Beth Sholom, a Henrico senior living facility in Henrico, now has 38 residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus, up from the 25 reported Tuesday.

President and CEO Morris Funk said the increase is a result of expedited testing.

All COVID-19 positive patients are in isolation within the health care center wing of the facility, with certain staff tending to only those residents.

There are no reported cases or people with symptoms in any other Beth Sholom building, so testing has focused on residents within the health care center, he said.

"We remain confident that Beth Sholom has the staff and necessary protective equipment to properly care for our residents," Funk said. "While we are currently experiencing the dark days of this pandemic in Virginia, we continue to do all we can to provide comfort to our families and residents during these difficult days."

Funk said Beth Sholom will not release information regarding deaths of its patients, since prior to the pandemic, senior living facilities already experienced high death rates.

Within its nursing home especially, residents come to Beth Sholom already in deteriorating health, added Funk.

"We do not share those details to the general public and we are not going to start now," he said.

He noted that it's important for families to know about COVID-19 cases, but contended that deaths were a "sacred and family matter that is private."


The Virginia Department of Health reported Saturday that 8,053 people in Virginia have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 562 from the 7,491 reported Friday.

A total of 258 people in Virginia have died from the virus, up 27 from the 231 reported yesterday.

The VDH also said that 51,931 have been tested for the virus in Virginia and 1,296 have been hospitalized.

There are 1,159 cases in the Richmond area: 559 in Henrico, 310 in Chesterfield, 211 in Richmond and 79 in Hanover.

Fairfax County, the state's most populous locality with more than 1.1 million people, has the most confirmed cases with 1,633.

There are confirmed cases in 125 of Virginia's 133 cities and counties.

These 8 localities don't have confirmed cases, according to VDH data: Bath County, Bland County, Dickenson County, Falls Church, Grayson County, Highland County, Martinsville and Patrick County.

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

Virginia coronavirus cases have grown by nearly 3,000 in the past week

Two in five of Virginia's confirmed coronavirus cases have come in the past week, a growth of nearly 3,000 cases.

Since last Friday, 2,982 more people have tested positive for the virus, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health. A lack of testing, though, among other factors, means the number of COVID-19 infections reported by the state health department is likely significantly lower than the actual number of cases.

The state has a total of 7,491 positive cases, according to VDH data, with 48,997 people tested.

Virginia, with its estimated 8.5 million population, per the U.S. Census Bureau, is the 12th most populous state in the country, but 21st in testing, according to an analysis of data reported by the COVID Tracking Project.

Virginia has tested 13,538 people since last Friday, good for an infection rate of 22%.

While testing lags, the number of cases isn't the only statistic to spike in the past week. So has the state's death count, which has nearly doubled from 121 on April 10 to 231 on Friday.

The death figure reported by the state health department is likely lower than the actual number of deaths.

According to VDH's dashboard, which is updated daily, there have been 37 deaths in long-term care facilities, the result of 66 of the state's 117 total outbreaks.

Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in western Henrico County, however, has reported that 49 people at the facility have died from COVID-19 as of Thursday.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have been hospitalized and discharged surpassed 1,000 on Friday, climbing from 951 to 1,110 overnight, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

Patients in intensive care and on ventilators have fallen since last week, according to the association's dashboard.

- Justin Mattingly


Virginia schools given an extra year to spend $2.4 million in federal funds

Virginia school districts will have an extra year to spend more than $2 million in federal money for career and technical education, adult education and family literacy programs.

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced Friday that the U.S. Department of Education has granted preliminary approval to Virginia's waiver application, meaning school systems have an extension on spending $2.4 million they would have otherwise had to return.

“Without this flexibility, Virginia school divisions would have had to return much-needed federal CTE, adult education and family literacy funds that they were unable to spend by September 30 due to the closure of schools because of the pandemic,” Lane said. “The waivers will allow school divisions to plan for the resumption of these critical programs for students and communities once schools reopen.”

Specifically, the waivers ease restrictions on the amount of unspent money districts can carry over from one federal fiscal year to the next under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act.

Lane submitted the waiver application on Thursday, according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Education.

The agency announced earlier this month that the federal Education Department had approved a waiver from Virginia to remove the cap on how much federal money school districts can use to buy technology, among other things. That waiver, Lane said at the time, also will save the state millions of dollars.

