Attorney General Mark Herring has asked the State Corporation Commission to extend its mandated suspension of utility disconnections for non-payment and suspended late charges through June 10.

The commission regulates electric, water and natural gas companies throughout the state. On March 16, it announced the 60-day moratorium on disconnections to offset any financial challenges residential and business customers might face because of the pandemic.

A news release from Herring’s office says customers will still be expected to eventually pay their utility bills. Richmond and several localities in the area last month approved ordinances to eliminate late-fee penalties and interest on past-due bills through the next few months.

Herring is also asking the SCC to make it easier for utility companies to reconnect customers who lost utility service recently or before the order last month.

- Chris Suarez

Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission headquarters closed after worker reports symptoms of  COVID-19

The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission headquarters will remain closed Wednesday after an employee recently reported symptoms of COVID-19.

The office was closed until further notice Tuesday to allow for cleaning and disinfection.

Farrell Newman, the chairman of the commission, said the employee is still waiting to take a test to confirm whether they are positive for the virus. “We can’t let anybody back in the building until we know the result,” he said Tuesday afternoon.

Newman said most of the office, including the sick employee, has been working remotely since March 20. He said the sick employee reported COVID-19 symptoms afterward.

Parties may continue to file documents electronically with the commission online while the headquarters remains closed, but filing deadlines are extended to the next business day after the Clerk’s Office reopens.

- Chris Suarez

GRTC modifying commuter routes

GRTC is modifying its commuter route service starting Wednesday due to a decline in ridership in recent weeks.

Spokeswoman Carrie Rose Pace said Express routes such as 23x/26x Glenside and Parham; 29x Gaskins; and 64x Stony Point will have fewer trips and in some cases use vans instead of buses until further notice.

The 28x White Oak Village line is temporarily suspended and the 102x Kings Dominion route remains closed.

Service for the 95x Petersburg route will continue to operate on its normal scheduled.

More details about the service route changes can be found online at ridegrtc.com.

- Chris Suarez

VCU will not refund tuition, mandatory fees

Virginia Commonwealth University will not refund tuition and mandatory fees, but will give students in its art school a partial reimbursement, President Michael Rao said Tuesday.

In a message to the VCU community, Rao said that full-time art students will get $350 and part-time students will be credited $42 per credit hour. VCU announced last month that with classes moved online for the rest of the semester because of the coronavirus, the university would give housing and dining refunds and credits.

VCU has faced growing calls from students, including during a virtual town hall last week, to refund tuition and mandatory fees with students learning remotely instead of in-person.

Rao said that won’t happen.

“Although we realize this is not the semester you or your faculty planned, it is the reality for college students in the United States and around the world,” he wrote. “Faculty, staff and administration have poured enormous effort and resources into making sure that courses can be completed, credits earned, degrees received and challenges surpassed.”

Rao specifically highlighted the work of VCU’s library and technology departments in helping with the change to remote learning.

“Tuition and mandatory fees ensure that all of this happens and can continue to happen this semester; therefore, no refunds will be issued for tuition or mandatory fees,” he said.

The online learning will extend into the summer as VCU announced that its summer session classes will also be held virtually. Rao said VCU has “every intention” of having in-person classes resume come the fall “as long as it is safe to do so.”

That could mean having a later start to the semester, he said.

For the Class of 2020, Rao said the university will host a virtual commencement starting May 8 and said May graduates are also invited to take part in VCU’s December commencement.

In Rao’s email, he said VCU instituted a hiring freeze last week, something ordered by Gov. Ralph Northam across all of state government. Rao said the freeze is a “preemptive step to help contain costs” for the next fiscal year.

VCU’s governing board is scheduled vote on a budget for next year May 8. The draft financial plan includes a freeze on tuition, something state lawmakers backed in the budget approved last month but an initiative with an uncertain future given the economic turmoil the pandemic has caused.

“However, understanding the economic uncertainties that the COVID-19 crisis has caused, the budget office has also modeled other state funding scenarios resulting in a range of tuition increases between 1% and 6%,” Rao said.

