation related to the same conduct, and under that proposed settlement Apple will pay out up to $500 million in consumer restitution.

The settlement, in the form of a Consent Judgment, will be filed for approval with the Richmond City Circuit Court.

Joining Attorney General Herring in this settlement are the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District Of Columbia.

Virginia leaders seek input on Lee statue replacement in U.S. Capitol

By Joseph Whitney Smith, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- State leaders are seeking public input on what individual should replace a statue of former Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee located in the U.S. Capitol. 

A commission appointed by the state legislature will hold a virtual public hearing Tuesday to help determine a replacement. The Lee statue is one of two that represent Virginia in the Capitol. The other is a statue of the nation’s first president and also a Virginian, George Washington. 

The Lee statue is one out of 13 in a section of the Capitol known as the Crypt. Each of the original 13 colonies is represented by a statue. Legislators passed a bill in the spring allowing a committee to determine if the statue should be removed and recommend a replacement. The commission decided in the summer to remove the statue and will recommend a replacement in December or when the commission concludes its work. A date has not been set to remove the statue, said Randy Jones, public information officer for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. 

The statue must honor an individual that is dead and is a notable historical figure or known for civic or military service, according to VDH. The person must be a U.S. citizen but exceptions will be made for Indigenous people who lived in the nation before it was formed. 

For years there has been an increasing call to remove Confederate statues, which accelerated amid demonstrations after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Floyd died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for almost 8 minutes, while Taylor died after police opened fire while serving a warrant. A legal battle is pending over the removal of the Lee statue in Richmond. It is one of the last memorials in Richmond honoring Confederate leaders after protesters knocked some down, and others were removed by the city. 

Virginia’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have called for the removal of the Lee statue in the Capitol. 

“The Lee statue in the Capitol should be replaced,” Kaine said in a statement. “There are many compelling candidates for a replacement statue and [I] have full confidence the commission will pick someone representative of our history.”

 Citizens have already suggested possible replacements for the Lee statue in the Capitol that can be viewed on the DHR website. Suggested substitutions include former Virginians, such as:

  • James Armistead Lafayette, a former slave from Virginia that later became a spy for the Continental Army in the American Revolution. 

  • Dr. Robert Russa Moton, second president of Tuskegee University following the death of Booker T. Washington. The Moton Museum, a National Historical Landmark in Farmville, is named after him.

  •  Maggie L. Walker, a former educator and businesswoman who advocated against racism and sexism. She was the first African American woman to create a bank. 

  • Roger Arliner Young, the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in zoology. 

  • Pocahontas, An Indigenous Virginian and daughter of Chief Powhatan.

A number of people have nominated former Secretary of Defense and Gen. George C. Marshall. Marshall was not born in Virginia but graduated from the Virginia Military Institute. 

 Jennifer Oh, a Virginia resident who leads Capitol tours said in a letter that she opposes a statue honoring Marshall. She said the understanding behind the removal of the Lee statue is to have a “Virginia representative that symbolizes a life of inclusion.” Oh wrote that Marshall’s career does not reflect inclusion or support of minorities. 

The commission will also appoint a sculptor to create the statue with preference given to a Virginia-based sculptor. Eight members serve on the commission: Edward Ayers, a professor at the University of Richmond; Colita Fairfax, a professor at Norfolk State University, Sen. Louise Lucas D-Portsmouth; Fred Motley, a storyteller and performer; Anne Richardson, chief of the Rappahannock Tribe; Margaret Vanderhye, a former delegate who previously led the Virginia Commission for the Arts; and Del. Jeion Ward, D-Hampton. Julia Langan, DHR director, will serve as a non-voting member. 

The public hearing will take place from 9 a.m. to noon. Participants can register to attend or speak at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources website. People can also email suggestions to USCapitolCommission@DHR.virginia.gov until Nov. 27.

VBCF Partners with The Innerwork Center for a Mindful Webinar Just in Time for the Holidays

VBCF Hosts Free Webinar: Introduction to Mindfulness

RICHMOND, VA - The Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation continues to host a series of free webinars aimed at topics of interest for breast cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers. Cancer doesn’t stop during a pandemic and cancer education and screenings shouldn’t stop either. VBCF is continuing its mission to educate, advocate, and eradicate breast cancer through these discussions for our community. The holiday season can bring a heaping helping of stress along with joy, and this year that stress is likely to double and we might need some help to find the joy. Join the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation and Ann Chamberlain from The Innerwork Center as we get an introduction to mindfulness and, just maybe, some tools to help us regain some sense of control after this challenging year. 

Experts and women facing these issues are available for interviews leading up to the event. 

Please add this event to your community calendars: 

Webinar will be held live on Thursday, November 19 at 4 pm, with a recording of the session to follow. Learn more and register online at https://www.vbcf.org/webinars/.

To book virtual interviews with experts and/or patients and survivors familiar with this topic, contact Katy Sawyer at 800-345-8223 x. 201 or katy@vbcf.org

The Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation (VBCF) was founded in 1991 by five women – Phoebe Antrim, Judi Ellis, Patti Goodall, Mary Jo Kahn, and Sherry Kohlenberg – who met in an MCV support group. They were angered by the lack of progress in breast cancer treatment and inspired by a growing network of grassroots advocates across the country. VBCF, established as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in October 1992, is headquartered in Richmond, VA. 

VBCF exists thanks to our many generous individual donors and volunteers. Our goals are to establish the end of breast cancer as a state and national priority, to advocate for the collective needs of people affected by breast cancer, and to educate all Virginians on the facts about breast cancer. 

VCU Health CMH Update

For our patients — your safety is our top concern.