- Justin Mattingly


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A GRTC bus on Friday, November 30, 2018.

GRTC suspending two bus routes

GRTC will suspend service on two bus routes starting Sunday, April 26, due to declining ridership and to keep passengers separated on busier routes.

The bus company will discontinue service on Route 39 Fairmount/Oakwood and Route 75 Three Chopt starting next Sunday. Customers can use Route 12 Churchill, Route 7A/B Nine Mile and Route 77 Grove as alternatives in those corridors.

Morning and evening peak-hour service on Route 4A Montrose/4B Darbytown will go from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.

Morning peak-hour service on Route 78 Cary/Maymont will also be scaled back from 30 minutes to one hour. Evening peak-hour service will remain at 30 minutes.

Buses from the suspended routes will be redeployed to busier core routes that regularly carry more than 20 people during rush hour. GRTC is asking passengers to observe social distancing guidelines by leaving empty seats between riders. Fares on all routes are currently suspended so that passengers do not interact with fareboxes and ticket vending machines.

- Chris Suarez


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At left is the old Richmond city jail, at right is the new Richmond City Justice Center just after its opening on July 28, 2014. 

Virginia's jail population down 17% since March 1, Northam administration says

The Northam administration announced that Virginia’s cumulative jail population had dropped to 24,000 as of April 7, down 17% since March 1.

Since late February, according to the administration, the number of new commitments to local and regional jails has decreased from approximately 10,000 during a two-week period to just over 4,000.

The Northam administration has been working with local criminal justice officials around the state to relieve the impact of COVID-19 on jail populations, recommending they use steps such as sentence modifications, use of summonses rather than arrests and use of electronic monitoring at home, rather than confinement.

“We are facing an unprecedented public health emergency, which has required us to work collaboratively to develop unique solutions,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement.

“Criminal justice stakeholders across the commonwealth are using the tools available to them to decrease our jail population and address this crisis responsibly, humanely, and deliberatively.”

The ACLU of Virginia has called for the quick release of any jail or prison inmate who does not pose “a demonstrable, imminent threat of bodily harm to others,” in light of the threat posed behind bars by COVID-19.

- Andrew Cain


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Absentee ballot voting was held at Western Government Center in Henrico County on Saturday, October 26, 2013.

Lawsuit seeks to stop Virginia from enforcing witness requirement for absentee voting during pandemic

A federal lawsuit filed Friday looks to challenge Virginia's witness requirement for absentee ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Lynchburg, by the American Civil Liberties Union and League of Women Voters asks the court to stop Virginia from enforcing the requirement during the pandemic and to have localities count "otherwise validly cast absentee ballots that are missing a witness signature for Virginia’s primary and general elections in 2020."

Eden Heilman, the legal director at the ACLU of Virginia, said that if the requirement stands, "tens of thousands" of voters in the state won't be able to abide by social distancing guidelines and still vote absentee.

“The governor and Virginia election officials can and must adapt voting policies to preserve our democracy and keep everyone safe," Heilman said.

Virginia law requires voters who send in an absentee ballot by mail to open the envelope containing the ballot in front of another person, fill out the ballot and have the other person sign the outside of the envelope before it's mailed back.

According to the lawsuit, Virginia is one of 11 states with such a requirement.

"The witness requirement is not worth this massive disenfranchisement of Virginia voters and its disproportionate harm to elderly voters, African American voters, and voters with disabilities," the lawsuit says. "While election integrity is an important interest, the witness requirement does very little if anything — and it is certainly not narrowly tailored — to serve this interest in light of the many other provisions of Virginia law that safeguard absentee voting and penalize those who abuse the process."

The suit names the Virginia Board of Elections and Chris Piper, the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections.

A spokeswoman for Department of Elections said they don't comment on pending litigation.

"As (Attorney General Mark Herring) and (Gov. Ralph Northam) have said, free and fair elections are at the core of our democracy and no Virginian should have to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote," Herring spokeswoman Charlotte Gomer said in a statement. "We will discuss these issues with our client agencies and the Governor's administration to determine how best to proceed in a manner consistent with those principles."

Northam has pushed the June 9 primary to June 23 and is recommending that local elections scheduled for May be put off until November, something the legislature will vote up or down next week. Democrats in the state called for universal vote-by-mail in which virtually all voters would cast ballots from home in those elections.