Public comment on VCU’s budget is accepted until 4:30 p.m. April 24.

- Justin Mattingly

Virginia schools will be able to keep millions in federal money

Virginia schools will now be able to keep millions in federal education money they would have had to give back with schools closed for the rest of the academic year. The change was granted under flexibility given to the state by the U.S. Department of Education.

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced Tuesday that the federal Education Department has given preliminary approval to Virginia’s request for waivers from provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the General Education Provisions Act, which govern how and when federal education dollars must be spent by states and local school systems.

“Without this flexibility, Virginia school divisions would have had to return millions of dollars in federal funding — most of it supporting programs serving vulnerable students — that they were unable to spend by September 30 due to the closure of schools to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Lane said. “These waivers will also allow divisions and the Virginia Department of Education to shift federal resources to supporting the technology and professional development for teachers necessary to expand distance-learning opportunities for all students.”

Lane submitted the waiver application Monday and it was approved two hours later, according to a Virginia Department of Education news release.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act - the legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last month to help with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic - authorized the flexibility.

Specifically, the waivers remove the cap on how much federal money school districts can use to buy technology and ease limits on how much unspent federal money that can be carried over from one year to the next.

“I would like to thank the U.S. Department of Education for its swift approval of our waiver request,” Lane said in a statement. “This additional flexibility will help our schools meet the needs of students during the pandemic and after.”

The federal Education Department must still grant Virginia its formal approval, but the agency has authorized Virginia to implement the waivers.

- Justin Mattingly

Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Virginia rises to 3,333 - a daily increase of 455 cases

The Virginia Department of Health reported Tuesday that 3,333 people in Virginia have tested positive for COVID-19.

That's an increase of 455 cases from the 2,878 reported Monday.

The VDH also said that 28,645 have been tested for the virus in Virginia, and 563 people have been hospitalized.

There have been 63 deaths - an increase of nine since Monday.

Because of a lack of widespread testing, long wait times for results and lags in reporting, Virginia is likely to have significantly more COVID-19 infections than the confirmed cases that the Virginia Department of Health reports each day.

The state updates information based on counts submitted the previous day; numbers reported on the VDH website at 9 a.m. were current as of 5 p.m. Monday. On Tuesday, VHD noted on its site that its counts are "updated daily before 10 a.m. Numbers are preliminary and close out at 5 p.m. the day before posting. Case counts reflect what has been reported to VDH by healthcare providers and laboratories."


News from Monday

A GRTC office employee has been on sick leave since late last month has tested positive for covid-19, the transit company announced Monday evening.

GRTC said the employee has not been in a GRTC vehicle or facility since March 27. A news release says the transit company learned of the test result over the weekend.  Officials believe the employee contracted the disease from a relative and did not put passengers and other employees at risk because the case was contained early on.

GRTC bus service remains operational, but the transit company is encouraging patrons to ride only if it is essential.

The transit company is disinfecting its vehicle fleet and facilities daily and distributing gloves and masks to its drivers. It also eliminated fares last month so that passengers do not interact with fareboxes and ticket vending machines.   

“I am grateful our employee and their family are already well on the road to a full recovery, and we look forward to welcoming them back at work as soon as they are ready,” said GRTC CEO Julie Timm. “For weeks, we have been working on a case-by-case basis to quarantine any staff who thought they may have been exposed or have symptoms that may put GRTC at risk.

“We believe that our active engagement on social distancing for GRTC staff continues to reduce the spread of this disease.”

The sick employee is currently recovering at home and remains on paid leave.

- Chris Suarez

Governor: Virginians should wear face masks outside

Virginians should wear face masks outside to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday.

Northam, speaking at a news conference in Richmond, cited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday that said people should wear non-medical, cloth masks.

“If a person is wearing a face covering, it is less likely that droplets from a sneeze or from talking will spread out into the air, and if you’re wearing a face covering, it can offer some level of protection against those droplets,” Northam said. “It also makes you more aware of accidentally touching your face. You don’t need a medical grade mask to do this; in fact, you can make your own.”

Northam showed off his own mask, which he said was made by the Department of Corrections.