Because of the increase in positive COVID tests throughout our service area, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital is tightening visitation guidelines for the hospital, the C.A.R.E. Building, Clarksville Primary Care Center and Chase City Primary Care Center effective Friday, November 13, 2020.

“We are taking these necessary precautions to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus,” said Scott Burnette, CEO at VCU Health CMH.

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

Burnette said many precautions have been implemented to make sure VCU Health CMH is doing everything possible to confront the challenges the Corona virus presents. Following is a list of restrictions, all done to help prevent the spread of the virus.

  • All visitors must be screened and provided an armband or badge.
  • All visitors must be masked at all times.
  • Visitors must comply with physical distancing guidelines in all common areas.
  • To avoid overcrowded lobby waiting areas, visitors are encouraged to remain in their vehicle except when they are visiting a patient.
  • All visitors are required to use hand sanitizer upon entering the facility and frequently during their stay.
  • If patient clinical needs dictate no visitors (i.e. chemotherapy), visitors are encouraged to remain in their vehicle. Visitors must maintain appropriate physical distancing in all waiting areas.

For Inpatients at CMH:

  • Visiting hours remain 8 AM until 8 PM
  • Non-COVID patients are allowed 1 visitor per day.
  • A visitor will be allowed to leave the premises and re-enter the same day provided they have a hospital visitor badge on with the current date. They will not have to be rescreened.
  • If a visitor re-enters the same day without a hospital visitor badge, they will have to be rescreened.
  • Front lobby personnel are required to ask visitors, who are leaving, if they plan to return. If they do not, the hospital visitor badge will be removed.
  • Surgery patients may be accompanied by 1 adult companion.
  • Pediatric Surgery patients should be accompanied by 1 Parent/POA/Guardian.
  • Pediatric patients - 1 adult visitor (18 yrs. or older) at a time, allowing one to spend the night. Parent/POA/Guardian made trade off. No more than two visitors per day.
  • Labor & Delivery – 2 adult visitors (18 yrs. or older) at a time, allowing one to spend the night. No more than two visitors per day.

For outpatients being seen in the hospital, C.A.R.E. Building, Chase City Primary Care Center and Clarksville Primary Care Center

  • Only patients may enter the hospital, C.A.R.E. Building, Chase City Primary Care and Clarksville Primary Care, except for patients needing assistance, who may be accompanied by 1 adult companion.
  • Patients 18 and under may be accompanied by 1 adult. All patients and companions must wear a mask.

For the Emergency Department at VCU Health CMH:

  • Only patients may enter the Emergency Department, except for patients needing assistance, who may be accompanied by 1 adult companion.
  • Pediatric patients are allowed 1 adult companion. Parent/POA/Guardian made trade off.
  • Exceptions to the visitation rules for specific incidents will be in accordance with ED policy or permission from the Administrative Representative.

The Hundley Center

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

NRCS Accepting Applications for 2021 Program Offerings

Sign up Now for EQIP, ACEP and CSP

Lawrenceville, VA, Nov. 16, 2020– Conservation is one of the few things in life that actually gets better with time. Changes on the land occur over a period of years and the programs that provide critical financial assistance evolve with each new Farm Bill. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is now accepting FY2021 applications for three updated offerings incorporating numerous changes that can benefit Virginia farmers.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).This highly popular program now includes increased payment rates for adopting cover crop rotations and incentive payments to better support locally led conservation. Fund pools are available forlivestock, cropland and forestry with these special initiatives:

  • American Black Duck Initiative, Eastern Hellbender and Golden-winged Warbler–Focused conservation practices to restore habitat in breeding areas/native range;
  • Conservation Activity Plans–Development of site-specific plans to recommend conservation practices that will address an identified natural resource need;
  • High Tunnel System–Steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures to extend the growing season in an environmentally safe manner;
  • Longleaf Pine–Stand establishment and management in the Southeastern Virginia historical range; 
  • National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI)–Targeted practices to clean up impaired streams and improve aquatic habitats in the War Branch, Mountain Run and Gap Creek watersheds;
  • Northern Bobwhite in Pine Savannasand Northern Bobwhite in Working Grasslands – Management strategies to convert plantings to highly valuable pine savanna habitats and native grass restoration to address habitat loss while maintaining or improving cattle production on the land;
  • On-Farm Energy–Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits to assess energy use and recommend ways to reduce it;
  • Organic–Specific support for organic production and those transitioning to organic operations and an increased payment cap of $140,000 for Fiscal Year 2019 through 2023 contracts;
  • StrikeForce–Priority ranking for cropland and livestock practices to support program participation among underserved producers in rural communities.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP): This program allows agricultural producers and forest landowners to earn payments for actively managing and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, enhanced nutrient management and pollinator habitat while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. New incentives likesupplemental funding for advanced grazing management and a one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan offer added benefits. Existing CSP participants may also have an opportunity to renew their contracts in the first half of the fifth year of their five-year contract.

Virginia Signups

CSP is aligned with EQIP through common applications, contracting operations, conservation planning, conservation practices and related administrative procedures. Conservation activities include soil health planning, building soil organic matter through crop rotations and practices that help producers adapt to or mitigate impacts of changing weather conditions. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP): While the final rule hasn’t yet been released, interim guidance outlines new easement program policies that will appeal to landowners and organizations such as land trusts and purchase of development rights (PDR) programs. The Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) component no longer requires a minimum cash match, allowing landowner donations, acquisition expenses and stewardship costs to satisfy the requirement. The new program agreement structure will also increase administrative efficiency.