- Justin Mattingly


VDH says 7,491 have tested positive for coronavirus in Virginia

The Virginia Department of Health reported Friday that 7,491 people in Virginia have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 602 from the 6,889 reported Thursday.

A total of 231 people in Virginia have died from the virus, up 23 from the 208 reported yesterday.

The VDH also said that 48,997 have been tested for the virus in Virginia and 1,221 have been hospitalized.

There are 1,094 cases in the Richmond area: 532 in Henrico, 291 in Chesterfield, 201 in Richmond and 70 in Hanover.

Fairfax County, the state's most populous locality with more than 1.1 million people, has the most confirmed cases with 1,476.

There are confirmed cases in 124 of Virginia's 133 cities and counties.

These 9 localities don't have confirmed cases, according to VDH data: Bath County, Bland County, Dickenson County, Falls Church, Grayson County, Highland County, Martinsville, Norton and Patrick County.

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 THURSDAY

About 50 people gather at Capitol Square to protest Virginia's stay-at-home order

Tired of staying at home, a group of roughly 50 people gathered Thursday on Capitol Square to protest executive orders from Gov. Ralph Northam requiring that some businesses stay closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The people, the majority of whom did not wear masks as Northam has recommended, were part of a new coalition of groups - called ReOpen Virginia, End The Lockdown VA and Virginians Against Excessive Quarantine - that say the mandated closure of businesses and the stay-at-home order is a "recipe for disaster."

"They're uncalled for," said Hal Knight, of Springfield. "They're doing more harm than good."

The rally came on the same day the Virginia Department of Health reported that the state's death count from COVID-19 has topped 200. Roughly 1,000 people have been hospitalized by the virus and discharged, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

The protesters gathered around the civil rights monument near the Executive Mansion, mostly talking with one another and having picnics. About a half hour into the rally, around noon, Capitol Police asked the roughly 30 attendees to spread out on Capitol Square. Law enforcement also closed entries to the area, leaving another estimated 20 people outside the access points to Capitol Square.

Capitol Police told attendees that they would issue summonses if they did not spread out. Executive Order 53 from Northam bans all public and private in-person gatherings of 10 or more people.

Northam on Wednesday extended the forced closure of recreational and entertainment businesses in the state, including gyms and movie theaters, from April 23, when his order was set to expire, to May 8.

Thursday's protest was announced roughly two hours after Northam announced the extension.

"We're ready for Virginia to get back to work," said Daniele Jeffreys, of Henrico County.

Said Tarus Woelk, also of Henrico: "I support common sense, not fear."

Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky said Northam's "top priority is and will continue to be keeping Virginians safe."

"Governor Northam will continue to make decisions based in science, data, and public health," she said. "He is grateful to the millions of Virginians who are taking this seriously and working together to protect themselves, their families, and their communities."

Kristen Lynne Hall, one of ReOpen Virginia's founders, said another protest is scheduled for May 1.

- Justin Mattingly


Virginia hospitals have discharged nearly 1,000 coronavirus patients

Nearly 1,000 people who have been hospitalized by the coronavirus in Virginia have been discharged.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, which started releasing the figure this week, reported Thursday that 951 patients who have tested positive for the virus and were hospitalized have been discharged.

Also Thursday, the Virginia Department of Health reported that the number of deaths in the state has exceeded 200, with 208 people having died from the virus, an increase of 13 from Wednesday.

While 951 people have been discharged, another 1,337 patients who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or have their test results pending remain hospitalized, according to the hospital association. Of those patients, 800 are confirmed cases and 537 have their results pending.

The 537 people hospitalized while awaiting test results is the most since April 9, when 627 patients were in that situation.

Other figures reported by the hospital association, including the number of patients requiring intensive care (427) and on a ventilator (238) were steady from Wednesday to Thursday.

The state health department did report four additional outbreaks, up to 112 now - with 63 occurring in long-term care facilities. Since the agency started reporting the figure Monday, those facilities, which are more susceptible to the virus, have made up a majority of the outbreaks.

That includes an outbreak at Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in western Henrico County, where 46 people have died from COVID-19, as of Wednesday.

Henrico’s 57 COVID-19 deaths are the most of any health district in the state, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The Fairfax district has reported 31 deaths, the second most, and 13 in Arlington to round out the top three.

All but 10 of the state's 208 deaths have been people over the age of 50, according to VDH.

- Justin Mattingly

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