The CDC had initially recommended that only those with COVID-19 symptoms wear masks.

"Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure,” the CDC said in a statement last week.

Virginia law bars people from concealing their face, a measure passed in the 1950s aimed at unmasking the Ku Klux Klan. The felony carries a maximum of five years in prison.

Northam said the law would not be used to charge people wearing the masks to mitigate COVID-19’s spread.

“If you are wearing this face covering for the purpose of protecting yourself medically, nobody in Virginia will give you any problems; nobody will write any citations,” he said.

- Justin Mattingly

Virginia using genetic technology to find virus’ origin

Northam also announced Monday that Virginia is among the first states in the country to use genetic technology to help public health officials better understand and track the scope of the virus.

Northam said the Department of General Services’ Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services is using genetic sequencing to decode some of the state’s COVID-19 samples.

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

So far, researchers have found evidence that the virus was introduced in Virginia in multiple places and not through a single source. Northam also said that there is “clear indication” of person-to-person spread within the suspected coronavirus outbreaks in the state.

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

Northam said Virginia working with the CDC, along with international public health organizations and universities on the project, with the state also creating a library that stores the information of the positive samples it identifies and those tested at private labs, hospitals and universities in Virginia.

- Justin Mattingly

Virginia places PPE order

Some personal protective equipment is coming Virginia’s way, but state leaders say it will need more.

Northam said Monday that the state has signed a $27 million contract with Northfield, a Virginia-based logistics company, to get more PPE, including masks, gowns and gloves, to health care workers in the state. The first shipment, coming to Virginia from Asia, is expected to arrive April 13.

Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, calling the state’s current PPE supply “woefully short” of what’s needed, said the order the first of many.

“Clearly the need even outweighs what that purchase would be,” Moran said. “We made it with alacrity, but we are going to need additional supplies."

Northam would not commit to joining a nationwide PPE-buying consortium that governors of other states, most notably New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have called for.

“We are working with the other governors. We are working with our leadership in Washington to follow our inventory, not only in Virginia, but for all the other states,” Northam said. “We also have a responsibility to prepare and we have prepared for the worst.”

Virginia has also started “meals ready-to-eat”, better known as MREs, to food banks in the state, which are seeing an increase in demand with many out-of-work.

Northam said the state is finalizing contracts for the three venues, including the Greater Richmond Convention Center, that his administration has tapped as emergency field hospitals.

Construction on the three sites is scheduled to begin this week, Northam said.

- Justin Mattingly

Anonymous donor gives $1M to VCU for coronavirus response fund

An anonymous donor has given $1 million to Virginia Commonwealth University and the VCU Health System to create a coronavirus response fund.

The gift, announced Monday by the university, comes with a challenge from the unnamed donor to have other members of the community make $1 million in additional donations for the “VCU COVID-19 Response Fund.”

“This extraordinary generosity provides critical funding to assist our academic health system in meeting the needs of our community,” said Peter Buckley, the interim CEO of VCU Health System, in a statement. “But just as importantly, this donor has come alongside our health care providers as partners in an unprecedented situation.”

The money, according to a VCU news release, will help pay for treating patients, research and supporting medical staff. Specifically, it will fund, among other things, rooms for hospital staff dealing with the pandemic’s impact that can’t go home without putting their families at risk, child care for staff and clinical trials as university researchers work on a potential treatment for the virus.

“The VCU Health System is on the front lines of this historic and unprecedented fight, and I am grateful for this generous support of our courageous and committed care providers,” said VCU and VCU Health System President Michael Rao in a statement. “This will enable and empower us to find solutions to one of humanity’s most pressing problems and allow those we serve to know they are in the very best hands.”

- Justin Mattingly

 Virginia Department of Corrections: 19 inmates tested positive for COVID-19

The Virginia Department of Corrections reports that 19 inmates - 18 of them at two facilities for women and one at an outside hospital - and 9 staff have tested positive for the virus less than a week after the first cases were confirmed behind bars.