Landowners looking to restore or maintain wetlands can visit their local NRCS office to explore opportunities available through the improved Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) component. Properties eligible for WRE include farmed wetlands that can be successfully and economically restored; former or degraded wetlands with a history of agricultural use; wetlands farmed under natural conditions; and “prior-converted” cropland converted on or before Dec. 23, 1985. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land established with trees may also be eligible for enrollment through a waiver process. NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase and 100 percent of the restoration costs for permanent easements. Landowners can also select a 30-year option and receive 50 to 75 percent of those costs.

“NRCS Virginia has a great track record of service to the state’s farm and forest landowners,” said Virginia State Conservationist Edwin Martinez Martinez. “We’re currently managing 2,316 active EQIP and CSP contracts on 492,023 acresand have protected 16,555acres of farmland and wetlands through existing
recorded easements. Contact your local office to learn more about howwe can help you reach your land management goals.” 

EQIP applications will be accepted until Dec. 18, 2020. ACEP and CSP guidance is still pending, so we are unable to provide an application deadline at this time. All applicants must have farm records established with USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA). Advance payment options are available for historically underserved* producers.

Applications are available at your local USDA Service Centerand online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted. Learn more about Virginia Farm Bill programs at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov/

*Historically underservedproducers include beginning, socially disadvantaged, veteran and limited resource farmers or ranchers. (Click on the link to access full definitions for each category above.)

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Brian Norwood

 

June 7, 1964-November 13, 2020

Graveside Services

2 p.m. Wednesday, November 18.

Greensville Memorial Cemetery
1250 Skippers Road
Emporia, Virginia

 

Brian Norwood, 56, of Jarratt, passed away Friday, November 13, 2020. He was the son of the late Monk and Shirley Norwood and was also preceded in death by two brothers, Buz and Ronnie.

Brian is survived by a sister, Connie Norwood Mckinney (Roger); nieces, Dawn Jones (Coby), Faith Ash (Darrel) and Hannah Godwin (David); nephew, John Mckinney (Chelsea) and several great nieces and nephews. He also is survived by his friend and former wife, Lisa Hammer and his faithful canine companion, Buster.

The funeral service will be held graveside 2 p.m. Wednesday, November 18 at Greensville Memorial Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Emporia/Greensville Humane Society, 113 Baker St., Emporia, Virginia 23847.

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

Governor Northam Announces New Statewide Measures to Contain COVID-19

Includes limit of 25 individuals for in-person gatherings, expanded mask mandate, on-site alcohol curfew, and increased enforcement

RICHMOND—As COVID-19 surges in states across the country, Governor Ralph Northam today announced new actions to mitigate the spread of the virus in Virginia. While the Commonwealth’s case count per capita and positivity rate remain comparatively low, all five health regions are experiencing increases in new COVID-19 cases, positive tests, and hospitalizations.

“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are. We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse,” said Governor Northam. “Everyone is tired of this pandemic and restrictions on our lives. I’m tired, and I know you are tired too. But as we saw earlier this year, these mitigation measures work. I am confident that we can come together as one Commonwealth to get this virus under control and save lives.”

Governor Northam shared a new video to update Virginians on the additional steps the Commonwealth is taking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which is available here.

The following measures will take effect at midnight on Sunday, November 15:

  • Reduction in public and private gatherings: All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings.
  • Expansion of mask mandate: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. This expands the current mask mandate, which has been in place in Virginia since May 29 and requires all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
  • Strengthened enforcement within essential retail businesses: All essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to statewide guidelines for physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and enhanced cleaning. While certain essential retail businesses have been required to adhere to these regulations as a best practice, violations will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class One misdemeanor. 
  • On-site alcohol curfew: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol is prohibited after 10:00 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms must close by midnight. Virginia law does not distinguish between restaurants and bars, however, under current restrictions, individuals that choose to consume alcohol prior to 10:00 p.m. must be served as in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart. 

Virginia is averaging 1,500 newly-reported COVID-19 cases per day, up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May. While Southwest Virginia has experienced a spike in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases, all five of the Commonwealth’s health regions are currently reporting a positivity rate over five percent. Although hospital capacity remains stable, hospitalizations have increased statewide by more than 35 percent in the last four weeks.

On Tuesday, Governor Northam announced new contracts with three laboratories as part of the Commonwealth’s OneLabNetwork, which will significantly increase Virginia’s public health testing capacity. Contracts with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, and Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk will directly support high-priority outbreak investigations, community testing events, and testing in congregate settings, with a goal of being able to perform 7,000 per day by the end of the year.

The full text of amended Executive Order Sixty-Three and Order of Public Health Emergency Five and sixth amended Executive Order Sixty-Seven and Order of Public Health Emergency Seven will be made available here

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

VSU Offers Free Tax Workshop for Farmers

Virtual Workshop is Planned for Nov. 19

Virginia State University’s (VSU) Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP) is hosting a virtual “Filing Farm Taxes” workshop for farmers and ranchers. Participants will learn tax management skills for their farming operations. Even if farmers hire a tax preparer to file their farm taxes, there is important information they need to know as producers.
 
The guest speaker is Darrell Tennie, who specializes in agriculture taxes and is founder and chief executive officer of The Tennie Group, LLC in Knightdale, North Carolina. Tennie will share information on farm-related tax topics, including new tax laws and changes, completing Schedule F, recordkeeping, reporting business expenses and deductions, managing enterprise sales, social security management, managing wages and working with nonprofits.
 
The workshop is open to the public, and will be held Nov. 19 from 9:00 a.m. 12:00 p.m. To register, visit http://www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, and click on the event. YOU WILL RECEIVE YOUR ZOOM MEETING LINK IN THE CONFIRMATION EMAIL. IF YOU DO NOT RECEIVE A LINK, PLEASE EMAIL smallfarm@vsu.edu.

 
If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact the Small Farm Outreach Program office at smallfarm@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-3292 / TDD (800) 828-1120 during the business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event.
 
Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

 

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE WELCOME EXECUTIVE TEAM MEMBER

RICHMOND – On Oct. 25, 2020, Virginia State Police Captain Richard K. Boyd officially joined the Department’s executive team as a Major and Deputy Director of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). Major Boyd started his career with Virginia State Police in 2004 after graduating from the academy with the 106th Basic Session. Boyd is picking up this leadership position from Major Keith Keesee, who is retiring effective Jan. 1, 2021. Keesee has served as the BCI Deputy Director since his appointment on Feb. 10, 2018. Keesee served with Virginia State Police for 30 years.

Prior to this promotion, Boyd was commander of the BCI Richmond Field Office where he ensured that the latest investigative tactics, extensive jurisdictional partnerships, and comprehensive and consistent training came together to produce positive outcomes while combating crime. In addition, Boyd is a member of the Central Virginia Overdose Working Group, the Richmond Regional Human Tracking Collaborative and the Emergency Management Alliance of Central Virginia.

Boyd started his journey with Virginia State Police as a Trooper assigned to the Culpeper Division’s Area 5 Office in the Fredericksburg area. From there, he continued to serve the Culpeper Division as a Special Agent where he investigated middle and upper level drug distributors and organizations on the state and federal level. He was then promoted to Supervisory Special Agent coordinating the FBI Safe Streets Task Force where he led a multi-jurisdictional team of law enforcement agents. In 2014, Boyd continued to serve the Culpeper Division as First Sergeant in the General Investigation Section (GIS) and then in 2016 as Lieutenant. In 2017, he came to Headquarters in Richmond where he was Captain and Director of the Office of Internal Affairs.

Major Boyd has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from Clemson University, a Master’s of Legal Studies Degree from American University and attended the 2017 FBI National Academy 270th Session.

Dementia and communication: Listening

People with Alzheimer’s or other memory loss conditions often have trouble expressing themselves, sometimes right from the start of the disease. This can easily lead to confusion and frustration for both of you. Your willingness to exercise patience is key to successful communication: Patience and calm, over and over and over again. This is hard! AND it’s essential to keeping a positive relationship.

There are some practical tips, too. Even in the early stages, word finding can be difficult, so they may describe an object rather than name it. They may forget what they just said and say it again. They are easily distracted. You can help by using the following strategies:

  • Avoid groups. One-on-one conversations work best.
  • Limit distractions. Turn off the TV or radio. Do one thing at a time; for example, converse OR put on shoes.
  • Allow time. Rushing creates stress, which makes it harder—for us all!—to find the right words or keep thoughts organized.
  • Offer encouragement. Don’t interrupt or try to finish their sentences. Smile and make eye contact. Project the reassurance that they can take all the time they need to say what they want to say.

As dementia progresses, you may need to redefine what a conversation is with your loved one. It may be less of an exchange of ideas and more an opportunity for your relative to engage with you. Your focus is on making the exchange a pleasant one.

  • Avoid correcting them. It’s okay if the details aren’t right or their logic is “off.” When inaccuracies are pointed out, they may misinterpret your corrections as dislike or disrespect.
  • Learn to read their tone and body language. Search for the emotion or meaning behind their words. For example, repeated questions often indicate anxiety. A sudden demand to leave a gathering can be a sign of confusion or overwhelm.

“Don’t Wait”

Our service men and women
Provide in a special way
The peace and freedom we enjoy
As we go about each day.
 
They do not count the hours
Or where the time is spent
All represent the U.S.A.
Where ever they are sent.
 
Some are young, while others are old
But all of them are brave
In different battles, different wars
They give their lives to save.
 
We do not know their danger
Or the pain they may go thru
Yet it’s certain that we can all say
They’re doing it for me and you.
 
Someday a son or daughter
A husband or a wife
Your best friend or a neighbor
Could lose their lease of life.
 
Don’t wait for a special time of place
To give them the credit due
Give thanks and praise on every day
And pray they all come through.
 
                         - Roy E. Schepp

Sign Up for Medicare Part B Online

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

For many people, signing up for Medicare Part B doesn’t require you to leave the comfort of home.  Please visit our Medicare Part B webpage at secure.ssa.gov/acu/ophandler/loginSuccess  if:

  • You’reenrolled in Medicare Part A.
  • You would like to enroll in Part B during the Special Enrollment Period.

You can complete form CMS-40B (Application for Enrollment in Medicare – Part B [Medical Insurance]) at www.cms.gov/Medicare/CMS-Forms/CMS-Forms/CMS-Forms-Items/CMS017339 and CMS-L564 at www.cms.gov/Medicare/CMS-Forms/CMS-Forms/Downloads/CMS-L564E.pdf (Request for Employment Information) online.

You can also fax the CMS-40B and CMS-L564 to 1-833-914-2016; or return forms by mail to your local Social Security office.  Please contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) if you have any questions. 

 Note:  When completing the forms:

  • State, “I want Part B coverage to begin (MM/YY)” in the remarks section of the CMS-40B form or online application.
  • If your employer is unable to complete Section B, please complete that portion as best you can on behalf of your employer without your employer’s signature.
  • Submit oneof the following types of secondary evidence by uploading it from a saved document on your computer:
  • Income tax returns that show health insurance premiums paid.
  • W-2s reflecting pre-tax medical contributions.
  • Pay stubs that reflect health insurance premium deductions.
  • Health insurance cards with a policy effective date.
  • Explanations of benefits paid by the GHP or LGHP.
  • Statements or receipts that reflect payment of health insurance premiums.

 Please let your friends and loved ones know about this online, mail, or fax option.

Dr. Katie Vermireddy Joins VCU Health CMH

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill would like to welcome Katie Vemireddy, M.D. to our family of health care providers. Dr. Vemireddy specializes in Obstetrics and Gynecology.  

Dr. Vemireddy is a native Virginian and said she is excited to be back in her home state caring for other Virginians as well as North Carolinians.   

"I enjoy working with and caring for women of all ages. My greatest interests are obstetrics, contraception, and preventive health,” she said.  

Dr. Vemireddy earned her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville and completed her residency training at Greenville Health System (PRISMA Health) in Greenville, South Carolina.  

Most recently, Dr. Vemireddy worked as an OB/GYN for Novant Health Mint Hill in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her certifications and memberships include the American Board of Obstetricians & Gynecology, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and the American Medical Association.  

Dr. Vemireddy is now accepting patients at CMH Women’s Health Services located inside the C.A.R.E. Building at 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill. To schedule an appointment, call (434) 584-2273 (CARE).  

Dr. Vemireddy joins Dr. Darrell Brown, OB/GYN, Dr. Ramesh Seeras, OB/GYN and Terry Wooten, Certified Nurse-Midwife, in providing a complete range of personalized and preventive gynecologic care to women at every stage of life. 

To view a full list of services visit:  VCU-CMH.org  

Dr. Vemireddy lives in South Hill with her husband and enjoys travel, cooking, reading, and watching movies. 

Candidates and groups drop over $12 million on Facebook ad spending

 

By Noah Fleischman, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- In an election forecasted to have record voter turnout, political campaigns have deployed a multiplatform media blitz. 

Facebook is for more than likes these days, with the platform getting its share of Virginia political and issue spending to the tune of over $12.7 million in a recent three-month period, according to the social media platform. 

Tobe Berkovitz, an advertising professor at Boston University who has worked as a political media consultant on election campaigns, said campaigns advertise on social media for the same reasons that consumer advertising is used. 

“It’s where a lot of either voters or consumers are getting their information,” Berkovitz said. “You can specifically develop messages for individuals and smaller groups and you can very tightly target who it is that you want to reach.”

Democratic groups or candidates dominated the top 10 when ranking the largest political Facebook ad spending in Virginia. Those organizations spent a combined amount over $2.4 million. That’s excluding the money Facebook and Instagram have put into political advertising.

Facebook tracks advertising spending on issues, elections and politics in its Ad Library. The data show that over a recent 90-day period, about 2,700 groups or candidates, including Facebook and Instagram, spent over $12.7 million on Facebook ads in Virginia. During a comparable period before the election last year, Facebook ad spending totaled $5.5 million, according to a previous Capital News Service report. 

The most spending from Aug. 2 to Oct. 30 went toward candidates at the top of the ballot. Over $2.2 million was spent by the two fundraising committees associated with President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Biden’s campaign fundraising arm The Biden Victory Fund invested more than Trump’s fundraising committee. The Biden Victory Fund spent more than $1.1 million between the pages of Biden, Kamala Harris and the Democratic Party. Over $1 million was spent on candidate Biden. 

Trump’s fundraising committee The Trump Make America Great Again Committee closely trailed the Biden camp. Trump’s campaign spent just shy of $1.1 million over eight Facebook pages, including the pages of Black Voices for Trump, Mike Pence and Women for Trump. Over $750,000 of that total went to Trump’s re-election campaign. 

Berkovitz said social media advertising is becoming more popular because of the analytics that are available to the campaigns.

“It provides a lot of information about the people you’re trying to reach, the people you do reach, how your message is working, what types of messages do work for them and you just have a lot more data to go on,” Berkovitz said. “We’re in a world where everything is data driven now.”

Over $1.2 million was spent on contested Virginia Congressional races and a South Carolina Senate race. Democratic incumbent in the 2nd District U.S. House race, Elaine Luria’s campaign spent more than $207,000. That lands her in the No. 4 spot. Her opponent Scott Taylor’s fundraising committee spent just shy of $62,000. Taylor previously held the seat and the election is a rematch between the two candidates. 

The 7th District U.S. House race accounts for more than $15.5 million spent on all media advertising during the election season, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic incumbent, spent almost $193,000 on Facebook advertising in the last 90 days. Nick Freitas, Spanberger’s Republican opponent, spent just shy of $24,000 in the same time span. Most of the money for this closely watched race has been spent on broadcast and cable TV advertising. 

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner’s fundraising committee spent over $186,000 in the effort to keep his 1st District U.S. Senate seat. Daniel Gade, his Republican challenger, spent significantly less through his campaign arm, investing just under $42,000. 

A South Carolina Senate race between Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and his Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison landed in the No. 8 and No. 9 slots, spending a combined amount of over $310,000. Jaime Harrison for U.S. Senate spent over $156,000. Team Graham Inc. spent just shy of $154,000. 

Advocacy groups turn to the platform for the same reason as politicians. Stop Republicans, a self-described accountability campaign of the Progressive Turnout Project, made the No. 3 spot with just under $230,000 spent targeting Virginians through Facebook. The Progressive Turnout Project ranks No. 7 with $164,000 spent during the last 90 days.

The Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education rounded out the top 10, spending just over $151,000. SEIU is a labor union representing workers in the healthcare industry, public sector and property services. The organization spent millions nationwide this election cycle to get out the vote, target infrequent voters and promote progressive candidates. 

The political advertising total in Virginia is lower compared to Florida, where almost $85 million was spent in the same 90-day period. In swing state Pennsylvania just over $57 million was spent. Over $45.2 million was spent in targeted Facebook advertising in neighboring North Carolina. 

Facebook isn’t oblivious to the influence its platform has. The company recently imposed a ban on new political ads from being placed leading up to Election Day. 