The department, which manages nearly 30,000 inmates in more then 40 facilities said it has taken measures to help keep COVID-19 out of the prisons and to curb its spreading once inside. Officials said they are following the guidelines of the CDC and Virginia Department of Health.

The number of cases at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women, a 500-inmate prison in Goochland, doubled from Sunday to Monday, from 6 to 12, said the department.

Advocates and critics continue pleas to the Northam administration to release more inmates. Parole ended for crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 1995. The administration says there are nearly 2,600 inmates who are eligible for parole or eligible for geriatric release by the parole board.

- Frank Green

Virginia hospital dashboard provides current updates on hospital capacity

A new online dashboard run by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association launched Monday says that 1,194 people either confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19 are currently hospitalized across Virginia.

This number shows a significant difference in reporting from the Virginia Department of Health, which reported only 497 cumulative hospitalizations Monday morning based on data collected as of 5 p.m. Sunday.

The state has also reported only 2,878 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, about 2.4 times as many hospitalized cases there are.

A lack of testing and a delay in laboratory results has stunted the Virginia Department of Health in its ability to track how widespread COVID-19 is throughout the state.

According to the VHHA dashboard, 538 of those hospitalized have tested positive for COVID-19, 656 of those hospitalized have tests still pending. Of those hospitalized, 387 are in the Intensive Care Unit and 285 are on a ventilator.

Hospitals throughout the state report having 1,900 ventilators that are not currently being used by a patient.

Eleven hospitals have told VHHA that they are having difficulty obtaining personal protective equipment in the next 72 hours.

- Bridget Balch

Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Virginia rises to 2,878, an increase of 9.14% since Sunday

The Virginia Department of Health reported Monday that 2,878 people in Virginia have tested positive for COVID-19.

That's an increase of 241 cases from the 2,637 reported Sunday.

The VDH also said that 24,521 have been tested for the virus in Virginia, and 497 people have been hospitalized.

There have been 54 deaths.

The state updates information based on counts submitted the previous day; numbers reported on the VDH website at 9 a.m. were current as of 5 p.m. Sunday.

The confirmed cases in the Richmond region are now:

- 207 in Henrico

- 108 in Chesterfield

- 105 in Richmond

- 18 in Prince George

- 17 in Goochland

- 14 in Louisa

- 13 in Hanover

- 12 in New Kent

- 10 in Petersburg

- 10 in Hopewell

- 4 in Charles City

- 4 in Powhatan

- Karri Peifer


NEWS FROM SUNDAY

The Virginia Department of Health reported Sunday that 2,637 people in Virginia have tested positive for COVID-19 and 51 have died.

That’s an increase of 230 cases from the 2,407 infections reported Saturday morning.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 increased more than 10% from Saturday to Sunday, to 431, but deaths attributed to the disease dropped to 51, from 52. VDH said 23,671 have been tested for the virus in Virginia.

More than 1.2 million people worldwide have been infected and more than 65,700 had died from the disease by Sunday morning, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

The tally of infections includes more than 312,250 people in the United States.

Health officials have cautioned that confirmed case counts do not necessarily reflect the true spread of the disease; not everyone who is infected is tested.

Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday said the state plans to have field hospitals established in the Greater Richmond Convention Center, Dulles Expo Center in Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads Convention Center to bring more than 1,800 hospital beds online as COVID-19 infections peak.

Hospitals across the state have been working for weeks to add capacity in their existing facilities as Virginia barrels toward May 20, when the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects the state will hit its peak.

State health officials also are considering University of Pennsylvania projections as the University of Virginia continues to work on producing a more Virginia-specific model.

There are 413 confirmed cases in the Richmond area: 194 in Henrico, 108 in Chesterfield, 99 in Richmond and 12 in Hanover. Fairfax County is reporting the most cases with 426.

Daily counts released by the VDH may lag behind individual locality or local health district numbers.

The state updates information based on counts submitted the previous day; numbers reported on the VDH website at 9 a.m. were current as of 5 p.m. Saturday.


NEWS FROM SATURDAY

Virginia Home, a residential care facility near Maymont Park for people who have irreversible physical disabilities, confirmed Saturday that 7 residents and one employee at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus.

Six are being cared for on-site while one resident is being treated at the hospital and the employee is at home. 

As of Saturday, there aren't any new confirmed cases but tests are pending.


An employee at the Whole Foods Market store in the West Broad Village in western Henrico County has tested positive for the coronavirus, the chain confirmed.

The employee is in quarantine, a Whole Foods representative said.

The store remains open.

"We’ve been working closely with our store team members, and are supporting the diagnosed team member," the chain said in a statement. "Out of an abundance of caution, the store performed an additional cleaning and disinfection, on top of our current enhanced sanitation measures."

Whole Foods didn't identify the employee, what job the person had at the store or when the person tested positive for the COVID-19. "We aren’t able to go into full details out of respect for the privacy of our team member," the representative said.

This is the second grocery store employee in the Richmond area to have tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

On Wednesday, Kroger confirmed that an employee at the chain's store at 1510 Eastridge Road in Henrico, near Regency mall, had tested positive for COVID-19. That Kroger employee is quarantined at home and had not worked at the store since March 13, a spokeswoman said. The store remains open.

Grocery workers across the country increasingly have become worried about being at the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some chains are giving store employees pay increases or bonuses.

Whole Foods’ full-time and part-time employees are receiving a $2 increase to their hourly wage through April.

Kroger said its full-time hourly workers will receive a one-time special bonus of $300, while part-time workers will receive $150. The bonuses will be paid to workers who were hired on or before March 1.

Other retailers, including Walmart and Home Depot, will begin checking temperatures of all employees before they start their shifts. Walmart also is sending masks and gloves to all its stores.

- Gregory Gilligan


Employee of Lucy Corr in Chesterfield tests positive for COVID-19

A staff member at Lucy Corr, a long-term care and retirement facility in Chesterfield County, tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The center announced Saturday that the full-time nursing employee hadn't been on-site or in contact with anyone from the facility since March 22 and has been communicating constantly with doctors and Lucy Corr management.

Currently, no residents within the Lucy Corr community — which is home to 200 nursing home residents, 48 assisted living residents and 100 independent living residents —  have tested positive for COVID-19.

"We are working closely with the Virginia Department of Health and have enforced visitor restrictions, deferred almost all outside vendors and invoked countless other safety precautions since the very early days of this situation to limit exposure to residents, team members, at the community at large," said Derrick Kendall, CEO of Lucy Corr.

Kendall added they continue to screen staff members, including supply deliverers, before coming on-site as well as monitoring residents daily for COVID-19 symptoms. Lucy Corr has more than 300 employees.

- Sabrina Moreno


395 new cases of coronavirus in Virginia; 52 dead

The Virginia Department of Health reported Saturday that 2,407 people in Virginia have tested positive for COVID-19.

That's an increase of 395 cases from the 2,012 reported Friday.

The VDH also said that 21,552 have been tested for the virus in Virginia, and 390 people have been hospitalized.

There have been 52 deaths - an increase of 6 since Friday.

GRAPHIC: Total confirmed cases by locality

GRAPHIC: Confirmed cases by locality (per 100,000 people)

There are 388 cases in the immediate Richmond area: 174 in Henrico, 106 in Chesterfield, 96 in Richmond and 12 in Hanover. Fairfax County is the locality with the most cases with 387.

There are confirmed cases in residents of 108 of Virginia's 133 cities and counties.

According to demographic information provided by VDH, people over the age of 60 account for more than a third (36.6%) of the cases. Here's a breakdown of Virginia cases by age:

Below age 10: 0.7%

Age 10 to 19: 1.4%

Age 20 to 29: 12.2%

Age 30 to 39: 13.9%

Age 40 to 49: 15.9%

Age 50 to 59: 19.4%

Age 60 to 69: 17.2%

Age 70 to 79: 11.8%

Age 80 and over: 7.6%

On March 19, state health officials said there’s a lag in the reporting of statewide numbers on the VDH website. Figures on the website might not include cases or deaths reported by individual localities or local health districts.