Judi Crenshaw, who teaches public relations at Virginia Commonwealth University, said Facebook’s ban was “an effort to put the brakes on this influence and this disinformation leading up to the election.”

“I don’t know what else to call it except for an attempt,” Crenshaw said. “It’s a last minute attempt and it certainly is a very limited attempt when ads that were placed before this period of time are still allowed to run.”

Statement from Fair Districts on Amendment 1 Vote Results

While votes in the Commonwealth will continue to be counted over the next few days, it is apparent that Amendment 1 has passed. While this is not the result we hoped for, we want to thank all the volunteers who worked so hard and put in so many hours. Our campaign was truly a grassroots campaign that was outspent over 50 to 1 by out-of-state dark money groups and was fighting an uphill battle against biased language on the ballot meant to gain votes for the measure.

The people who pushed Amendment 1 know of its flaws – and it is now incumbent upon them to seek real solutions to fix those flaws, not just lip-service efforts like “consideration” of Virginia’s diversity. They have won the day – and it is now up to them to fulfill the promise of Virginia’s future by immediately pushing not just for enabling legislation to attempt to make this amendment palatable, but for a new amendment that actually does the things Virginians voted for, but will not get from this amendment:

1)     Get politicians out of the redistricting process.
2)     Establish an independent commission for redistricting.
3)     Respect Virginia’s diversity by requiring the inclusion of minority communities.

We will continue fighting for these ideals, and we hope they will join us in achieving these goals moving forward.

Virginia sees smooth election day thanks to efforts by AG Herring

Virginia saw a remarkably smooth and uneventful Election Day yesterday, after there was an anticipation that we could have seen some disruptions. I think an important reason why we saw such a quiet day was because of all the work that Attorney General Herring and his team did in preparation for Election Day, including making it clear that absolutely no voter intimidation would be tolerated in Virginia and preparing and planning for any and all outcomes or potential legal challenges.

Virginia saw historic turnout during this election, especially in early and absentee voting. This increase in voter participation was really possible in part because of Attorney General Herring's work to make voting as easy and safe as possible during this unprecedented election cycle by crafting agreements to waive the witness signature on absentee ballots, making it easier for disabled Virginians to vote safely at home, extending the voter registration deadline, and blocking the drastic operational changes at the USPS.

Attorney General Herring and his team expertly handled the influx of votes and every other curve ball or challenge that this election cycle threw at them. Attorney General Herring remains committed to ensuring that every single vote is counted as required by law and he recognizes that this election is not over just yet.

In addition to the OAG attorneys who normally represent the Board of Elections and the Department of Elections, he has assembled a multidisciplinary team of attorneys from his Civil Litigation and Public Safety Divisions, Solicitor General’s Office, and other divisions across the OAG, who will be on standby, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice should the need arise. Additionally, the OAG has lawyers in every corner of the state who are prepared to go into court to handle any potential legal challenges.

This election cycle has brought numerous challenges that have prompted Attorney General Herring and his team to develop solutions and put out guidance to make sure every Virginian has a safe, comfortable, easy voting experience, whether they chose to vote early absentee, early in person, or on Election Day tomorrow.

Attorney General Herring and his team negotiated options to promote safe, secure voting for Virginians who could not or did not want to risk their health to vote in person including:

  • An agreement that waived the witness requirement for absentee ballots for Virginians who feared for their safety voting in person
  • An agreement that made it easier for Virginians with disabilities to participate in the election safely at home

Attorney General Herring also successfully blocked the Trump Administration's drastic operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service, when a federal judge granted his motion for preliminary injunction, explicitly saying in his order that, “at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.”

Additionally, Attorney General Herring has put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that Virginians feel comfortable and protected at polling places across the Commonwealth by:

Attorney General Herring remained committed to ensuring that every Virginian had a safe, comfortable, easy voting experience during this year’s election, whether they choose to vote early absentee, early in person, or in person on Election Day.

Richard Jarratt Lee

Feberuary 20, 1943-October 31, 2020

Graveside Services

Thursday, November 5, 2020, 11:00 A.M. at Emporia Cemetery

Emporia Cemetery
Brunswick Avenue
Emporia, Virginia

Richard Jarratt Lee, a local attorney residing in North Chesterfield, VA, passed away on Saturday, October 31, 2020. He was born on February 20, 1943, and raised in Emporia, VA, where he graduated from Greensville County High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Upper Iowa University in 1979; and in 1981 he received a Master of Arts degree in Legal Studies from Antioch University.

Richard was he third son of the late Ruth Lee and Thomas E. Lee, Sr. He was preceded in death by his two older brothers, George and Tom. He is Survived by his wife Patricia Wiggins Lee, one son Raymond Mark Lee and his wife Melanie; his younger brother Bobby and his wife Denise. He is the proud Papa of three grandchildren, Kanyon, Tyler and Taylor Lee. He is also survived by nieces Kathy Queen, Becky Lee, Marti Scott, Ginger Coletrane, Tiffany Lee and Cristen Lee.

A graveside service will be held Thursday, November 5, 2020, 11:00 A.M. at Emporia Cemetery.

Online Condolences may be made at www.echolsfuneralhome.com

James A. Vincent, Sr.,

November 8, 1940-September 26, 2020

Graveside Services

 Sunday, November 8, 2020, at 2:00 P.M.

Corinth Cemetery

Skippers, Virginia

James A. Vincent, Sr., passed away on September 26, 2020 at the Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center. He was born on November 9, 1940 in Emporia, VA., to the late Billy B. and Frances Somner Vincent. He was also predeceased by his wife, Gwen Francis Vincent, children, James A. Vincent, Jr., Jill Frances Vincent, Amanda Francis Emerson, brother, Ronald F. Vincent, nephew, Jason B. Vincent.