- Paul Whelan


NEWS FROM FRIDAY

First COVID-19 death in Chickahominy Health District

A woman in her 80s from the Chickahominy Health District has died after contracting COVID-19.

The health district -- which covers Hanover, Goochland, New Kent and Charles City counties -- said it is the first death of a resident from its jurisdiction.

Officials, per Virginia Department of Health policy, declined to say which county she lived in.

“VDH is required by statute to keep the identity of reported cases anonymous unless the State Health Commissioner makes an exception to meet a public health need,” said spokeswoman Tammie Smith. “With the current number of cases, we have only been reporting deaths by district because in a small county a person could be identified through a local obituary.”

- Chris Suarez


AP tests scheduled for May

Students taking Advanced Placement tests will do so next month, the College Board announced Friday.

The tests help high school students earn college credit if they score high enough. With schools closed nationwide - in Virginia for the rest of the academic year - the future of the tests was unclear until Friday when the College Board, which administers the classes and tests, said students will take the exams May 11-22.

“We want to give every student the chance to earn the college credit they’ve worked toward throughout the year," said Trevor Packer, the senior vice president of AP & Instruction for the College Board. "That’s why we quickly set up a process that’s simple, secure, and accessible.”

Students can take the tests at home or at school if they reopen, according to a College Board news release. Each subject's exam will be taken on the same day at the same time across the world.

Most tests will have one or two free-response questions, and each question will be timed separately. The exams will be 45 minutes long for most tests, according to the news release, plus an additional five minutes for uploading. Students will need to access the online testing system 30 minutes early to get set up, the College Board said.

The nonprofit also said that it expects colleges to still accept the AP credit should students score high enough.

"We're confident that the vast majority of higher ed institutions will award college credit as they have in the past," the College Board said. "We've spoken with hundreds of institutions across the country that support our solution for this year's AP Exams."

Makeup test dates are set for June 1-5.

- Justin Mattingly


Three Virginia sites chosen as field hospital centers, including Richmond Convention Center

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that three field hospital centers have been selected that will add between 1,107 and 1,848 hospital beds to the state.

The Dulles Expo Center in Northern Virginia, which can accommodate 315 acute or 510 non-acute beds, the Hampton Roads Convention Center, with 360 acute or 580 non-acute beds, and the Richmond Convention Center, with 432 acute or 758 non-acute beds.

These sites were chosen because of their locations in the areas of the state with clusters of COVID-19 infection.

The Army Corps of Engineers will now work on entering into contracts, designing and building out the field hospital sites, which are expected to be complete in six weeks, Northam said.

Current projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimate that Virginia will hit its peak in six-and-a-half-weeks on May 20.

State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver said at the briefing that officials are looking at various projection models.

Northam and Oliver directed Virginians to look at online projections modeled by the University of Washington and the University of Pennsylvania as the University of Virginia continues to work on producing a more Virginia-specific model.

Still, Oliver cautioned people not to take the projections as predictions.

“They’re not an absolute factual prediction of what will happen,” Oliver said of projections models. “Take it with a grain of salt.”

Hospital systems across the state have been working for weeks to build additional bed capacity in their existing facilities, which is considered the state’s first-line response to the pandemic, state Health and Human Resources Secretary Daniel Carey said.

Carey said that hospital systems have also been reassigning health care workers from surgery centers where elective surgeries have been canceled to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 patients.

The main purpose of the field hospitals is to provide a place to move patients who are less critical or who are recovering so that beds in the hospitals can be freed up for more serious health emergencies.

Carey added that the Army Corps of Engineers is now working to scout additional field hospital sites in western and southwestern parts of the state, which have not yet been as hard-hit as the northern, central and Tidewater regions.

- Bridget Balch


Emergency funding will help provide temporary housing for homeless during pandemic, Northam says

Emergency funding partially paid for by the federal government will help provide housing to Virginia's homeless population during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday.

Northam said that $2.5 million will help give temporary housing to the roughly 1,500 state residents who are homeless or rely on shelters that require them to leave every day.

“As we battle this unprecedented public health crisis, we must make sure no one is left behind,” Northam said in a statement. “I have issued a statewide Stay at Home order, but we know there are many Virginians with no home to stay in. With this funding, we will ensure people experiencing homelessness have access to immediate housing options and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The money, Northam's office said in a news release, will pay for hotel and motel vouchers, food and medical transportation, among other things. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will partially fund the effort for homeless people 65 and older, people with pre-existing conditions and people who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the news release.

More than 2,000 people have tested positive for the virus, the state health department reported Friday.

- Justin Mattingly


Richmond deploys relief website, joins with Robins Foundation to launch $1M crisis fund for families

The city of Richmond deployed an online hub Friday to bring people in need of help together with local nonprofits and donors who want to support them.

The website, RVAstrong.org, seeks to harness the power of Richmond’s sprawling network of nonprofit and government service providers and to identify people in immediate need amid the pandemic.

“We designed this centralized relief site as a place where those who need help can get it, and those who want to help can offer it,” Mayor Levar Stoney stated in a release. “Richmond is city defined by its resilience. We’ll get through this, but we have to support each other.”

Those seeking support may submit requests tailored to their needs, and those wishing to provide support may choose from causes broken down by category, such as housing, food, providing assistance to seniors, neighborhoods or families.

Stoney also is asking people to use the website to submit their personal experiences of adapting as schools and businesses shuttered to prevent the spread of the disease.

His administration is working to distribute printed versions of the resources to those without internet and to translate the site into Spanish.

The City and Robins Foundation also on Friday announced the launch of a $1 million crisis fund to provide immediate financial support to families awaiting federal relief.

The Enrichmond Foundation and the City of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building will coordinate one-time payments for families with children in the City of Richmond, according to a release, which states money will be available as soon as April 7.

- Katy Burnell Evans


'We are trying to ... [control] the crowds': Richmond to close parking lots near James River

Starting this weekend, the city of Richmond will close its high-traffic parking lots with access to James River Park.

Those lots include the parking areas on Tredegar Street north of the river and Pony Pasture on the south bank, as well as popular entrances at the Pipeline downtown and West 21st Street in South Richmond.

“With the weather turning warmer, we are trying to help with controlling the crowds,” Tamara Jenkins, a spokesperson for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities, wrote in an email.

On Monday (March 30), Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney banned many activities in and around the James River - including swimming, sunbathing or congregating in groups. Residents can still exercise along the river. Stoney also closed playgrounds and courts in city-owned parks and schools.

City-owned parks - such as Forest Hill, Byrd and Bryan parks - remain open.

“None of our parks are closed. There are just certain amenities that are closed. We ask that visitors adhere to the social distancing guidelines,” Jenkins said.

Previous Richmond parks and recreation closures include all dog parks, athletic fields, picnic shelters, park houses, community centers, administrative offices, basketball courts, tennis courts, pickleball courts, skate parks, playgrounds, and the cancellation of all department sponsored programming.

The James River parking lot closures will begin Saturday, April 4 and continue on the weekends only through Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order until June 10.

PRCF will continue to close the traffic gates in Byrd Park on Strollers Lane, Westover Road, and Trafford Road on the weekends.

The city will re-evaluate the need for closures and cancellations as the coronavirus situation evolves, Jenkins said.

- Colleen Curran


Virginia coronavirus cases push past 2,000 with 306 new cases in a day

The Virginia Department of Health reported Friday that 2,012 people in Virginia have tested positive for COVID-19.

That's an increase of 306 cases from the 1,706 reported Thursday.

The VDH also said that 19,005 have been tested for the virus in Virginia and 312 have been hospitalized.

There have been 46 deaths in the state. That's an increase of 5 from Thursday.

There are now 289 cases in the Richmond area: 112 in Henrico County, 89 in Chesterfield County, 76 in Richmond and 12 in Hanover County.

Fairfax County has the most cases of any locality with 372. There are now confirmed cases in 108 of Virginia's 133 cities and counties. 

- Paul Whelan


PHOTOS: Richmond and other parts of Virginia in the time of coronavirus and social distancing

Load comments