He was a graduate of Greensville County High School and attended Louisburg Junior College in Louisburg, NC. He farmed in Greensville County in a family farming operation with his father, Billy B. Vincent and brothers Ronald and Lindsey for many years. Later he operated Vincent Grocery in Skippers, VA., until he retired.

He is survived by his siblings, Billy B. Vincent, Jr., (Helen), Joan V. Herring (Jack), Lindsey S. Vincent (Scott), his beloved granddaughter, two grandsons, along with nephews, nieces, and cousins.

A graveside memorial service will be held at Corinth Cemetery in Skippers, VA., on Sunday, November 8, 2020, at 2:00 P.M. with Rev. Larry Grizzard officiating.

Covid-19 guidelines will apply.

Online Condolences may be made at www.echolsfuneralhome.com

Charles Harvey Gleason

January 1, 1945 - October 29, 2020

Charles Harvey Gleason, 75, passed away on October 29, 2020.  Charles was a retired Correctional Officer for the state of Virginia Department of Corrections and also served in the U.S. Navy.

He was the son of the late Perley Harvey Gleason and R. Marie Beeman Gleason. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother James D. Gleason, and daughter, Charlene A. Gleason.

He is survived by his wife, Lee Ann Gleason, daughters, Michele Whitby (Rodney), Rochelle Jenkins (Donald), sister, C. Jeanne Stanton (Allen), and sister-in-law Judith A. Gleason grandchildren, Twyla Campbell, Kyle Rook, great-grandchildren Savannah Rook, Kole Rook and several nieces and nephews.

Halloween’s blue moon is rare and perfect for the moment

By Hunter Britt, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- This year has brought a pandemic, major election and now a rare, blue moon on Halloween.

A blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month and appears every 2.5 years, according to NASA. A full moon occurs on Halloween every 19 years. A Halloween full moon hasn’t appeared in all time zones since 1944, states the Farmer’s Almanac. 

The blue moon isn’t blue; the term refers to the moon’s timing, not color, NASA said. The blue moon is also known as the hunter’s moon because it provided enough light for hunters to gather food. 

Kali Fillhart, a tarot reader and astrologist, said in a Facebook message that the astrology of 2020 is more “wonky” than just a blue moon on Halloween. There is also a Mercury retrograde that ends on Election Day and a Mars retrograde that ends on Nov. 13. A retrograde describes how a planet can sometimes appear to be traveling backward through the sky, states the Farmer’s Almanac. A Mercury retrograde has a common cultural association with anxiety around miscommunication and blunders. 

“All that to say, astrologers have been talking about the astrology of 2020 for years,” Fillhart said. “We knew it was going to be intense.”

She also said this full blue moon could bring “unwanted reactions” for people, especially since Halloween is a time when “spiritual veils fall.” 

Halloween traces back to the Celtric tradition of Samhain, a festival to celebrate harvest and usher in the coming darker months. The Celts believed the “veil” between the living and the dead was at its thinnest around this time, and they celebrated their deceased ancestors, a tradition also seen in Dia de los Muertos.

Adding to the alignment of a blue moon, Halloween and astrological events, will be Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, when many Americans set their clocks back an hour and it’s darker out earlier. 

While October may have started and ended with a bright, full moon, many Americans have anxiety around the upcoming election and facing winter in a pandemic. The share of voters who expect it will be difficult to vote has more than tripled since 2018, according to the Pew Research Center. Eighty-three percent of voters said this election matters. Fifty percent of voters shared that sentiment in 2000. One in three Americans reported psychological distress during extended periods of social distancing, Pew reported in May. 

Kashaf Ali, a marketing communications and analytics major at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, said in an email that Halloween won’t be any different for her this year, but she acknowledged that the blue moon feels ominous.

“I’ve been social distancing since March and I doubt it’ll be any different this weekend for me,”Ali said. “It’s definitely something to think about how everything’s happening so close together.”

Deneen Tyler, a spiritual wellness practitioner in Richmond, said that the people will be dealing with the energy the blue moon brings this Halloween.

“Full moons are a time of completion,” Tyler said. “It’s a time of releasing, letting go, making peace, honoring what we’ve been through, and saying goodbye in order to close that chapter and let in something new.”

Tyler said that this full blue moon will be in the astrological sign of Taurus on Halloween, and that many people might be wrestling with saying goodbye to different habits and routines, and that could apply to Election Day.

“We’re all collectively dealing with the change, hence the election, the change in the authority of our society,” Tyler said. “We’re resisting change and these alignments are really showing us where we need to release the resistance.”

Fillhart also believes that this Halloween is a time of change and personal reflection.

What does our dark side look like?” she said. “Halloween is all about confronting monsters. What monsters are we constantly fighting everyday?”

While the moon will be in Taurus on Halloween, it will be in Gemini on the night of the election, opening up new possibilities. Tyler said that, depending on the choices individuals make in dealing with the outcome of the election, people could feel “very confused” or “very inspired.” Ultimately she said people will have to choose how to direct that emotion.

“It is our choice which way we fuel,” Tyler said. “You can fuel the confusion and create more of it, or you can fuel the inspiration.”

The last blue moon on Halloween in all time zones ushered in the victory of a blue candidate. Incumbent Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican Thomas E. Dewey, going on to win a historic fourth term in the 1944 election.

Tyler said that unlike astronomy that people can witness, astrology occurs within. Different factors pertaining to celestial bodies can influence people in different ways, but individuals have to choose how they react and “the seeds they plant” on their own.

“This moon this weekend and all of these high energy, highly spiritual days, all they’re doing is opening the road for us to make a choice of which way to go,” she said. “It doesn’t dictate to us what will happen; it doesn’t dictate to us what we need to do.”

“BOOTS TO ROOTS” VIRTUAL CONFERENCE IS NOV. 12

Virginia State University’s (VSU) Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP) and the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) are hosting “Boots to Roots,” a virtual conference to help military veterans explore farming as a second career. The conference will be held Nov. 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. It is designed to teach veterans who are new or beginning farmers about resources and grant opportunities available through the USDA and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Participants will also learn about financial planning, creating effective business plans and developing successful farm production practices. A virtual tour of Slade Farms in Surry, Virginia is included.
 
“Whether veterans are thinking about farming or have been farming a few years, there’s a lot of valuable information they can learn about production and about ensuring their operations are profitable and sustainable,” said Tony Edwards, an SFOP agricultural management agent who specializes in helping military veterans and beginning farmers. The conference is open to veterans as well as military personnel who may be considering farming after retirement. To register, visit http://www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, and click on the event. After registering, a zoom link will be emailed to participants.

 
Keynote speaker for the conference is Willie Hines, chief operating officer of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, will also present at the conference.
 
Farming is a good career choice for veterans because it allows them to support their communities with the same passion they supported their country, Edwards added. “There’s a need for veterans who farm to come together to collaborate, commiserate, exchange ideas and learn from what others are doing in farming and agriculture.”
 
If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact the Small Farm Outreach Program office at smallfarm@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-3292 / TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event
 
Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Virginia localities take precautions to protect voters, workers

By Sam Fowler, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia localities are taking a number of precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at polling places even though masks will not be required. 

Saturday marked the last day to cast early, in-person ballots before Election Day, but voters can still cast in-person ballots on Nov. 3. They also can mail or return absentee ballots by that day. Election officials have been working to keep voters and workers safe during an election that has yielded a record number of early votes.

More than 5.9 million Virginians were registered to vote as of Oct. 1, with the cut off date in late October. Early voting commenced 45 days before Election Day, due to a new law. Legislators also recently changed laws to allow no-excuse absentee voting and made Election Day a state holiday. More than 2.7 million Virginians had voted as of Nov. 1, with around 1.8 million individuals voting or casting an absentee ballot in-person, according to the Virginia Department of Elections website. More than 886,000 voters have cast absentee ballots by mail and nearly 1.1 million mail-in ballots have been requested. 

Voters are encouraged to wear a mask, and will be offered one, Andrea Gaines, director of community relations at the Virginia Department of Elections, said in an email. They will also be offered the opportunity to vote without leaving their vehicles.

“Ultimately, a voter will not be turned away if they are not wearing a mask but the Department strongly encourages them to do so to keep themselves and others around them safe,” Gaines said. 

Even though there is a state mandate requiring individuals to wear masks when in close proximity with others, it’s against state law to “to hinder or delay a qualified voter in entering or leaving a polling place,” regardless of whether they have on a mask, Gaines said.

Poll workers and voters will be buffered with a number of measures. Such precautions include enforcing social distancing as well as placing plexiglass between voters and poll workers, according to Gary Scott, general registrar and director of the Fairfax County Office of Elections. Virginia Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will assist at polling places to ensure social distancing and sanitization measures are followed, according to Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

Fairfax County workers will also have shields, gloves and masks, which will be replaced throughout the day, Scott said. To avoid the chance of voters sharing pens, Fairfax County will provide voters with “I voted” pens that they can use to fill out their ballots and keep instead of offering stickers.

The Virginia Department of Elections distributed $9 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding that could be used to help secure personal protective equipment needed by local election offices, Gaines said.

In Charlottesville, poll workers will have sanitizing wipes and ponchos to help provide an extra layer of protection, said Taylor Yowell, the city's deputy general registrar.

“We have plenty of sanitizing wipes and the sterilizing spray and paper towels in order to wipe down each polling booth after every voter throughout the day,” Yowell said. 

Danville poll workers checking identification will be buffered by the use of a shower curtain placed on PVC pipe, said David Torborg, a chief poll worker at one of the city’s 16 precincts. 

Torborg, who has been an election worker for about 20 years, decided to serve as an election worker again this year because he believes the precautions in place are good and will be enough to protect workers and voters from the coronavirus.

“I’m aware of COVID, I’m cautious as I can be,” Torborg said. “I’m not freaking out over it.”

Others, like former Danville poll worker JoAnn Howard, have decided against working at the polls this election to mitigate the chance of contracting the coronavirus.

“I was given the option and I did feel guilty because I’ve been working the polls for 10 years, and I really enjoy it,” Howard said. “Something could go wrong, I just didn’t want to take a risk.”

Election workers in Fairfax County are trained every three years or when laws impacting election workers or voters change, Scott said. The county has been training election workers since July on how to follow and implement social distancing measures. In Charlottesville, training sessions for new election officers were kept small to stay within Centers for Disease Control guidelines. 

“All election officers do get trained on protection and making sure they’re wiping down, sanitizing,” Yowell said. “Our chiefs get trained more thoroughly with helping with de-escalation and sanitizing throughout the day.”

Virginia Department of Elections also provides training along with each locality’s specific training, Gaines said over email.

Around half of registered voters had voted in Fairfax and Charlottesville, according to Scott and Yowell. 

Around 9,000 people have voted in Charlottesville as of Oct. 28. Around 5,000 to 6,000 mail-in ballots were sent out, Yowell said. The number of in-person and absentee requests accounts for nearly half of the city’s 33,000 active registered voters.

“We've already gone over 50% of our anticipated turnout in five days of in-person voting,” Scott said. “We anticipate close to 60% of our voters will have voted prior to elections.”

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